Saturday, 1 December 2012

Advent Women 1

Well there you are. It’s not that these things happen or even that one survives them, but what makes life strange is that they are forgotten. Even the one moment that you thought was your eternity fades out and is forgotten and dies. This is what makes life so droll – the way you forget, and every day is a new day, and there’s hope for everybody, hooray…

Now our luck has changed and the lights are red. 
(Jean Rhys, Good Morning Midnight)

Whenever I hear Jean Rhys's name I smile. I was at an MA seminar in the School of English at Exeter University and an American girl was giving a seminar presentation on the above novel. The only problem was that she had, at some point, assumed that Jean Rhys was in fact a French man (repeat the name in Joey Barton comedy French accent...). By the end of the twenty minute presentation the room temperature had gone through various levels of surprise, confusion, embarrassment, humour till finally settling upon excruciation. As her words trailed into silence everyone stared at the desk in front of them wondering how, HOW could anyone not check the gender of the writer they were presenting on in a postgrad seminar (especially when this novel is a first-person woman's narration). The lecturer, all wry grin and charm, deflected the situation with a rhetorical interrogation of the significance of the author. I don't know whether the girl ever recovered her own dignity, but in a way it was a telling indictment that she assumed male gender, especially in this case. 

Well, there are enough reasons in stand on your chair a la Caitlin Moran and declare yourself a feminist. I myself have been wrapped in black these past weeks mourning the sad cases of so many young men (and women though I do not personally know these) who are so young and yet on the wrong side of history. They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old: Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. They are already middle aged and already condemned in their own smallmindedness. Anyway and I must publish this as I only have two minutes before midnight, but we have decided to celebrate great female writers and thinkers this month and so we have a treat of an Advent 24 days of the very best wisdom of women...

Oh and let's hope our luck changes again and the lights go green.

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