That Which Turned into a Womens’ Issues Mini-Rant

15 Mar

Imagine this:  It’s seven am on a Monday morning.  An alarm goes off next to you.  Your husband rolls over sleepily and glares with those knowing eyes.  “Are you going to bed at all?”  He asks.  You shrug as he hits the snooze button and rolls back over.  Caught red-handed, in the act of your all night reading marathon.  What’s worse, those silent tears won’t stop rolling down your cheeks, and when the alarm goes off again he asks, “Are you okay?  You sound all stuffed up again.”

That was me yesterday morning.  Rolling out of bed to get a kleenex I realized I hadn’t read a book or watched a movie that made me cry in a while.  For the record, I cry at almost everything.  I cry at all Disney movies, anything where a main character dies, or characters are experiencing strong emotions both negative and positive.  A movie can make me weep if the music is just right, and sometimes I even get choked up watching BBC nature programming, especially when they are getting preachy or doing a segment on why we should feel bad about being human beings.  Some of the movies in my collection are real tear-jerkers.  Try doing a marathon of Apocalypse Now, Last King of Scotland and Traffic and not feeling emotionally drained to the point of tears afterword.  For something lighter, try Big Fish, Secondhand Lions and Moulin Rouge.  All with messages so positive you might feel like kicking yourself afterwords.  But maybe my weeping through this set is just a sympathetic response to watching Ewan McGregor cry.  I’m not sure.

Either way, I’m not sure when it happened, but at some point I began avoiding such emotional endeavors, relying heavily instead on the antics of four paper cut-out boys in South Park, Colorado, Crime solving in Las Vegas, and Matt Groening’s various concoctions.  As for reading material, lately I’ve been favoring Stephen King’s earliest work, The Dark Tower series, and vampire/zombie/werewolf/other supernatural beings sexually charged thriller type novels from Laurel K Hamilton’s collection.

So, my return to emotional reading material came in the form of Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah.  In a nutshell the story is about two women who become friends in middle school and stay friends for a long time.  The girls are, naturally, polar opposites; Kate is the shy one with a family straight out of a 50’s homemaker magazine, and Tully is the rebel with a weed smoking on again, off again mom.  I found it to be a sweet if not formulaic book touting female bonding and sisterhood.  The girls naturally try to always stick together, but find themselves on different life paths.  This was the part of the plot that really resonated with me.  I’ve found myself on a bumpy path.  I don’t really know where it’s headed, but I do know I never intended to go this way.  Like a good little girl scout, I try to always be prepared and make the most of my current situation, but I, like Kate, often find myself worrying about about other people’s expectations.  It was nice to read that despite adversity, Kate was able to find happiness instead of seeking out the so-called greener pastures by attempting to fill someone else’s shoes.

The curse of being a well-read individual is the sometimes inevitable visit from my intellectual inner critic.  At face value, this book was a pleasurable read and it was inspiring for me personally.  After my emotional departure from the book, however, I found myself left with two criticisms.  I didn’t realize it until today, a day after I finished, how much it bothered me that the shy character I identified with spent the entire book walking in the shadow of her more dynamic friend.  Also, it seemed in the end that her most redeeming quality as a friend was being a good-natured doormat who was quick to forgive her more volatile counterpart.  I think the majority of young women out there identify more with this character, the quiet one who doesn’t make waves and is quietly trying to figure herself out.  She gets good grades and believes in true love.  If the author wanted to send a more powerful message to the young women in her audience, she wouldn’t have waited three quarters of the book to have Kate finally stand up for herself.  Secondly, and it has to do with my first concern; the issue of men in this book is, as is the case in so many books about feminine solidarity and friendship, convoluted.  After years of being put down by Tully for her idealized outlook on love, Kate falls for a man who has been sucked into her friend’s wake.  Johnny is the girl’s boss and is in love with Tully.  What ensues is a weird pseudo-love triangle in which Tully is the center and of course has no idea she is hurting the other two.  Kate is left with cast-off seconds, and marries Johnny anyway.  Their weird love triangle continues, as the author sprinkles in awkward scenes where Kate is left wondering if there isn’t still something between her best friend and her husband.  Even though I was crying in the end as Johnny confessed his love for Kate as always and forever, after the fact I couldn’t help but grumble a little.  Obviously this author is published and I am not, but I really feel like this is an underlying issue in a lot of stories that try to be feminist oriented.  Such stories always begin, as Firefly does with a strong friendship, and learning to grow up, but as the authors bump into the issue of men in the lives of their characters it seems they just don’t know what to do with them.  For me, it’s kind of a turn-off to be reading a book that is practically screaming “Yeah!  Go sisterhood!  Best friends forever!”  And then takes a turn like this one does.  I’m not saying books like this one have to be negative about men.  Men are people too and deserve to be written about, but if you are writing a book about two strong women, focus on their friendship, and don’t let a man be something that hinders them in either their personal or professional lives.

Well, I didn’t intend for this to become a rant, and I don’t mean to turn anyone off to reading the book.  It is a sweet story about growing up, love, loss achieving goals and ultimately, friendship.

Yeah women!

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