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Mansplaining in Austen

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I was interested in this discussion of mansplaining on Exponent II. Of course there was a defender of patriarchy (what would patriarchy do without little ladies to stick up for it?) who said the term "mansplaining" was sexist and offensive. Kmillecam had a pretty great response to that:

I would argue that yes, mansplaining is a phenomenon that MEN do because of their privileged status. If a woman is condescending about an issue she is ignorant of, then it wouldn't be called mansplaining, it would be something else. Mansplaining describes when a privileged man feels entitled to tell women/feminists what to think about a feminist issue.

If it seems sexist and offensive, I would ask for you to get really clear about the definition first. And then explore WHY you find it offensive. Perhaps it is just a new idea that warrants contemplation.

Anyway, I read the discussion, including someone's suggestion that the term be replaced with the gender-neutral "jerksplaining," and then I washed dishes, and then I thought about how Jennifer Ehle, who played Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, and Colin Firth, who played Darcy, and David Bamber, who played Mr. Collins, were all in The King's Speech. And then I thought about how Mr. Collins was a total mansplaining jackass--that's part of why he's so horrible, the fact that he thinks he knows everything and Elizabeth knows nothing--and then I wrote a comment, which I liked well enough that I'm posting it here too, in a somewhat expanded form.


If you want a really clear sense of what mansplaining is and why it's called mansplaining and not jerksplaining, read or watch the scene in Pride and Prejudice where Mr. Collins proposes to Elizabeth. A man telling a woman she doesn't really know what she's talking about--even when what she's talking about are her own feelings--is mansplaining. And he feels every right to do it because by and large, society supports his position, not hers. Privilege and custom are on his side. Furthermore, by and large society forces her to submit to him, not just intellectually but sexually, if he wants it--regardless of whether she does. Fathers like Mr. Bennet who refused to marry their daughters to creeps with money were all too rare.

Consider also Elizabeth's response to Collins:

Oh, Fop Off

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I LOVED the following six videos, which comprise the final episode of The Supersizers Go. It's informative, interesting, and--at least in my opinion--hysterically funny. Admittedly, a lot of the jokes have to do with British history, Regency literature and crude bodily humor, but hey, LOTS of people find that stuff really funny, right?

I learned about Supersizers Go Regency in the Spring 2010 issue of the Newsletter of the Jane Austen Society of North America. A few years ago I invested in a life membership of JASNA, because I got tired of writing a check each year for something I planned to belong to for the rest of my life.

I'm embedding all six videos so that you have no excuse not to watch them all. Just do it, OK? As for me, I'm going to watch the other episodes, which include the food and habits of the Restoration, the Elizabethan age, and the Victorian era.

the other five are after the break.

The Jane Austen Survey

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My life lately has been Austen-tastic. That's one of the things I want to blog about if I ever get a couple of hours in a row when I can concentrate.... Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I'm not only a Janeite but a lifelong member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, though I've never yet attended one of the conferences. I hope that will change in 2009; the focus of that conference is on siblings in Austen's work, a topic I wrote a pretty decent paper on as an undergrad.

A full exploration of the Austen-tastic-ness of my life will have to wait until I've got time to write about it properly, but in the meantime I'd like to invite any Janeites who read my blog to take the Austen survey. The point of the survey is to gather information about the sorts of people who are Austen fans (my guess is they're pretty damn diverse); the results will be presented in a breakout session at the 2008 JASNA Annual General Meeting, in a presentation entitled "Anatomy of a Janeite."

Survey participants need to have read all six of the finished novels. If you have, please complete this survey.

My New Action Figure


Today is the birthday of my two favorite writers: Jane Austen and... ME!

You may well roll your eyes and think I'm arrogant for announcing that I'm my own favorite writer, but one of the many reasons I love Saviour Onassis is for the way he taught me to value my own talents. Someday I will tell the story of how Saviour Onassis convinced me that I should always say I am my own favorite artist, but in the meantime I will tell you the story of one of the coolest presents I have received this birthday, namely, this:


That's right, it's a Jane Austen action figure! I have wanted one ever since I read an entry on Robyn's blog about how she got one from her father. My dad usually leaves gift buying to my mother, so I knew not to expect anything from that quarter, but mercifully one of my sisters obliged me.... (Actually my siblings have been really good to me this year--I got all kinds of stuff! But that's going to be another post, I hope--I have so many things I've been meaning to blog about.) You can see the box in front of some flowers a friend sent me--I love getting flowers but it's just not something most people send. (Including me, now that I think about it.) You can also see my cat checking out a bit of the greenery--there's something about these particular bits of foliage that freak her out.

Here's Jane out of the box and not quite in action, in front of my (alphabetized) copies of her work:


I had a very early Barbie as a little girl, one that had I never played with it or taken it out of the box, would be worth thousands today. But I was four or so when I got it--of course I took it out of the box and played with it, though I never did intentionally destructive things like draw on it or cut its hair. It occurred to me after I ripped the box of this action figure open that maybe I was supposed to just leave it in its box, but I wanted to handle the figure.

Turns out this version of Jane is wielding a quill like a weapon.


She's also kind of hot... I don't know if the real Jane was this curvy, but I do know Regency fabric didn't drape on the body the way this doll is depicted.

Anyway. What I would like from you is a birthday greeting, whenever you happen to read this message. I don't care if it's a week or two or three from now, please say hi! In fact, I will accept birthday wishes on this message up until December 15, 2008.


Crouching Horse-Horse-Tiger-Tiger Hidden Dragon

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Since I've had a discussion of movies, I thought I'd continue the trend. Here's a review I wrote of "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon" when it came out.

One of the first things I learned to say when I began studying Chinese was mamahuhu, which means "horse-horse-tiger-tiger." It is an idiomatic expression denoting something which is an uncomfortable hybrid, neither successfully this or that, nor even a worthy combination of the two; it's often translated as "mediocre" or "so-so." One of the first things I heard about Ang Lee's new movie, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, was that Lee had described it as "Bruce Lee meets Jane Austen;" one of his assistants called it "Sense and Sensibility with sword fights."

I'm a big fan of Austen, and if there were anyone who could blend Bruce Lee and Austen successfully, it would be Ang Lee, whose first three movies were set (at least in part) in his native Taiwan; his fourth movie was Sense and Sensibility (1995). But I would have to say that I found this movie more horse-horse-tiger-tiger than tiger-tiger-dragon-dragon.

As They Say about Acid


Yeah, I'm back.

I got home Wednesday night. The journey home was, as they say about acid from time to time, a bad trip. Flight patterns were screwed up at the Salt Lake airport for some reason no one ever bothered explaining to me so although we boarded on time and shut the door on time and pulled away from the gate on time, we then sat on the tarmac for 55 minutes (the captain specified that it was 55 minutes) waiting for our turn to take off, waiting and waiting and then waiting some more as if waiting were a perfectly normal thing to do in an airplane. Fortunately I have a gift, a very fortunate gift indeed, and even a strange one, in light of the fact that in a bed I am prone to insomnia, and my gift is this: I always fall asleep on planes. I am so disposed to falling asleep on planes that I get sleepy just waiting to board one. So I slept while we waited for our plane to take off, even though I had slept a lot the night before and it was only ten a.m., too early really to be sleepy.

Reader, I'm Not Sure What Happened


Reese, Frankengirl, Mystic Gypsy, and all types like me, check out this plea from the BBC:

Are you an avid reader of romantic fiction? Has Mr Darcy made you leave your fiancé? Has Mr Rochester, Heathcliff or any other fictional hero changed your love life in a significant way? Does your partner want you to be more like these fictional male heroes?

Silverriver Productions are producing a series of three 60' programmes for the BBC about the history of the romantic novel. Presented by Daisy Goodwin, Reader, I Married Him! will examine the work of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer, Margaret Mitchell, Helen Fielding and Catherine Cookson amongst others, looking at how romantic novels have changed the female perception of the ideal man.

In the programmes we want to talk to real men and women whose love lives have been transformed by romantic fiction for better or for worse. We want to speak to the women who have never found their Mr Darcy, as well as the men who feel that they fall short of romantic literary ideals.

If you have an interesting story, please get in touch with Louisa MacInnes on 020 7580 2746 or with details of your experience and and some method of contacting you.

Can They Be a Sensible Academy?


I just learned that Keira Knightley got an Oscar nomination for her insipid portrayal of Elizabeth Bennet in prd & prjdc! The movie as a whole got FOUR nominations, including art direction (yeah, it was pretty, but that doesn't make up for the lousy script), costume design (again, the clothes were very pretty, but they were NOT authentic--there was one gown Caroline Bingley wore that, while fabulous, was a thoroughly contemporary design), and "music written for a motion picture" (can't say the music made an impression on me).

I shouldn't gripe, I suppose: after all, even though it's watered-down, simplified, prettified Austen.... No, I should gripe. It's a mediocre version of a GREAT novel, and I rather hope Keira Knightley loses.

Love vs. Whatever


As promised in yesterday's post, here is a list of scenarios about various ways people approach relationships and marriage in which love and other concerns might be in conflict.

Before presenting the list, I instructed my students to let memory and imagination run wild, to think of every dysfunctional relationship they'd either been in or witnessed.

A. Imagine that you go home and say, "Mom, Dad, guess what. I'm engaged. He's so great. He's a sculptor and, well, he's unemployed right now, and he just dropped out of school because he felt like his teachers couldn't really understand his vision but he's so talented, he's so great, and I'm going to drop out of school and go to work and support him until he makes it big." They say, "Um, OK, well, when can we meet him?" and you say, "When he gets out of rehab." I don't care what you say about marrying for love instead of more practical concerns--your parents would FREAK.

B. Imagine that a friend who grew up in a really conservative religious home in rural Iowa. She's always had a thing for bad boys, and she falls in love with this guy who spends all his money on his Harley. And he loves her too--he treats her really well--and they get engaged. Both families are HORRIFIED. Her family says, "Did you have to fall in love with a criminal?" His family says, "Did you have to fall in love with someone whose dad is going to call the cops as soon as someone lights up a joint at your reception?"

Prudent Matches


I've been reading all over the blogosphere about the January 3, 2006 NY Times editorial by John Tierney, discussing how smart, educated straight women are likely to end up alone because they won't date dumb men with bad jobs: these women actually do something so calculated and unromantic as consider a man's earning potential in deciding whether or not to marry him.

I admit I haven't read the editorial--I don't subscribe to the paper version of the Times, so if I want to read its columnists on line, I have to pay for the privilege, and I wouldn't fork over my last dingy centime or any other piece of no-longer-current European currency to read a single word by that shithead Tierney. Thus, my response is based only on a few excerpts and synopses provided by others. And my reaction to the synopses and excerpts I have read is pretty much this:

Duh. So what.


Before I pursue that premise any further, let me make one thing clear: I'm a big believer in love. I love a lot of people. I've been in love and it has changed my life in ways I'm still grateful for. I think falling in love is one of the best things that can happen to someone. I believe in the redemptive power and possibilities of love.

And I used to think that the fact that you really, truly loved somebody sort of meant you HAD to get married, because if you love someone as much as I loved a couple of people, your feelings for them OBLIGATED you to vow to spend the rest of your life with them.

Funny how things work out.


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