Tag Archives: gender

August Round Up

…but what happened to July?

It’s been a long while since I posted (June 19th, in fact), and for that, I apologise for being so lazy. Thing is, I didn’t really have any blog-able news, and I haven’t read anything particularly note-worthy (for shame!).

Some review news:

-Today, my review of Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women (Carol Dyhouse) was published by LSE Review of Books. Check it out by following the ‘review’ link.

-Sept/Oct will be positively brimming with review work; I will be submitting two reviews to LSE, Feminist Activism, Women’s Rights, and Legal Reform (ed. Mulki Al-Sharmani), and A Feminist Voyage Through International Relations (Ann Tickner).

-I shall also be submitting a review of Gender, War and Conflict (Laura Sjoberg) to FWSA, after a long hiatus (unintentionally long I must add!).

Hopefully that should give me a kick-start into the new academic year, and I should feel some kind of enthusiasm regarding my MA dissertation.

In terms of fiction reading, I’ve found myself at a bit of a loss, if I’m honest. It’s quite possibly that all my sub-conscious really wants to read is Revival by Stephen King… (when it comes out in November…). Oh lordy…is there anything out there that can sate me for the time being?!

I am sure I’ll survive…right? RIGHT?!

Advertisements

*GUEST POST!* Representation of Woman in Gerald’s Game by Stephen King

 

My very first guest blog post comes to you from Elin Williams, bilingual (English/Welsh) theatre critic and fellow Stephen King nerd. 
You can follow Elin on Twitter here and you can read her excellent reviews here  on her personal blog and on the Welsh Arts Review. Elin’s article will also appear in my Stephen King zine. Hope you enjoy!  

Many of Stephen King’s novels explore the character of the woman. From Annie Wilkes in Misery to Dolores Claiborne in the eponymous novel, it cannot be denied that King is a keen writer for the female.

Interestingly, both women in the aforementioned novels are played by Kathy Bates in film adaptations, somewhat supporting the argument which exists that this surely indicates a stock-type female character.

Gerald’s Game is one of King’s most popular novels, and remains so despite never being adapted into TV or film. Jessie Burlingame, the novel’s protagonist, is an extremely conflicted individual. She is repressing some extremely dark memories of paternal abuse, reflected in her perhaps predictable ‘hard’ exterior. GeraldsGame

One evening, she and her husband Gerald go to a cottage in the woods in an attempt to liven up their dull sex life with some light bondage, but things take a turn for the worst when Jessie changes her mind, kicks her husband in the balls inducing a heart attack, and he dies leaving her handcuffed to the bed. Oh, and then a feral dog eats him.

The plot of the novel is slightly far-fetched, but really the plot is merely a motor to validate Jessie’s uncovering of repressed memories; it just happens to include a decomposing corpse, in true King fashion.

In terms of sexuality, the opening chapter is loaded with allusions to the representation of the female. We could go down the usual, boring route of ‘Jessie is handcuffed to the bed, therefore she is consequently objectified…’ and so on, but more interesting things are going on.

Jessie may be handcuffed to the bed in a vulnerable manner, and there may be several descriptions of Gerald with his ‘wolfish’ grin. In fact, there are echoes of a certain fairy tale here; the tale that is originally thought to have been a message to young girls that if you dare to deviate from the path of sexual righteousness, the Big Bad Wolf will come and eat you. Gerald is the wolf, but this comparison is almost laughable.

He is constantly stripped of any power attributed to him, and significantly he is stripped of it by his wife: “A few more of his small, inoffensive attorney’s teeth came into view; his IQ tumbled another twenty or thirty points.” It seems every time Gerald is permitted the power over his wife, he is almost immediately stripped of it in following sentences. He is almost feminised, with his “pouting rosebud of a mouth”, but he always manages to draw out some clichéd insult: “You could be an actress. Or a call-girl. One of the really high-priced ones.”

Really, Gerald’s character is only there to reveal the usual threats a woman may be up against in her day-to-day life, but up against such a pathetic example of a man, Jessie seems to come out stronger. She uses her own stereotypically ‘female’ traits to her own advantage too: “Yes, but now I have a headache; Yes, but I’m having these really shitty pre-menstrual cramps; Yes, but I’m a woman and therefore entitled to change my mind.” The whole chapter is a tennis match which sees the notion of female empowerment bounce to and fro. It just doesn’t seem to make any sense.

As the novel progresses (we’ll just skip over the death of Gerald, as it is pretty irrelevant.), more confusion begins to arise. Jessie ‘hears voices’, but not in a particularly schizophrenic way. The voices are familiar ones, and significantly one is the voice of Gloria Steinem, the American feminist, journalist, and social and political activist.

Steinem became nationally recognized after the woman’s liberation movement in the late 60’s. Ironically, this voice speaks to Jessie as she’s literally restrained by a man’s actions. Although arguably the whole basis of the novel relies on Jessie’s restraint, Jessie must be in such a dire situation in order to confront her past demons of abuse in order to ‘be free’. In essence, it is this confrontation of repressed memories which gives her the strength to break free (both mentally and physically) and also makes her stronger in the long run.

Asides from a hasty serial grave robber thrown in, Jessie is our main character of interest. Her self-confliction with aspects of her own sexuality is very confusing to the reader.
It could be argued that this is down to King’s inability to fully assert the female voice.

Although King clearly has great skill in creating these female protagonists, there seems to be always something slightly amiss. Just as Annie Wilkes is physically ‘masculine’, Jessie is mentally ‘masculine’, but the whole novel is peppered with confusing signals regarding the vulnerable female.

It’s uncertain whether King succeeds in ultimately empowering the female in his novel, or whether this was even his intention in the first place, but it certainly makes for an interesting discussion.

My dip into the world of crime fiction…

I’m experiencing a little bit of what is commonly referred to as ‘feminist burn-out’. So I’ve been reading a lot so far this month to try and distract myself from the burning issues, such as ‘why isn’t there an International Men’s Day?’ There is, by the way (you’d know that if you looked). Or, ‘you’re not a real feminist because you don’t recognise XYZ’.

Rudeness.

I go through phases sometimes; I read every second I can spare and then other times I don’t read anything. February was a bit of a dry month for me in that respect. I have an irritating habit of starting books (with the best of intentions) and then don’t get round to finishing them for AGES; by that time, suffice to say, I have mostly forgotten all the preceding action. Dang and blast!

This month (so far) has taken me down a bit of a different route, reading-wise.

My mum has traditionally read a lot of crime fiction and for a long time I didn’t really fancy it. I don’t know why. I mean, I don’t really prejudice against genre (though you’re not really going to catch me tucking into a Mills and Boon anytime soon) but I would say that it was off my reading radar.

After reading Mrs Peabody’s blog post on strong women in crime fiction, my interest was piqued and I was encouraged to dip my toe in the murky pool of crime fiction.

The Mermaids Singing by Val McDermid:

So I was casually watching Wire in the Blood one day on Netflix when I noticed out of the corner of my eye, a certain someone bearing an uncanny resemblance to Val McDermid loitering around as a journalist in one scene. In fact, it was her. I am very late to this party okay, folks. The series first aired in 2002 when I was 16 and probably out getting drunk somewhere. mermaid

Tweeting my incredulity at my eagle-eyed observation (again, late to the party), I was quite thrilled to receive a response from the women herself. So then I went out and bought ALL THE BOOKS (erm…three).

A serial killer is at large in the fictional northern town of Bradfield. The killer is targeting young professional men, torturing them and then dumping them in various gay hotspots around the city. The victims are brutalised in the most vicious way; causing the police to enlist the help of psychologist Dr Tony Hill. DI Carol Jordan, very much a woman in a man’s world, is ordered to assist Tony so that he can construct a profile of the killer; someone who Tony dubs ‘Handy Andy’. As the killings escalate in their ferocity, it becomes clear to Carol and Tony that they are dealing with the most unlikely of suspects…

I watched the TV show first which can sometimes ruin the book it was based on in the eyes of the reader, but for me, it gave that extra bit of clarity; especially the much-needed insight into the mind of a killer for a start (something which cannot be effectively portrayed on-screen) and some essential background on the lives of Carol and Tony.

Carol Jordan is a character that challenges the gendered status quo that exists in the world of law enforcement; she gives wry observations of the contradictions that exist in her world:

‘Somehow, it was acceptable for young male officers to throw up when they were confronted with victims of violent death. They even got sympathy. But in spite of the fact that women were supposed to lack bottle anyway, when female officers chucked up on the margins of crime scenes they instantly lost any respect they’d ever won and became objects of contempt, the butts of locker-room jokes from the canteen cowboys’. 

Carol and Tony’s relationship is a difficult subject to broach. It’s obvious that they develop feelings for one another, but both are married to their work and Tony’s crippling emotional issues and resulting erectile dysfunction throw a spanner in the works. It soon becomes clear that Carol and Tony will not run off into the sunset together. images

All in all, I really enjoyed The Mermaids Singing; there is some great analysis of gender and sexuality and the fact that Carol Jordan even exists is testament to the strength of lead female characters in crime fiction. She reminds me a little of Clarice Starling; an irony that is not lost on Val McDermid when Carol Jordan and her brother go off to the cinema to watch a double-bill feature of Manhunter and Silence of the Lambs.

I’m looking forward to reading the next book in the Tony Hill series, The Wire in the Blood. Watch this space, folks!

I have also just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn in a record amount of time so there will be a review coming up on that at some point next week.

Anyway, a massive thank you to Val McDermid for being a proper legend and tweeting back the ridiculous fan-girl that I am. I promise not to talk about it any more *collective sigh of relief from friends and associates*.