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Someday My Prince Will Not Come: My Feminism in its infancy

February 22, 2017

It was my mother who planted the feminist seed within my intellect.  I am not even sure if she remembers doing it. She was a busy lady. These days when she says she is not a feminist, I huff and puff and roll my eyes as if no time has past at all and I am still 16.

She may not consider herself a feminist but,  she sure as hell raised me to grow up into one.

She did so through the route most appealing to me, that of books. It was book she found in an opp shop one day when I was 15. The book entitled Someday My Prince Will Not Come: More Stories For Young Feminists compiled  by Rosemary Stones, was a life saver.  An intelligent raft of rhetoric ideas wrapped in pathos and the real world. Flung out to save me from drowning in the fears that I was doomed to live a life alone and undesired by the opposite sex. This collection of fiction changed my way of thinking for the better and for the more enlightened.

This illogical and incredibly insipid fear arose from a conversation I had had with my father’s mother a few days before my mother presented me with this book. The conversation went like this.

Nan: Do you want a boyfriend?

Me: Yes. (furtively and with all the angsty hope I could muster)

Nan: That must be hard.

I am sure if my Nan knew how much this affected me in the negative, she would be very upset. I am sure she did not mean to crush my tiny teenage heart. She loves me.

Even now I find this conversation baffling. What did my grandmother mean?  That I was ugly? That because of certain physical abnormalities, I was doomed to live a sexless life? To never catch the eye of a handsome stranger? I agonized over this exchange for a very long time.  It made me think that the whole reason for being a girl was to get a boyfriend and for a very long time I believed it.

Which is why this book my mother found and gave to me is so important. I will deconstructing some of my favourite short stories within Someday My Prince Will Not Come and how the Pathos was established and carried out to a very positive end: the enlightenment and confidence of one particular young woman. It did not result in the brutal and merciless obliteration of an entire generation, or in the mass suicide of brain washed men, woman and children.

Someday My Prince Will not Come, was a big burly comforting hug that began to convince my blossoming social conscious that I was not alone. Stilettos by Rosemary Stones tells of a girl who saves a shoe shop from being robbed, armed with a rather visciouse looking high heeled shoe (Stone, 1988). No man rushes to the defence quick enough. Yet in the paper the story printed tells of fruit vendor man saving the day. The short story holds a much deeper message for  any young woman reading it. That sometimes people, the media, the social paradigm in which we are enshrouded, can seem stifling and suffocating. Yet, we should not give up being strong and smart and self self-sufficient.

Sandra Chick’s story Different Rules follows one evening between a young woman and young man. The morning after she overhears him in conversation with a friend. ‘Remember our shag a slag nights?’ she hears his friend say. They both laugh and the final line is about the girl considering how there is no male word for ‘slag’ (Stone, 1988). Within this story Chick expertly uses pathos to question the readers understanding of the inherent double standard in the actions of sexual activity between men and women.  Chick appeals to our emotions through the female character of her story and also through the male character. It is not until the end that we are shown what kind of person he is and with that realization comes the same kind of sadness that the female character feels. You are disappointed and saddened by how the events have unfolded. You are disappointed and upset by the different rules that apply to girls and boys.

A Long Ride On The Carousel by Adele Geras uses two of the three main types of rhetoric in her moving and emotive piece of fiction that follows a young women’s growing pains and her friendship with an old man who stays at the  hotel she is working a holiday job at.  This story  explores a young women’s growing understanding of what real love is.. It also touches on the rather complex issue of euthanasia, of how taking a persons life is not always wrapped up in murder and a desire to cause harm. There are gray areas, extenuating circumstances. Mr Fuller explains himself quite eloquently through ethos he is able to make himself credible and trustworthy in the eyes of the young women. There is a mutual respect and this  helps him to make him seem a credible character to the reader as well. You are on his team, even though you are shocked by his comments. ‘There’s no need to be alarmed. I am not in the usual sense, a murderer. We made the plans together’ (Stone, 1988), 1988).  He killed his wife in order for her to escape a debilitating and painful disease. It is through this elderly man’s wisdom, that the young woman; Shirley leans what love and life is all about.  When she sees her boyfriend with someone else, it becomes clear to her. She realizes she deserves more and that there is no shame in being alone until you find what that ‘more’ is.  It is best advised to read this story with tissues close at hand as the pathos is plentiful.

Geraldine Kaye’s  Bargain Basement, follows the erratic and passionate Daisy’s short lived love affair with a Young man called Ben. It is through these fictional characters that you learn about the emotional intricacies of sex and love. There is so much more to sex than penis and vagina. It is through Daisy that we learn how sex can look like love if you have no idea what love looks like.  It can give you something to hold onto when you cannot feel yourself. Daisy is bored of her privileged upbringing and intelligent parents who want her to achieve all the great things that they have.  Ben is the heat on her skin when the coldness is inside of her. Daisy is not overly likeable sh is a well rendered teenage girl who fluctuates up and down and around a large list of emotions and desires. This is ok though. This story tells the reader it is ok to be adventurous to grab at life and make it jangle.  The light goes out of her eyes when she discovers what Ben really is. Her desire for him dries up and blows away like desert dust when he proves to be not in keeping with what she hoped. She does not love him. She loves and is passionate about an idea of him, a fantasy.  Daisy was given the freedom to explore her life options  (to a point) by her parents. ”They did worry of course” (Stone, 1988).

Through this story we are encouraged to contemplate the implications of a young women not given a safe and unconditionally loving safe place to grow and learn. To consider what happens when this self exploration is blocked by religious mandate and cultural taboo .

We are so lucky to live in a world where feminist information and books can be downloaded for free (sometimes). Which is why it may be easy to pass of this little book of short stories as dated and kitsch. It is a great book for young women who are in their early teens.   This particular book pin points a important moment between my mother and I and our relationship. It was  not long after that that I left my family home to complete my last two years of high school.

This book was a cute and brilliant jumping off point to ( many many years later )  discovering a whole lot of other amazing and intersectional women such as Bell Hooks, Audre Lorde, Simone De Beauvoir, Kathleen Hannah of Bikini Kill,  Le Tigre and The Julie Ruin.  Helen Razor, Catherine Deveny, Beyonce, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichi, Angela Carter, Roxeanne Gay, Margaret Atwood,  and so on and so forth for infinity. I don’t think my mother had any idea what an impact that little book from an  op shop would have on her eldest daughter. Or maybe I am not giving her enough credit.

I did end up doing what my Nan had made me feel was important and impossible for me, by getting a boyfriend (easily). He took in my confidence and independent spirit and would always drunkenly comment while drunk, ‘You know, If you turned out to be a lesbian, I would not be surprised.’

Sometimes it takes getting what you are programmed to think you need, to realize you don’t need it.

 

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