Six degrees of separation, FROM The beauty myth TO …

Wah, it’s now the start of autumn here down under. I love, love, love autumn (and not just because my birthday occurs during it) but it does mean that winter’s next and I hate, hate, hate that! We do, however, have fun things to entertain us when things get glum like, for example, The Six Degrees of Separation meme. It is currently hosted by Kate (booksaremyfavouriteandbest) – and if you are not familiar with how it works, please click the link on Kate’s blog-name. She explains it all.  Meanwhile, this month’s book is one that I should have read when it came out, given my interests, but didn’t, Naomi Wolf’s The beauty myth. As always though, I’ve read all the linked books.

Naomi Wolf, The beauty mythNow, when I said I should have read The beauty myth, given my interests, but didn’t, I mean that I have been interested for a long time – since I read Germaine Greer’s The female eunuch back in the 1970s – in the way western culture, specifically, objectifies women. Wolf’s The beauty myth, which was praised by Greer, looks, among other things, at the way women are pressured to conform to set notions of beauty, and are exploited as a result.

A more recent – and Australian – book-cum-memoir which looks, among other things, at the way women are pressured to meet societal standards of beauty is Tara Moss’s The Fictional woman (my review). Her thesis is that women are subject to an inordinate number of fictions that contradict reality, and that this helps perpetuate ongoing inequalities for women in myriad ways. Despite having some long bows, this book – written in 2014 – is spot on in terms of what is now, finally, coming to the fore. It’s distressing that so many writers (among others) have been saying the same things about this issue for SO long, but here we are, in 2018, still in a patriarchal society which thinks it’s ok to objectify and thus control women. Unbelievable.

Kate Jennings, Trouble, bookcover

Another memoir by a feminist is Kate Jennings’ Trouble: Evolution of a radical (my review). It’s a different sort of memoir, a “fragmented autobiography” she calls it. It comprises a compilation of Jennings’ writings selected and ordered by her to show how she has come to be the person she is, to believe the things she does. It’s an engrossing book that includes fiction (poetry and prose) and non-fiction (including interviews) written over a couple of decades.

And, it includes excerpts from her own semi-autobiographical novella, Snake (my review), which I have also reviewed here. Snake is a coming-of-age story set in rural Australia, and tells of Girlie and Boy, and their parents Rex and Irene. It’s not a happy childhood, and in fact the book was described by the Sydney Morning Herald as a “domestic dystopia”. The snake title provides a clever motif encompassing such ideas as temptation, deceit and danger.

Winterson, Oranges are not the only fruit, book coverThere are several books I could link from here, including Jill Ker Conway’s memoir The road from Coorain and Francesca Rendle-Short’s fiction-cum-memoir, Bite your tongue, but I’d like to leave the Australian continent at least once in this journey. Consequently, I’m choosing another autobiographical novel about a difficult childhood, Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are not the only fruit (my review). Unlike Snake though, the orange motif is far less clear but seems to relate, in part at least, to closed-mindedness. At the end of the novel, pineapples appear, which may suggest change.

Thea Astley, Hunting the wild pineapplePineapples bring us back to Australia and a book with pineapples in the title, Thea Astley’s Hunting the wild pineapple (my review of the short story from this collection). It is set on a pineapple farm in a place called Mango, and deals, among other things, with the power wielded by white men over others – in particular, women (reminding me of where this month’s meme started) and migrants. And now …

Dymphna Cusack, Jungfrau

For my last book, I’m going to link on names – from author Thea Astley to character Thea in Dymphna Cusack’s Jungfrau (my review). Coincidentally, this book returns to another thread in this meme, the coming-of-age one (though perhaps, as Diana Blackwood suggested in the comments on my review of her novel Chaconne, it’s more a “wising-up” one.) Set in 1930s Sydney, it concerns three young women, Thea, Eve and Marc, and revolves particularly around Thea’s affair with her married professor. Hmmm … I think we are back to the idea of the unbalanced power relationship between men and women. I’ll leave it there…

This month, again, we haven’t travelled far, only visiting the same countries as last month – the USA, England and Australia. We’ve stayed in the last 100 years and with women writers only. I must diversify a little more next month.

And now, have you read The beauty myth? And whether or not you have, what would you link to? 

27 thoughts on “Six degrees of separation, FROM The beauty myth TO …

  1. Hi Sue, I do like your links, especially Snake and Hunting the Wild Pineapple. I have read The Beauty Myth, and loaned it to a friend years ago and still waiting for its return. My links went to The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer; The Women’s Room by Marilyn French; Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks;, The Beauty and the Beast by Gabrielle-Suzanna Barbot de Villeneau;, Snow White by The Brothers Grimm; and my last, Invisible Women: Powerful and disturbing stories of murdered sex workers by Kylie Fox and Ruth Wykes.

    • Thanks Meg … I nearly linked to Germaine Greer too, and then decided to link to something I’ve reviewed so Tara Moss was the perfect alternative. I don’t know Invisible women but it sounds pretty powerful.

      I hope you get The beauty myth back one day!

  2. My internet connection is very unstable today so I’m not even going to try to do #SixDegrees, It’s going to be hard enough to write my latest review, saving every millisecond in case it crashes again.
    But yes, I did read The Beauty Myth, forever ago. I found it very depressing because it just confirms the way women sabotage themselves, not bonding together to resist these stupid pressures and now things are worse than ever if what I see in shopping centres is any guide.

    • Oh that’s terrible about your internet connection, Lisa. It’s unbelievably frustrating isn’t it. We finally got NBN late last year and so far are happy with it.

      As for women sabotaging themselves, I hate even more women sabotaging each other – like a certain Ms Cash this week.

      • Cash? That was outrageous. What a nasty piece of work that was, and Turnbull defended it! There’s a fierce editorial in today’s Saturday Paper which savages this parliament as a place running ‘on the adrenalin of student politics’ while we ‘live in a national stasis’ because ‘our politicians forget what they are supposed to do.’
        Ah well, I’m now going to press ‘send’ and see if this comment gets past our faltering NBN which has made writing my latest review a nightmare!

  3. I have never read The Beauty Myth, although I most probably read an extract as it was published during my Bachelor of Arts in which we spent a lot of time exploring various literary theories, including anlysising text through the lens of feminism. Your connection to Tara Moss’s book seems obvious now that I’ve read your chain, but did not occur to me during mine! Just goes to show how individual everybody’s links are.

    Here’s the link to mine:

  4. In Adelaide after a number of days on Kangaroo Island. To-day at the Writers Fest – listening to Catherine Chidgey (NZ) and Rachel KHONG (US) on memory. To Tejo COLE on just about everything – attention to detail and race and the development of colour film (Shirley was the measure for normal – as in skin tone) and music and photography and the structure of the eye. A true polymath of verbal description. Then Maggie Beer & Prof Ralph Martins (UWA) on the new recipe book based on science and health – and much to do with Mediterranean features… NOT A DIET BOOK – a book for enjoyably healthy eating – maybe, too, warding off dementia/Alzheimers! Later new fiction (based around crime and time) from Dervla McTIERNAN (Ireland) and Mark BRANDI – grew up in Stawell – where he bases the story of his UK Dagger Award winning book Wimmera – and quite a few years in the Juvenile Justice field. And finally to-day – Richard FIDLER and Icelandic Sagas Prof Kári GÍSLASON – their book SAGALAND the subject – brilliant presentation from both.

    I read Tara MOSS The Fictional Woman – always brilliant that woman – in her rwriting and in her TV interviews, etc. I grew up in Tamworth and a childless couple – neighbours – who treated my brother and me as special – the husband still living in his early 90s. His wife was a CUSACK – her father a first cousin to Dymphna – who grew up in West Wyalong – taught in Broken Hill and in Sydney (?) and in Newcastle – wrote interesting novels of a kind of social justice long before that term was used. The Sun in Exile is one I remember – dealing with a “mixed-marriage” long before the film “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” raised the issue in a Hollywood treatment. Jeanette WINTERSON was born in Manchester but grew up in more-or-less nearby Accrington – the same place as one of my English cousins – Lancashire!

    What am I doing to half of your Six Degrees!!

  5. I am continually amazed on how many books I have not read! I think if I found myself in a bookstore in Australia, I would leave having bought everything! Good chain, interesting books!

    • Me too, mdextras, I mean re all the books I haven’t read. I was in the USA last year and visited bookshops. Oh, how tempted I was! But I only bought a couple because of luggage space!

  6. I still haven’t read Tara Moss’s book – a real hole in my reading – all the interviews I read/ saw around the time it was published were very interesting.

    Looking at the various chains this month, I think more than ever this book lead people down quite particular paths for their second links – interesting and wondering if the starter book was a little restricted/ directive….??

    • And yet, from there the directions went very differently. I wouldn’t worry at all. I certainly found myself sticking to the woman theme but I didn’t have to. I could have jumped for example to a male coming of age and from there to something very different. Next month’s will be interesting.

  7. It seems that I have seldom read Kate’s starting books but, like you, I always include only books that I’ve read in the chain. (Did that answer the question? – No, I haven’t read Wolf’s book.)

    I love your fruit connections, and I always enjoy the Australian content of your chains!

  8. I’m surprised you’ve not read The Beauty Myth – was that just by accident or a deliberate decision? Agree with you that the issues she raised then haven’t gone away – the way model agencies continue to exploit young girls because of some notion of what constitutes beauty is disgraceful.

    • Partly by accident but more a conscious decision really. I’d read Greer in the early 70s. and had subscribed to Ms magazine for over a decade from early 80s to mid 90s. I felt I had a good handle on the issue so preferred to focus my book reading at that time on fiction and other social justice issues like Maya Angelou’s memoirs for example. My commitment to feminism though hasnt wavered.

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