Gabriel Hudelson is a friend, fellow blogger, and resident composer at Resounding Music. Recently, he shared a letter on his personal blog; a letter which he had written, and which I intend to share with you now:
Feminism is growing up.
It used to be enough for you to claim psychological superiority – to wear the spiritual pants – to hold the esteemed position as the only thing that stood between males and barbarism.
No longer. Now, not only are you better than the guys – but you’re one of them, too.
Not only is the new femme fatale seductive and shapely (sorry, guys, I’m really trying to find semi-modest pictures here), but she is also just as strong, just as fast, just as deadly as the men.
Some of you are just discovering this, but hopefully more and more girls will grow up with this realization instead of finding later that, for so long, they believed the myth that men had something that they needed.
Hopefully this message will reach them while they’re young.
Don’t worry – guys love it when you protect them, save them, lead them, beat them up when they need it. Nothing inspires them like being led into battle by a woman.
It’s no trouble for you, of course – you’re used to doing everything else for them anyway. Besides, the world needs you. Men just can’t do what you can do.
Especially not in a dress and high heels.
The world doesn’t need that whole “gentle and quiet spirit” thing anymore. It’s passé. What do you have to be gentle and quiet about? Anything men can do, you can do better!
Which makes me wonder – what do we need men for, anyway?
They’re so violent.
A Man (I’m sorry about that)
P.S. You may still have my seat on the lifeboat, if you want it.
Did you read that? All of it? Good. Now, read it again. And take a look at the original post, which includes an assortment of pictures that drive the point home even deeper.
“The world has enough women who are tough; we need women who are tender. There are enough women who are coarse; we need women who are kind. There are enough women who are rude; we need women who are refined. We have enough women of fame and fortune; we need more women of faith. We have enough greed; we need more goodness. We have enough vanity; we need more virtue. We have enough popularity; we need more purity.” ~ Margaret D. Nadauld
Aibileen is a black maid in 1962 Jackson, Mississippi. She’s always taken orders quietly. No complaining. No sass. But something changed inside her the day her son died; recently, the bitterness is becoming harder and harder to hold back.
Aibileen’s best friend Minny is also a maid, and perhaps the sassiest woman in the entire state; when she’s hired by someone too new to town to know her reputation, Minny soon figures out that her boss has secrets of her own.
Then there’s Skeeter Phelan, a twenty-two-year-old white socialite who has returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She has a degree, she’s full of ambition, but without a ring on her finger, it doesn’t look like she’s going anywhere fast.
Seemingly as different from one another as they can be, these three women will nevertheless come together for a project that will put them all at risk: the writing of a tell-all book about work as a black maid in the South. Neither their lives, nor their town, will ever be the same again.
The Help is Kathryn Stockett’s debut novel, and if you haven’t heard of it by now, you should probably take your head out of the sand. The popularity of the book skyrocketed last year (in keeping with the release of a movie adaption), and then it really started catching people’s attention. Including mine. By the end of the year, I’d heard so much about the book that adding it to my reading list was not even an option: it had to be there. For the sake of my sanity.
For starters, I must say that as a debut novel, The Help stands head and shoulders above the crowd. Not only is it a good book, it is a very good book, perhaps one I’d even revisit in future. Stockett knows how to write, and her story offers an enlightening look at Civil Rights era of the 1960s, and the injustices that so many blacks in the South had to endure on a daily basis.
Stockett’s cast of characters is large and colorful, and she avoids the stereotyped cutouts that many a lesser writer would’ve fallen for instantly. I’ve heard several people criticize her writing, but in all honesty, I think Stockett is exceptionally talented in this area: her prose is rich and smooth, and her dialogue is consistently authentic. There is, I believe, a weight to her pen; one which is sorely lacking in much of modern literature.
And let’s not forget the humor. The Help is not a comedy per se, but amid the poignant and the tragic, the characters still find time to laugh (and make us laugh with them). Aibileen and Minny, in particular, are full of wry and insightful observations like this:
Even though she has zero kids and nothing to do all day, [Miss Celia] is the laziest woman I’ve ever seen. Including my sister Doreena who never lifted a royal finger growing up because she had the heart defect that we later found out was a fly on the X-Ray machine. (p. 48)
As much as I enjoyed these aspects of the book, however, there were a few things I took issue with. Give me a minute and I’ll explain.
My primary complaint is that certain parts of the story felt distracting and out-of-place, disrupting the narrative flow instead of enhancing it. One scene, involving a naked man who chases Minnie and her employer around the yard, came out of nowhere, with the result that I had put the book down and just sit there for awhile, trying to figure out what the heck I had just read and why.
In another scene, Stockett takes the ill-timed opportunity to express her sympathy for the gay-rights movement. She does this through the character of Aibileen, who (for no apparent reason at all) begins reminiscing about a girly-boy she used to look after:
I wish to God I’d told John Green Dudley he ain’t going to hell. That he ain’t no sideshow freak cause he like boys. (p. 285)
This passage puzzled and annoyed me for the simple reason that it had no business being there at all. It had nothing whatsoever to do with anything; in fact, it felt like something the author went back and added later, just to show that she wasn’t no “homophobic” hick. Any writer who does that loses some of my respect, because that’s not how good writers write. Mrs. Stockett ought to have known better.
Skeeter’s romance with Stuart Whitworth was another thing that didn’t click with me. I understand the need to explore her character further, but I think it could’ve been done in a better way. As it stands, the romance seems extraneous; like it was added merely for the sake of more drama. It never interested me half as much as the main story, dealing with the maids and Skeeter’s writing.
Plus, in a book populated by colorful characters, Stuart struck me as remarkably flat: the stereotypical stud with a troubled past who has difficulty going steady. I didn’t like him at all; next to the vibrant Skeeter, he was about as memorable as a bowl of grits. Which is to say, not very.
Lastly, I did not care for the author’s dishonest savaging of Christianity. She does this primarily through the character of Skeeter, who has a rebellious streak as deep and as wide as the Marianna Trench. Hypocrisy among Christians has been, is, and will continue to be a very real issue. I don’t have a problem with discrediting that. What I have a problem with is using hypocrisy as an excuse to discredit Christianity as a whole. Mrs. Stockett seems to think this way; and by the end of the story, it’s apparent that she wants her readers to think this way, too. That Christianity is synonymous with haughty white socialites who send money to the Poor Starving Children of Africa while despising the blacks in their own town.
If all this sounds like a bunch of complaining, well, it is. I really did enjoy the book, however, and I really do recommend it. I just think it could’ve been better than it is.
“[We must] instill in our students the easy habit of sneering at virtue and beauty. I say it is an easy habit, because a little veneer of intelligence will usually suffice to persuade one that all the people in the world who lived before one’s time – say, all the people who lived before two in the afternoon on July 2, 1965 – were knaves an fools. They all believed the world was flat; they kept slaves; they burned witches; they smoked cigarettes; whatever easy stupidity or immorality can be pinned on them, we pin it. They cannot answer the charges themselves, and students ignorant of history can’t answer them either. So we talk glibly about traditional manhood and traditional womanhood, with a knowing wink – meaning brutality and idiocy. That such men and women, possessed of virtues we ignore, tamed a continent, is not to be considered.
Have children understand that manliness and womanliness are contemptible. The true man is a cartoon figure, a crazy mixture of steroid-exploded muscle mass, grunts, and a bad shave. Otherwise men are fat, sloppy, and stupid. They paint their bellies for football games and drink beer. They are incompetents in the workplace. Their conversation revolves around fast food and fast women. For their part, the women are skinny to the point of emaciation. They wear clothes that would make the whores of old blush. They are fussy, snappy, and feline. They enjoy humiliating men, who always come back for more anyway. They have studied martial arts, and can be choreographed into delivering a backhand slap from a thin-wristed arm that will defy all the laws of physics and send a 250-pound man reeling. They have foul mouths, but they do not come by the foulness honestly; a sort of sneaky, sniggering arch foulness.
Let these be the creatures held up for our children’s emulation. They cannot excite the imagination, no more than cardboard can excite the appetite. They may possess a lot of money, a sharp wardrobe, and a glamorous job, but those things are the false goods that glut the soul rather than whet its longing for what is beyond our immediate range of sight. They not only possess no virtue; they corrode what virtues are left in the young. They leave children with the cynicism of a twice-divorced harridan or cad. Men are not worth looking for, women are not worth looking for. Feed young people enough of that, and you will not only ensure that they lose the ideals of manhood and womanhood. You will go far toward making their souls incapable of any real virtue at all.”
– Esolen, Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child (pp. 196-197)