Archive for February, 2018

Reading the Romance in Rebecca Blog Post by Ella Bukbardis

‘Last night I dreamed of Manderley again’ opens Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca (1938), a classic novel in its own right, instantly placing the stately home at the epicentre of the books warped romance. The narrator who dreams of Manderley is a conventional romantic heroine, a young, naive, and submissive child-bride to her brusque, and much older, husband Maxim de Winter, the owner of Manderly. The novel encapsulates many conventions which captivate an audience who may be well versed in romance novels, such as the pastoral setting in its detailed accounts, ‘[…] lovelier even than I had ever dreamed, built in its hollow of smooth grassland and mossy lawns’ guides the audience to a distant place where they may indulge in fantasy. J.A Radway’s The act of reading romance: espace and instruction writes romance fictions target audience, middle-aged married women, who utilise these novels as a full blown escape method:

 

On the one hand, they used the term literally to describe the act of denying the present […] On the other hand, the used the word in a more figurative fashion to give substance to the […] intense sense of relief they experience by identifying with a heroine whose life does not resemble their own.

 

Self-identifying with the narrator (who is never even named) in Rebecca precipitates issues, as she is thoroughly victimised throughout the novel. It is only when Max blurts out ‘You thought I loved Rebecca? You thought I killed her, loving her? I hated her, I tell you’ that the narrator gains any power as the co-owner at Manderley. This is purely fuelled through her own ‘evil’ nature which materialised as the truth of Rebecca’s death arose. However, in a state of indulgence, romance readers may look over such negative aspects in the novel, as Radway says, ‘romantic escape is […] a temporary but literal denial of the demands women recognize as an integral part of their roles as wives and mothers’. This comment argues that despite any stereotypes and unrealistic fantasies, the romantic reader is willing to overlook these issues to escape the repetitiveness of their own daily lives.

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Are We Consuming Beauty, or Is Beauty Consuming Us? Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth Blog Post by Bronagh Mccollum

In the UK alone in 2016 beauty industry sales topped the £4-billion mark-revealing that we are a nation obsessed with all things beauty! From makeup, to diets, fashion, fitness and even plastic surgery, we just can’t get enough. However, Naomi Wolf in her The Beauty Myth uncovers the detrimental effect that the obsession is having upon women of all ages.

Wolf within her work reveals that anorexia and cosmetic surgery procedures are at an all-time high.

However, Wolf argues that ‘the real issue has nothing to do with whether women wear makeup or don’t, gain weight or lose it, have surgery or shun it, dress up or down, make our clothing and faces and bodies into works of art or ignore adornment altogether. The real problem is our lack of choice’.

She suggests that the cult of beauty has therefore replaced the cults of chastity, domesticity, passivity and motherhood that were previously used to control and consume the lives of women. According to Wolf the cult of beauty therefore reigns as the “last, best belief system…keep[ing] male dominance intact’.

With magazines, adverts and social media outlets constantly bombarding women with images of perfection and promoting ‘miracle’ products, the cult of beauty seems inescapable.

However, author Zadie Smith has provided us with a solution to this problem, the 15-minute rule, forged and implemented to combat her teenage daughter’s beauty addiction.

“I explained it to her in these terms: you are wasting time, your brother is not going to waste any time doing this. Every day of his life he will put a shirt on, he’s out the door, whilst you waste an hour and a half doing your make-up. So I decided to spontaneously decide on a principle: that if it takes longer than 15 minutes don’t do it.’

Both Wolf and Smith therefore wish for women to open their eyes and ironically ‘smell the perfume’ of the damage that the cult of beauty is having upon them, urging them to free themselves from the mirror and get out into the world!

 

 

 

 

 

Fifty Shades of Abuse: Blog by Hollie Spence

 

The success of E. L. James’ best-selling Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy is undeniable. With the first novel selling over 125 million copies worldwide by June 2015, it has been translated into 52 languages, and set a record in the United Kingdom as the fastest-selling paperback of all time. It is easy to award the series as one of the most popular of it’s genre. Fifty Shades is often classified as a romance novel – do we agree with this?

Operating within a strict set of plot boundaries, the romance genre traditionally includes the feeble heroine needing to help the man overcome his dark and mysterious past that forces him to mistreat her until the brave heroine helps him see the error of his ways.

However, in Fifty Shades of Grey, the reader is introduced to Christian Grey, the sadomasochistic billionaire who gets sexual pleasure from unleashing physical pain on women. The novel is told through Anastasia’s first person narration, meaning that the reader is subjected to Ana’s thoughts and feelings regarding her physical relationship with Grey. When reading the more graphic sexual scenes in isolation, it is easy to see how the tumultuous relationship between the pair can be interpreted as abuse. The line “I’m a blubbering mess, and I don’t want him to beat me, is that so unreasonable?” says it all – these are the warning flags of an abusive relationship.

In a society plagued by abusive relationship, the prospect of Fifty Shades of Grey being categorised as a romance novel is extremely harmful. Millions of women worldwide are in controlling and abusive relationships with men –  a book that suggests sexual assault, emotional abuse and physical violence are acceptable is not what men and women need to read.

 

The Beauty Myth and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism Blog Post by Lily Money

Both Naomi Wolf and Natasha Walter, in The Beauty Myth and Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism, argue there is corruption within the media, fashion and beauty industry. They do this by having a negative influence over women’s opinions on their own bodies and how they treat other women.

In a 2009 interview, Wolf argued that women are not being judged on their own achievements, that they “should look however they want, the way men do, and be judged on their own merit.” Unfortunately, industries portray a fake image of a woman who has skinny thighs, a stomach so thin that her rib cage is becoming noticeable and wrinkle free skin. This is most common on the covers of glossy magazines, like Cosmopolitan, whose businesses thrive on the advertisement of a specific image of a woman. With other “laddish” magazines, like FHM, they are teaching young girls that in order to make it to the top in life, they must bare skin, instead of encouraging girls to thrive in a subject of interest.

 

“…the beauty backlash is spread and reinforced by the cycles of self hatred provoked in women by the advertisements, photo features, and beauty copies in the glossies.” The industry has created a vicious cycle for women, they are constantly mirroring themselves up against these fake versions of the female body. When opening up a magazine or reading an article online, all we see is the women’s weight gain/or loss, aging fast, or cellulite issues. With usually a sub line saying that the women must be going through a bad break up or a break down. However, the men, we see their political or career accomplishments and nothing about their weight, deepened wrinkles or greying hair/hair loss. How can women reach their goals, if all the media is doing is focusing on unimportant aspect of the female body.