Walking, Talking

Living Dolls is another of those must reads for Feminists. It discusses the worrying backlash against feminism and a return to sexism.  Talking primarily about society in the UK it dissects the hyper-sexualisation of women and girls. Images from popular media to internet porn have reversed social taboos so that prostitution is glamourised and women once denied the right to a sexual identity are now ostracised as prudish and old-fashioned if they don’t claim their “rights” to  flaunt their sexuality.

Natasha Walter discusses how this narrow range of acceptable behaviour for women to behave as “ladettes” is just as restrictive as in the past. Now young women are seen as outsiders if they choose to dress conservatively and not be promiscuous, the ” ideal” woman is that of a Barbie doll.  The pressure to conform is so intense, that worryingly even some of the top academic students in the country (gaining firsts at Cambridge) feel more defined by their looks than their achievements.

Walter also discusses the recent return to the ideology of biological determinism. Whilst in the 1970s and 1980s, gender “appropriate” behaviour was thought to be learnt by social conditioning, recent “research” seems to indicate that there are inherent differences between girls and boys. Boys are said to be more aggressive and naturally better at logic, mathematics and spatial awareness whilst girls are better at language, empathy, and building relationships . In a manner similar to Ben Goldacre in Bad Science , Walter reveals many of these modern “facts” to be based on poor research and that studies showing the opposite or no effect are ignored by the media.

Arguing, that these “facts” affect girls own views of their abilities and life choices and lead to women as being thought of as ideally suited to be caregivers rather than chief executives. This book is a passionate call to arms for feminists everywhere to renew their fight.

Other recent feminist reads:

YMCA! – Image of the week

Young Men’s Christian Association, Cambridge Terrace (between Cashel and Hereford Streets), Christchurch. [ca. 1885]

Young Men's Christian Association

The building was designed by Thomas Stoddart Lambert (d. 1915) and built in 1884. Another, larger YMCA building on the corner was built 1908-1909, designed by William Paxton Clarkson (1863-1917) and Robert Anderson Ballantyne. The YMCA vacated the buildings at the beginning of 1967 and moved to a new site on the corner of Hereford Street and Rolleston Avenue. The old buildings were demolished Sept.-Nov. 1967 to make way for a new central police station.

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Five books – still challenging

CoverWho would have thought so many people would take the time to suggest titles to a Christian Fictionally challenged librarian?  Who would have thought it would be so hard to decide what Christian fiction is?

Is a Christian novel one that “expounds and illustrates a Christian world view in its plot or characters, or both” (and Wikipedia says it is). Is it a novel by a Christian? Or is it a novel about Christians?

Or all of the above?

Last weekend, in a guilty time out from the Five Book Challenge, I ignored the small Francine Rivers sitting reproachfully on the bedside table in favour of the new Anne Lamott Imperfect Birds. Reasoning that I had a duty to get it read as soon as possible as it had come in on hold for me and had a reserve list I did little else but fulfill that duty for a day or so.

About half way through I realised I could let the guilt go as this novel meets all the criteria for Christian fiction; it expounds a Christian world view, it features characters who are Christians and it is by a Christian who writes moving and meaningful non-fiction about faith.

Imperfect Birds is the story of 17-year-old Rosie and her parents, Elizabeth and James. They seem to be the ideal family, reassuringly imperfect but loving and warm. Except that beautiful Rosie is drinking, taking every drug she can lay her hands on (and that’s a lot) and lying through her teeth about it.

This is a wonderful novel, about humans who, in Lamott’s words, need something that might not be God but may be god, and is definitely ‘not me’. It’s full of people who try their best to live according to their beliefs, looking for ways to serve and hoping that a connection with a higher power will keep themselves and their children safe. My faith in Christian Fiction is restored.

Julie Myerson, who wrote about her own family’s battle with a child’s addiction in The Lost Child, reviewed Imperfect Birds in The New York Times Book Review. In that review Myerson said that “all addict’s families are alike, and when it comes to teenage drug abusers they’re unnervingly alike, right down to the last battering detail.”

Should you be in the mood for some more battering details, I recommend: