The F Word

Granta Magazine has just released its issue 115, The F Word. The word under the veil is feminism, a term that one would think would be outdated, at least in the Sixties and Seventies connotations of empowerment. However, allegedly even today there are elderly Gallic satyrs pouncing on hotel chambermaids, reminding us that the basic lessons of feminism have not yet been learned in some less developed peoples, like the political elite in France.

The editors of Granta introduce their 115th issue by asserting,

From Ghana to Great Britain, New Delhi to New York, the balance of power remains tipped towards men. Granta 115: The F Word explores the ways in which feminism continues to inform, address and complicate that balance.

Writing in the Independent, Arifa Akbar wonders exactly what feminism is up to these days.

Revisiting the debate on women’s writing and feminism might now be considered a redundant exercise in an age where books written by women extend across genres and jostle for literary prizes and front-of-store positioning. The 1970s dictum of “writing by women, about women, for women” is certainly a historical anachronism. Philosophical arguments about writing the body are unfashionable with critical theorists and the question of whether women write as gendered beings is dismissed for failing to appreciate the governing role of the imagination in the writing process.

This year’s Orange Prize in particular has raised questions about the relevance and purpose of female-only literary awards. For a long time Jean Hannah Edelstein had paid little attention to the Orange Prize because “I have always agreed with AS Byatt that it was sexist. ‘It assumes there is a feminine subject matter,’ she said.”

One could also add that the Orange Prize should be ignored because of questionable taste after Jennifer Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad didn’t make the short list.

At any rate, Edelstein reluctantly admits that the Orange Prize may be worthwhile after all. She sifts through the recent evidence of the short thrift women writers have gotten in literary magazines and criticism and concludes,

I’ve changed my mind about the Orange prize. I still agree with Byatt that the idea of female-specific subject matter is spurious, but I don’t think that’s what the prize rewards. As long as women writers are forced to continue the exhausting battle for equal billing, they need the Orange prize to demonstrate the accomplishment and variety of their work.

As I’ve mentioned, the Granta issue appeared few days before the DSK affair started. It also appeared the day before Bridesmaids went into general release in the U.S. The film has gotten generally highly positive reviews, with most reviewers noting that it’s The Hangover with women. The film raises issues a number of issues that have troubled feminism for decades. What is authentically female experience? Can any female writer (or scriptwriter, in the case of Bridesmaids) reproduce it? Are women empowered whenever they assume traditionally male roles, regardless of the role?

At least one media outlet for freakishly empowered women has already praised Bridesmaids in fittingly unequivocal terms: says “Bridesmaids is a DAMN. GOOD. MOVIE.”


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