Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music & the transing of history

UnknownI love Emma Donoghue’s Frog Music: a fictionalised account of the unsolved murder of Jenny Bonnet in San Francisco in 1876. Donoghue’s strength as a writer is both the quality of her historical research and her ability to centre women within history. You can see this in her anthology Astray, Slammerkin, and The Sealed Letter.

Frog Music‘s heroine is Blanche Beunon – a former circus performer from France who became a ‘soiled dove’ in San Francisco working as a stripper and a prostitute.  Beunon is both the archetype capitalist in search of the American Dream and a mother of questionable ability (or desire). She only discovers the tension between these two competing ideologies due to a chance encounter with Jenny Bonnet – a woman who wore men’s clothing and tried to live outside the expected social constructions of working class women. We only see Bonnet through the eyes of Blanche, who is not the most aware character caught in an abusive relationship.

Frog Music is about women’s friendships, motherhood, male violence, women’s sexuality and survival. Donoghue ends Frog Music with this:

There is one myth I would like to put to rest. Jenny Bonnet shows up all over the Internet these days as a proto-trans outlaw: presenting as male, persuading women to give up the sex trade and forming them into a thieves’ gang. Attractive though this image is, it seems to derive from one highly colorful article that was not published until three years after [her] murder (“Jeanne Bonnett”, Morning Call, October 19, 1879) and an equally unsubstantiated popular history from 1933 (Ashbury’s The Barbary Coast), and I have found no evidence to substantiate it.

Frog Music is a powerful testament to the history of women’s gender non-conforming behaviour. There should be no need for these types of statements since there is no evidence for Jenny Bonnet (or Joan of Arc or Elizabeth I)  being ‘proto-trans’ because they predate the trans movement. This ‘transing’ of women’s history is ahistorical nonsense forcing a anti-feminist political agenda on the bodies of women who simply would not recognise queer theory or, indeed, see themselves as “men born in the wrong body”.

Queering history and literature can be quite fun – just take a look at the brilliant Lucy Allen’s breakdown of the new Anne of Green Gables films – but you can’t rewrite history in order to push a postmodern narrative of transgenderism onto women who have fought the gender straitjacket throughout history. Women have been gender non-conforming – at great personal risk – for centuries. And, we should be celebrating their accomplishments. Not erasing their activism or their bodies. After all, the Suffragettes learned JuJitsu not because they believed they were men – since fighting and self-defence was viewed as a male pursuit – but to protect themselves from male violence – sexual and physical.

The history of women’s gender non-conforming is an essential part of women’s history. Erasing women to claim them as ‘trans’ is misogyny. It is no different than the constant erasure of women from history by male historians.

 

 

Helen Castor’s Joan of Arc: A History

UnknownI was disappointed by Castor’s Joan of Arc but only because I had not realised what it was Castor was writing. I wanted to read a biography of Joan and chose Castor’s book simply because I absolutely adored Helen Castor’s She-Wolves: The Women Who Ruled England Before Elizabeth. It was historically accurate, as well as imaginative. There is so very little writing left by the women Castor profiled that any biography would be contingent on teasing out finely spun threads within the misogynist writings of those around them.

Castor’s Joan of Arc is the contextualisation of Joan within the history of Europe. It is about the France that existed in Joan’s beliefsIt contains little of Joan’s own dictated letters or chunks of testimony from the trials. As I wanted to read more of Joan, I chose to read The Virgin Warrior: The Life and Death of Joan of Arc by Larrissa Juliet Taylor next. The Virgin Warrior contained more direct testimony of Joan but engaged in the hero-worship that Castor was arguing against. Equally, without having read Castor’s book I would not have been in a position to understand the historical context in which Joan was living. I knew the basics of the 100 years war and the various Henrys running about, but not enough about the political situation. Taylor’s text in focussing more on Joan does not contextualise her life and accomplishments within the greater political scene.

I suppose what I really wanted was a history of Joan of Arc that traced the myths as well as the history – rather like Bettany Hughes utterly brilliant Helen of Troy. Whilst I haven’t found that (and I’m always open to recommendations). Castor’s text Unknownis a well worth the read. She’s funny, sarcastic, and accurate – a skill set not many historians have. I love the way Castor challenges historical orthodoxy whilst making it clear that how we interpret history actually erases the lived experiences of those we are writing –  making Joan a “legend, icon and saint” but no longer a young girl. Instead, we label Joan schizophrenic without recognising the reality of faith during Joan’s life where talking to saints was considered a gift – not a curse. Castor made Joan real – and that is an essential rewriting of history.

 

And, because there is never a moment when Horrible Histories isn’t a good plan:

16 books Mark Zuckerberg NEEDS to read to stop perpetuating VAWG

Mark Zuckerberg has given a list of 14  books he thinks everyone should read this year. Since he’s so concerned about the general knowledge of random people on the internet, I thought I’d give Zuckerberg a list of books that he needs to read so he can stop putting survivors of domestic and sexual violence and abuse at risk with the deeply stupid ‘real names’ policy on Facebook.

1. Lundy Bancroft, Why Does he do that? Insides the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, (Berkly Publishing, 2003)

2. Aisha Gill, ‘Honour’ Killing and Violence: Theory, Policy and Practice, (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014)

3. Dee L.R. Graham, Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men’s Violence and Women’s Lives, (New York University Press, 1994) – a full PDF of this text is available here.

4. Lynne Harne, Violent Fathering and the Risks to Children: The Need for Change, (Policy Press, 2011)

5. Michael P. Johnson, A Typology of Domestic Violence: Intimate Terrorism, Violent Resistance and Situational Couple Violence, (Northeastern University Press, 2008)

6. Lorraine Radford & Marianne Hester, Mothering through Domestic Violence, (Jessica Kingsley Publishers, 2006)

7. Evan Stark’s Coercive Control: How Men Entrap Women in Personal Life (Oxford University Press, 2007)

8. Liz Kelly, Surviving Sexual Violence, (Polity Press, 1988)

9. Nancy Berns, Framing the Victim, Domestic Violence Media & Social Problems (Transaction pub. 2008)

10. Nina Burrowes, The Courage to be Me, (2014)

11. Gavin De Becker, The Gift of Fear, (Bloomsbury Pub, 2000)

12. Marianne Hester, Who does what to whom? Gender and domestic violence perpetrators. (Bristol University, 2009)

13. Kimmel, “Gender Symmetry” in Domestic Violence: A Substantive and Methodological Research ReviewViolence Against Women, vol. 8 No.11

14. Rachel Pain Everyday Terrorism: How Fear Works in Domestic Abuse, (University of Durham & Scottish Women’s Aid)

15. Jennifer Perry, Digital Stalking: A guide to technology risks for victims, (Pub, by Network for Surviving Stalking & Women’s Aid)

16. Women’s Aid, Virtual world, real fear: Women’s Aid report into online abuse, harassment and stalking.

Granted my list  has slightly more than 14 books, but I figure if Zuckerberg has taken the time out from running a multi-national corporation to give the general public a reading list, he has the time to make sure his corporation isn’t perpetuating violence against women and girls.

#ReadWomen and my erasure of BAME women writers

I’ve been reading books only written by women since 2011 following a conversation on cultural femicide on Mumsnet. There were lots of recommendations for writers I’d never come across: Barbara Kingsolver, Andrea Levy, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Kate Mosse, Granted,  this was because I was mostly reading mysteries. My book shelves are full of Val McDermid, Patricia Cornwall, Kathy Reichs and Tess Gerritsen, but the majority of the books were written by men.

The books I’ve read over the last five years have been absolutely incredible and I’m so glad I started. It wasn’t until I read some tweets by Samantha Asumadu a few weeks ago that I started to think about how many BAME women writers I had read. So I did what all book nerds do and tried to remember high school math. These are stats:

2011: 16%

2012: 19%

2013: 8.8%

2014:  14%

2015: 18%

Had you asked me 3 weeks ago, I’d have said that at least 40% of the books I was reading were by BAME women.

I’d like to say this is because once I find an author I like, I read everything they’ve written which is why my bookcases are full of Meg Cabot, Agatha Christie, Charlaine Harris and Janet Evanovich but you can see the pattern there too.

I suppose it is rather like the research onto everyone assuming women speak more than men when it’s the exact opposite. I made the assumption that my reading patterns didn’t reflect white supremacist cultural practises. It took me two weeks to decide to write this as I was embarrassed, which is a stupid reason not to write.

My goal this year was to read 100 books written by women. So far, I’ve read 44. I’m changing my goal: I’m still hoping to read 100 books but 40% of those have to be by BAME women. Next year my goal will be 50%.

 

Top Eleven Favourite Books of 2014

These are my top eleven favourite books of 2014 in no particular order:

Jamaica Kincaid’s A Small Place

There is little I can say to give this book justice but Kincaid’s essay on the impact of colonialism, slavery, and corruption in Antigua as seen through the prism of reality/unreality (tourism) is a must read.

Lynn Harne’s Violent Fathering

Harne’s text needs to be read by every single person involved in the family courts, child protection, police and politicians since she debunks the theory that children need fathers, even violent ones, in their lives. Harne examines all the research which demonstrates that children are actively harmed by domestic violence and that forcing women to continue to relationships with a violent partner for the ‘sake of the children’ is all about men’s rights to women and children as possessions and not about the children. She makes it clear that despite this evidence on the harm violent men do to children (and their mothers) government policy insists on the rhetoric children need fathers because of misogynistic, patriarchal assumptions about men’s rights. Preventing violent men from continuing to abuse their former partners through contact with their children is not what is best for children – particularly when these men continue to commit financial child abuse through the withholding of maintenance.

Lorraine Radford & Marianne Hester’s Mothering Through Domestic Violence

This is another essential read for anyone working in social services, education, the criminal justice system, family courts and anyone blaming the victims of domestic violence instead of the perpetrator. Hester and Radford approach the issue of mothering from a variety of ways making practise recommendations from research evidence and knowledge of the law. They also make it clear how the separation of children from mothers, within social services, when dealing with domestic violence causes both groups harm, particularly with the government policy to encourage women to leave violent relationships with very little in terms of practical support and legal protection to offer them and the increase of violence for many in the post-separation period. Effectively, this book is clear evidence that the current responses to domestic violence, in law and practice, work to undermine mothers and blame them for their own victimisation. Far too little professional intervention is aimed at the perpetrators. Good practice should be based on the individual needs of mothers and children, not on the rights of violent men.

Anita Rau Badami’s Can you hear the nightbird call? and Tamarind Mem

I read these whilst in Canada caring for my sister. Can you hear the nightbird call? follows three women after the partition of India, migration to Canada exploring family, love, hate and the seeds of terrorism. Tamarind Mem is the story of Kamini and her mother Soroja, and confronting the past. It is about the love and difficulties which bind mothers and daughters everywhere. These are both incredibly beautiful books and were read at a time in my life when family, love and hate were rearing their heads in my personal life.

Marilyn French’s War Against Women

This book is 25 years old but still relevant. The war against women continues unabated – but with more violence and hatred.

Lydia Cacho’s Slavery Inc.: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking

Slavery Inc. is incredibly heartbreaking as Cacho tracks the rape traffickers and their victims from Mexico to Turkey, Thailand and the US exposing their not-so-hidden connections with tourism, pornography, illegal drugs trade, arms dealing, money laundering, terrorism and the illegal trade in body organs. The first person interviews with all who are involved in this industry  make this a truly powerful, if terrifying, book.

Denise Thompson’s Radical Feminism Today

The book was based on Thompson’s PhD entitled: Against the Dismantling of Feminism: A Study in the Politics of Meaning which is a much better title considering the book is about defining feminism and not about the state of radical feminism today (or as it was in 2001). Why the publisher thought the title Radical Feminism Today was an appropriate title for a book on defining feminism is, frankly, boggling.

Thompson is a radical feminist and her definition of feminism is about male domination. In this she critiques a wide variety of feminist  and non-feminist writing which use terms like patriarchy, gender and sex without referencing biology or the reality of male domination and male supremacy. A feminism which does not recognise this reality is not, in fact, feminism.

Thompson deals with the issues of gender, race and class by insisting on the primacy of male domination and supremacy: women all suffer from the effects of the Patriarchy which is historically and culturally contextually whilst acknowledging the importance of multiple oppressions in how women experience Patriarchy. A major theme throughout the text is that we simply are not working with defined terms; instead we allow them meanings which do not have biological realities (gender). In order to do feminism, we must define what it is we mean by feminism and cannot simply be by women for women otherwise it is reduced to the idea that everything a woman does is feminist because a woman does it. Feminism has to recognise male supremacy and domination or it is simply irrelevant.

Gerda Lerner’s The Creation of Patriarchy

Lerner’s thesis is based on the belief that women’s oppression is based on both women’s potential reproductive ability and their potential as sex objects which occurred before the creation of private property and a class society. This is then institutionalised in practise through the creation of slavery, the codification of laws and the creation of monotheism. Lerner’s thesis is, obviously, far more complex than that brief sentence and her work deserves more thought than I’ve written.

Beatrix Campbell’s End of Equality

Marina S. wrote a fabulous review of this text for Trouble & Strife that says better than I can why this is such an important book:

As is often the case with the best of feminist writing, this slim volume makes clear something which has been stubbornly inexplicable: what went wrong for the feminist movement? Why was our revolution unfinished? How could we have failed so badly (we think) when seemingly so close to achieving our goals? Two generations of feminists have wrestled with these questions, quite often wrestling with each other in the process. Recrimination and antagonism was bred from a frustrating failure of the liberal paradigm to explain the backlash of the 80s and beyond. If history always marches towards greater equality, and we are not seeing that equality manifest for women, then the fault, the thinking goes, must be in us: we have failed to be inclusive; we have failed to understand race; we have failed to take the correct attitudes to sexuality, marriage, domestic labour, sex work.

In contrast to this soul-searching, Campbell locates the seeming retreat of feminism in a squarely material framework. The reassertion of capital’s power after its brief post-World War II retreat rolled back or arrested not only feminist politics, but the civil rights movement, the student rebellions and other political liberation movements that were active in the 60s and early 70s. What she terms the ‘neo-patriarchal’ paradigm congealed around and in support of the neoliberal economic and political turn in global affairs in the last third of the 20th century. Not just Britain and the US, but countries as politically diverse as China and India went through processes of ‘liberalisation’ beginning in the 70s, and the impact of these changes on women has often been profoundly regressive.

The biggest philosophical difference between neoliberal, patriarchal politics and feminism is that the former is profoundly pessimistic. Human nature in the neoliberal reading is base, selfish, violent and grasping – and incapable of reform. All radical politics is embedded in a confidence that people will strive to cooperate, coexist and care for each other if the material conditions they find themselves in don’t militate against it.

It is no coincidence, in this view, that we live in an age of war without end; an unintelligible series of local skirmishes and conflicts in which women, and the cooperative, relational social capital they nurture, are often the hardest hit, not as accidental ‘collateral damage’ but through deliberate acts of mass rape and disenfranchisement that hit purposefully at the heart of social existence. Violations of human rights, in Campbell’s phrase, ‘are not side effects, but a decisive methodology’. Feminism’s project, in her view, is to bear witness to the ‘wit and heroism that makes up everyday life amid chronic violence’.

Anna Politkovskaya’s A Small Corner of Hell: Dispatches from Chechnya

It feels like I have read this book a thousand times. This is just another war with another brave woman crossing into hell to report on genocide, mass rape and the real consequence of capitalism. I have read it a thousand times reading testimonies of Holocaust survivors – Odette Abadi, Eva Brewster, Ruth Elias. I’ve read it when the countries named were Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Bangladesh. I’ve read Linda Polman’s catalogue of failures of UN peacekeeping forces in Somalia and Haiti. I have read it in Beverly Allen’s Rape Warfare: The Hidden Genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia  and Anne Llewellyn Barstow’s War’s Dirty Secret: Rape, Prostitution, and Other Crimes against Women. I have read Judith Zur’s research into memories of violence among Mayan Indian war widows. I have read about the Rape of Nanking and the slaughter of civilians at Mai Lai. And, I read every blog posted on Women Under Siege about BurmaNorth KoreaLibyaSri Lanka Darfur and countless other war zones where sexual violence is an intrinsic part of genocide. I have read feminist texts like Beatrix Campbell’s End of Equality  which demonstrate the direct link between capitalism and the oppression of civilian populations through sexual violence and war.

The names of the perpetrators change. The name of the conflict zone changes. The civilian populations targeted change. The names of the reporters changes. The names of those murdered grows longer. But, still the Twentieth Century remains one where genocide, mass rape and torture were normal – a  century where more people lived in abject poverty without access to clean water, sanitation and even food in order to perpetuate a capitalist economy that privileges very few.

Anna Politkovskaya’s text is powerful, distressing and enraging. It is a catalogue of torture, murder, rape and the acceptability of concentration camps all whilst the rest of the world looks on and does nothing. It is about men’s desire to exert control and power: to control natural resources, including people. We allow children to starve to death and grandmothers to perish from preventable diseases despite having the ability to prevent them because it would interfere with men’s desire for power.

The Women Who Mapped the Universe And Still Couldn’t Get Any Respect

The Smithsonian published this article last year but I’ve only just come across via Facebook. It’s a great piece on misogyny and cultural femicide with one teensy tiny omission. They don’t actually name the 80 women in the article. Now, I do understand the pressures of space in the production of a glossy magazine such as the Smithsonian but an article on the erasure of women which doesn’t name the 80 women seems to miss the point, particularly when these women were derided as Pickering’s Harem.

Natasha Geiling is so very clear on the role of misogyny, gendered stereotypes, patriarchal control and sexual harassment that not naming the women seems odd. There are links to information on the women in the online version but not, apparently, in the magazine. These women were the only reason that Edward Charles Pickering, director of the Harvard Observatory, could photograph and catalogue the entire sky. Their work is invaluable, yet we only know them as Pickering’s Harem.

We really need a feminist to write a collective biography of these 80 women!

The photographs and information below are taken from here:

pickering-611

 

A print of this HCO photograph was found in an album that had once belonged to Annie Jump Cannon. The print was dated by tracing the HCO serial number on it to the record books in the Harvard College Observatory Collection of Astronomical Photographs. The women were identified by comparing the print to other HCO photographs on which Margaret Harwood or Annie Jump Cannon had noted the names.

This picture which includes Edward Charles Pickering, the Director of HCO (1877-1919), was taken on 13 May 1913 in front of Building C, which faces north. At that time it was the newest and largest building of Harvard College Observatory. It was specially built of brick to protect the astronomical data and glass negatives from fire. Since the astronomical photographs were stored on the ground floor and most of the women worked on the top floor, the building had a dumb waiter to convey the plates up and down. The women all worked in a large room on the east end of the third floor. Pickering had his offices on the west end across the central hallway. All the other men worked on the lower levels.

At the far left of the photograph is Margaret Harwood (AB Radcliffe 1907, MA University of California 1916), who had just completed her first year as Astronomical Fellow at the Maria Mitchell Observatory. She was later appointed director there, the first woman to be appointed director of an independent observatory. Beside her in the back row is Mollie O’Reilly, a computer from 1906 to 1918. Next to Pickering is Edith Gill, a computer since 1989. Then comes Annie Jump Cannon (BA Wellesley 1884), who at that time was about halfway through classifying stellar spectra for the Henry Draper Catalogue. Behind Miss Cannon is Evelyn Leland, a computer from 1889 to 1925. Next is Florence Cushman, a computer since 1888. Behind Miss Cushman is Marion Whyte, who worked for Miss Cannon as a recorder from 1911 to 1913. At the far right of this row is Grace Brooks, a computer from 1906 to 1920.

Ahead of Miss Harwood in the front row is Arville Walker (AB Radcliffe 1906), who served as assistant from 1906 until 1922. From 1922 until 1957 she held the position of secretary to Harlow Shapley, who succeeded Pickering as Director. The next woman may be Johanna Mackie, an assistant from 1903 to 1920. She received a gold medal from the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) for discovering the first nova in the constellation of Lyra. In front of Pickering is Alta Carpenter, a computer from 1906 to 1920. Next is Mabel Gill, a computer since 1892. And finally, Ida Woods (BA Wellesley 1893), who joined the corps of women computers just after graduation. In 1920 she received the first AAVSO nova medal; by 1927, she had seven bars on it for her discoveries of novae on photographs of the Milky Way.

Barbara L. Welther published the photograph and some of the text in a note about “Pickering’s Harem” in Isis 73, 94 for March 1982.

annie-611 pickering-611

My Christmas Books for #ReadingOnlyBooksWrittenByWomen

I’ve moved my monthly archive of the books I have read as part of #ReadingOnlyBooksWrittenbyWomen to my other blog louisepennington.org. I just couldn’t resist blogging the books I received for my birthday and for Christmas. As ever, I’m always looking for more recommendations for inspiring books written by women especially fiction and women’s history!

Maggie O’Farrell’s the distance between us

Maggie O’Farrell’s After you’d gone

Maggie O’Farrell’s my lover’s lover

Joumana Haddad’s Superman is an Arab

Kamila Shamsie’s Broken Verses

Marina Warner’s The Leto Bundle

Carol Birch’s the Naming of Eliza Quinn

Sophie Hannah’s little face

Tendai Huchu’s The Hairdresser of Harare

Linda Porter’s Katherine the Queen

Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead

Jenny Uglow’s The Pinecone

Joanne Harris’ The Evil Seed

Maya Angelou’s A Letter to my Daughter

Judith Jesch’s Women in the Viking Age

Essie Fox’s Elijah’s Mermaid

Patricia Hill Collins’ Black Sexual Politics

You can order the books online from News from Nowhere Radical & Community Bookshop

Cultural Femicide on a Sunday Morning

Sunday’s TV guide: 66 males and 18 females are named.
Reblogged from Tricialo

On Sunday after a morning lie-in I wandered downstairs, grabbed a cuppa and idly flicked through the channels on my TV. On every screen I flicked through, out of around 20 ‘favourites, there were only male faces, not one single woman or girl’s face showed up. It was all men talking to men, men talking about men, male actors acting out male dominated drama; there was Eddie, Nick, James, Jeremy, Simon, Frasier, Tony and on and on, on every channel. I went through them all again just to make sure; even the children’s channels were boy dominated. Some women showed up as I watched a little longer, but they weren’t onscreen when I’d first flicked through and in general women were either minor characters or absent. It wasn’t until around 10.30 that a woman fronted show turned up; something about food, with Lynda Bellingham.
People can come up with as many reasons as they like for explaining this, but I’d bet my life that no-one has ever yet flicked through all the channels on offer and seen only women’s faces. The words cultural femicide came into my head. Cultural Femicide is a term which was originally coined, (as far as I know), by Bidisha, to mean ‘the erasure of women in public life’.  This absence of women in mainstream culture, on our TV screens and radio, in theatres, movies, libraries and art galleries is hard to credit. It amazes me how little some people even seem to notice it, never mind care. The Women’s Room is one website set up to challenge this gendered cultural hegemony and provide a voice for women in media, yet even those few female voices we do hear tend to be the type that seeks male approval.

Back to Sunday; my five year old daughter was in the room with me and I considered the effect it might be having on her to repeatedly see men showing up as experts and authorities. I don’t let her have a lot of screen time, but as she grows older and wiser it’s increasingly difficult to monitor her intake and I’m not sure that it’s desirable to keep her in a protected bubble anyway. She asked me if she could have some screen time, but was bored by the boy dominated shows on offer. She seen the words Angelina Ballerina on the screen; a show we’d just missed, she’d recently seen an Angelina Ballerina book at a friend’s house and was curious about it so asked me to make sure that she could watch it when it was next on. We watched an episode together, on my laptop. As the theme tune began, my daughter commented, ‘It’s so pink. Why is everything always so pink?” The episode we watched concerned four mice, two ‘girl’ mice, (wearing pretty dresses), and two boy mice. It’s the only episode I’ve ever watched, (and ever hope to), and it actually centred on a ‘boy’ mouse called AJ. It was AJ’s birthday and the other mice were planning a surprise party for him. So, in what I imagined would be a show that was, if not ideal, at least girl centred, I watched as the two girls planned how to make a boy happy. As it ended I asked my daughter if she’d liked it. She answered that she would have liked it better if it had been about Angelina.

Later on I let my daughter watch a film; part of the Studio Ghibli series currently showing on Film Four. Studio Ghibli is a Japanese company, generally seen as being much more girl friendly than US studios such as Disney, and it’s played an important part in my daughter’s movie intake to date. There are some great Ghibli films, but as a canon it’s far from perfect, and yesterday, yet again, we watched as the girl in the story became a princess, a prospective bride and had to be rescued by male characters. The film was ‘The Cat Returns,’ in which a girl, Haru, rescues a cat from a near death collision with a lorry. Unfortunately the cat is a prince and Haru is now expected to become his cat princess. She is rescued by a team of male helpers; the heroic Baron, another male cat and a male raven. There is one female cat who tries to help her; Haru’s first comment upon meeting her is about how beautiful she is; a white cat with long eyelashes and a pink bow, not stereotyped at all then. The few other females in the movie are unsympathetic characters, such as the two cat maidservants who help Haru to dress and tell her how lucky she is because all the girl cats have crushes on the prince. Early on in the film, a delegation from the Land of Cats marches past Haru’s window and stops to talk with her. At this point my daughter piped up; “Are all of those cats boys?” Well spotted little one, best get used to it.

I Love Margaret Atwood

This was on my FB newsfeed. It remains one of my favourite quotes from one of my favourite writers.

Rose Tremain’s Restoration

This is a beautiful book. It is well-written, historically intriguing and full of fascinating characters. But, I couldn’t get into it. I just couldn’t. Normally, I’d devour a book like this in one sitting and I’ve had it hanging around for more than a week. The last few books I’ve read have been like this. I’m a book devourer. I’ve been trying to work out why I’ve been so disappointed by the last few books; except for Lisa O’Donnells’ The Death of Bees which is just fucking brilliant.

Tonight, I worked out why. I don’t think I’m content just reading books written by women. I want to read books written by women and about women. I want to read stories about women’s lives and women’s desires. I’m not really interested in reading about men anymore; even ones like Restoration. So, I’m changing the goal posts. So, now, I’m reading only books written by women by women.

Recommendations are needed!