Special of the week; Issue 19-71 "Thinking About Women"
And E.R. the national educational radio network presents special of the Week this week from Yale University New Haven Connecticut from its series called Yale reports. Most of the male bastions of higher education today except women students women are trained for and capably holding down jobs which only a man would have dared to take 50 years ago. Even the New York Times classified ads proclaiming help wanted male female and the paper reminds readers that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that publishing help wanted advertisements under specific male or female classified column headings shows discrimination based on sex and violates the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In their education in their jobs women have come further than a suffragette chained to a lamppost would have dared dream. But there is another reality. The reality of women in fiction portrayed by both men and women authors do outmoded stereotypes still exist on the printed page. Mary Ellman in her book thinking about
women explores the ways in which women have written and been written about it she says. Through practice begun when they begin to read women learn to read about women calmly. Perhaps there have been some but I have not heard of women who killed themselves simply and entirely because they were women. It is possible for women most of the time to be more interested in what is said about them than in what presumably And finally should be said about them. In fact none of them knows what should be said Mrs. Helman Norman Holmes Pearson professor of English and American studies and Alice Misc. human assistant professor of English. Take a look at women in literature and women in life for you know reports Mr. Pearson. I've often wondered what does one woman think when another woman is called masculine. Is that a good word. You know it's never good for a woman to be called masculine society.
It's always an insult. Well the reason that I say it because it interested me that in one sense the minute a man is called famine and it's an insult and no woman is called masculine It seems to emphasize a deference that is really there and that really has to be expressed. I would have thought in terms of this particular book there one of your disappointments might have been that reviewers of it or even people who read it with great pleasure will stop on the individual perception and tend to quote that viler than see a frame that. My mind emerged out of it which given these cliches about where men as they were expressed both by men and women. In reading that you have done you make a background for the freedom of a woman really to emancipate herself to speak
without cliches. At last I didn't think of it as a rallying cry to women to speak more freshly rather to write is generally I suppose. Well I suppose that was the way I read it I. I read it as other real treason that come from the Mary McCarthy is the Simone de Beauvoir and the others who had in some way not really given expression to the new freedom the new identity. You know we all of us concerned in fictional terms was search for identity and it seems to me no one more so than women. Well I just wouldn't have thought of it that way. I'll revise a chapter if that's the impression you got. You know how I perhaps I ought not to put it as an impression a book exists as we all know from another kind of cliche. As it is read
and as my mind begins to play with what you've said and that's a mark of action it's on your book that you make me think so that when I think perhaps I'm beginning to write my own book too which I suppose would be thinking about women thinking about women. Well I'm just terribly pleased with my review in commentary which said that the book was against pomposity you need the six and that it was not really a rally cry. A moral direction to either sex was a kind taking away brother and sister. Something that should be the cause there. It's just it's a negative book let's say What made you write the book I know why you were thinking about women. That was the genesis of the I wasn't really thinking about women before I began to write it. It was accidental
given a series of essays that just came into what you know of a book about women or just the book the review grew into an article about academic women and the article grew into this book. But it was all just you know. Fungus like you are not deliberate. That's why the focus is so much contemporary literary figures or more or less. To me contemporary isn't the evilest Anyway they all seem rather modern examples. Yes I was most interested in recent Northwest where material seemed particularly Merry I had the feeling having known you for a long time and rather than admired your reviews said a good deal of what I call fresh and interesting about it came as though it were had come out of the increasing number of reviews which it seems to me. Among other
reasons you've been asked to do almost as though you were to give a woman's point of view on it. Well you remember your review and I thought beautifully. My secret life that I that was a good gimmick of the book reviews to do and I was wholly by accident. My husband was a student and didn't have time so he said why not. Why don't you wait for instead. Well a good piece of luck but then as you do it it's the sort of note the observation they see that you put down and them. It does began to get into what kind of shape but almost like Isiah Lester or anybody else who arranges things we realising that you file them in a certain way and that they repeat themselves and then the shape of the book comes out or has it been reviewed more often by
ladies or men. Well you do Laurie doing that more often by women that's a fixed concept in the editorial mind I think that. Books by women should be reviewed by women. I think what you're looking for is the woman who refuses to review it but says why don't you try my husband. That would be a nice reversal. So particularly interesting the modern brakes and the cliches about have become particularly rotten in the 20th century there was a kind of cleanness about them in the 19th. They were irritating but they didn't have quite. They're going to see the quality that they have now when people like you know Rauf for example. That's really why I was particularly interested in the 20th century instance one of the great things about 20th century writing has been its concern with
language its attempt to refashion the language which had seemed to grow stale now one of the problems about. The use of cliches the dominance of cliches seems to me that we as teachers at least you and I as teachers certainly are always drilling cliches into the minds of man and woman and therefore we tend to learn from them and to guide our lives by remote and ecology. That comes out of literature rather than life itself. Well you're suggesting a 20th century life is different from 19th century life and what what are you and what kind of people were just different. A minute ago you said that the cliches had changed or Mary you said that they'd become more rotten. I think I agree with you but. How is the twentieth century stereotype really altered from the 19th century kind of cliche or stereotype you were talking about I think we're being too too
abstract we should be more concrete. What I think is they've generated internally have less validity. Which one did become more curiously more vehement and more hostile. That's what I sense you don't like for example when I do one that women don't only feel they can't think what kind of a stereotype what kind of a cliche for example their weakness and physical capacity. All of that obviously is less true in the 20th century than ever before. It seems for that very reason pushed more ferociously by a writer like me you know example. That when there's a secret effort to to keep the idea alive in me was work in his novels particularly when I travel I have a historical left but do you know it's coming way down here I said a little less
regulation perhaps an even more intense nastiness in Hemingway but there aren't there an equal number perhaps not an equal number but a great many stereotypes and cliches of the predatory woman the aggressive female. Oh yes at the same time the Lilith figure is no need for them to be. Logically consistent they know well that I would say that because 70 is one kind of cliche. I wouldn't say that the 19th century woman is typically passive figure in as I suppose their Dickensian heroines who are a shrinking violet. Yes and on the next page will be a rock girl. Yeah they all jostle together happily you know. I wonder if in a way we didn't take model personal lives our literary lives more closely in the 19th century than in the 20th century so that the difference between what was real and what was the image on the literary
page wasn't as a pound that I think this would happen any time that that you were confined to a library for experience. For example the 20th century seems to be we don't take it and yet you mentioned raff if you take Portnoy's Complaint and relate dominant domineering woman it's pretty hard for me to say whether that's true or not true I don't know that my friends begin to giggle and think of Mama when they read his book so he must of course something about real right. If you have only to reproduce to be in this is put this snow out. But this is I think a very this question of whether we patent lives on life or whether we to a much greater degree than we admit tapping them on the images of life that we're exposed to is very real because in the first place when we
say that. I think cliches of the 19th century were more organically represented ever how ever you want to call it close of the life of course we have to remember that we don't know a great deal about life actual life in the nineteenth century at least in comparison to what we know in the 20th century. So I wonder if we really can say that close to what we know we have memoirs but the memoirs from the 19th century generally that we've had in the past have been literary memoirs they've been written as an active kind of thing now. We got my secret life our Queen Victoria's letters are perhaps better than that. The letters of people at the court which are more honest and a new kind of 19th century life begins to emerge. And then I think the question will be does that coincide with what we know from Charlotte bond or Jane Austen another vast I dare say both can be true.
But it was an enormous hypocrisy in the 19th century. In London for example no woman couldn't ankles getting out of a carriage. 70000 prostitutes in the World Book radius. But now I think it's not so simple and obvious hypocrisy has a. Kind of total violent falling apart at between points of view in fiction and actuality. Don't you think. Yes I think you can say and yeah I did just that and yet at the same time we have so much more aware. Of these differences and aware of the hypocrisy say that it seems to me a more agonizing. Yeah wait a minute. What's hypocritical. Well I don't know the word hypocrisy fits the presence and allegation. No it's rather kind of
this store desperate self-preserving law it's just the right not so much wanted to see more virtuous or to present the world more virtuously and then it can be presented that he himself can survive unless he perpetuates certain concepts of women. I also was surprised not to find you talk about an either Iris Murdoch or Simone de Beauvoir especially de Beauvoir. The old Second Sex I can't. I suppose in many ways this is already an ill natured book with the addition of Simone de Beauvoir would take. Awful. I would really like this. You spoke of it as an ill natured book and I am all for ill nature because it helps to clean up nature
but. I find you know you always getting at Norman Mailer for there so are the others for that. But I had a feeling that honestly if there was an ill nature that you dislike more the women more than you did the men that the women were sort of traitorous you must have wanted to feel that I didn't. Well that's perhaps the difference between being whatever it is that I am I had to use the word male and we want you first. Well I am but I do get a great deal of another kind of mail addressed to Norma Pearson and I've always thought that was a compliment to my sensibility the only male I had to get as addressed a normal person. I think it's your shift now Rick since you're just objecting to Mary being harsh on women at all you think well I think that it is speaking from a psychiatric point of view that as you want your
identity you do have a tendency to want to distinguish yourself from those who are most nearly like. And therefore this is one reason why a woman will attack other women. Quick I don't I don't think you know them. No I didn't think I did. There it's rather refreshing that you do think so since if anything people seem to have taken it as quite serious street from an ism. Which we all know that's a word that I wouldn't dare use after reading your book you pointed out that a bad word especially when men apply it to other men. No I mean you said something very interesting about the two most important things as a cultural historian that you thought had occurred in the 19th century. Well what it seems to me happened and in fact we've paid very little attention to it as historians.
In terms of the United States was the opening of the West that is vast new areas to be settled to give a kind of fluidity to patterns of a social major and the rest and the other was the changing status of women and if I would express the older view I suppose I could put it harshly as Emma Goldman ex-pastor when she said that man's rules for women were to keep their mouths shut and their wombs open. Now whether this has changed simply because of the pill I don't know. But obviously a woman's place in the world today is vastly altered. And one of the failings are quite fast and I would say it didn't really happen till nine hundred twenty at least. Yes but if you go back to that kind of. Effort of women to establish themselves as riders as
having a political identity in the 19th century and then doing much for them but the rest didn't do much for that. Oh I didn't mean that into when together I was just saying that there were two phenomena and the rise of women if it is arise as a subject for example which historians are just beginning to pay attention to the collection of documents about women has been carried on only in a very field places as a subject area. The course said women and their place are quite different from a purely sociological study. Well I think perhaps I have to be a separate college to feminine study through the New Year. Well I certainly always wanted to put in a course in our American studies program on women.
Some people argue that women have no history don't know men that they have only a situation and all to do until I suppose the twentieth century. Well that's history of course is just a different kind. I'm not as changing or doing more but of. That's the kind I actually share that we now recognised to be rocky and that it's not true. We just haven't documented it and we haven't gone back to find out what really happened. One of the interesting things to me about this was when I asked Smith College which has a fine collection of documents about women how they used it in their instruction the members of their history department said you can't get a woman to study women. It was as though everything they wanted to avoid. So I hope that perhaps at Yale we might get men who wanted to study women. But with the shift in the status of women at Yale I
suppose there'll be extra curricular I think we're being presentable again especially in keeping this to an American context and that's why I mentioned 1920 and suffrage in the vogue when political status made. Such a tremendous impact on the national mind that a European wouldn't certainly be worried at all about the place and when they're used to having not only Queens and empresses. Women have tremendous influence on the government that even the court has and the ladies of the salon have been political forces in Europe to listen to are behind the scenes and surely I don't think always behind the scenes. Queen Mary Queen Elizabeth the queens of France the royal mistresses of France the ladies of the exemptions always whole life spectacular but presences felt presences powers whose opinions could make or break a career.
Well I mean you said that you were in the saddle that one would like to see. Why not have the House of Representatives with you. Even Nixon says that my dear woman president he said you do here this morning you know kind of thing. Well I think he feels the way most people feel about it kind of very far in do an appropriate time. I think it's only as bad as most of us when we feel that our jobs are going to be threatened by women say that will will permit this other inappropriate time which is when I'm on pension. But if but if the populace is capable of enduring an unqualified man in 1968 it shouldn't take 50 more years to endure qualified woman in the office of the prime him but leading up to 50 years in total.
Never the less women in the 19th century in England too despite that Queens were having their confrontations on the vote on the appropriateness of women being nurses of Fons Nightingale and generally forging ahead to change the status quo and I think that that's a movement that began then that has continued so effectively that it more than anything else accounts for the RockNess of the cliches that we spoke about. They simply don't fit the situation. And now more than any other time women are recognizing this but yet not quite able to shake off this kind of muscular memory of images. This is why I keep talking about the importance of past literature on the present because it's our surrogate experience
no more than we recognize we try to fit those images which we've seen as a child tries even unconsciously to be like a parent as a parent. Quote echoes the words of his parents even though he rejected them. I thought he did that when they were first getting ready to change your terms from or at least just an alternative. You speak of adapting oneself to a literary image or imitating a literary figure. It seems to me that the change has been that there is now a much wider range of appropriate roles in which a woman can imagine herself that she can see herself in a much larger context not merely medicine or the law but the whole spectrum of possibility of professional and formal experience outside of housewifely MS. has it opened up enormously since
not only since 1920 since 1860 when the movement toward even entering such a field as this is as I say I guess it's an opening up of what a girl thinks of herself as being capable of becoming. Well then who is she at is the question then along with the Are you going to. Because the potentialities which with no sexual label and no sexual disability there is no kind of yellow armband that she has to wear no there's no need of her defining her identity because it simply takes her job precisely what her identity has been defined for. Throw off or simply accept and go on and do her job. Being minority of the society to simply including women has been at the moment throwing off the stereotypes of the majority mind that these stereotypes are comfortable and pleasant baggage only in the mind of the majority. But those without power to whom they're
applied are obliged to oppose them deny them get rid of them. I would agree with you Mary and I would say that one of the weaknesses. Implied on the part of women writers today that as the writers of fiction has rightly said is that they do not recognize the drama of the tension or really expose themselves to it in the creation of their affection that is they are not brave enough. They are not true enough goodness your pieces are not mine. Oh I I just say that I think its what you imply without knowing you know if you are you know if you know if you were my analysis 30 I was on the couch one way or the other would change the whole picture. I would you know to be a woman he did it for me although I think by recognizing more fully the implications of what you said
you would be what I think youre looking for and that is the new complete woman of today who is a woman not in the old stereotype. Femininity but a woman who combines that with all of the possibilities and potentialities that you've spoken of as open to the world. What I really think Norman is that women should be in all public. Forums a cyclist's manner and saying so since the brain is the brain it should only be any female in the bedroom or the living room but not in the universe as being rather interesting because I would take it from that that and that when Yale becomes co-educational nothing will be added to the educator system because there are women here but only because there are more students. They won't be women and they will be students they will be and I want to be by always having them here when I get that great advantage for them because I've always been an injustice not to her
personally so it's an advantage of virtue. But a Yale undergraduate I was saying the great advantage will be to them. Now we don't have to I think in the Continuum so bright I say this is not a gesture towards the freedom of woman. Well they've been very well educated in this country for about 150 years and now the schools it's not just that he was joining that group but I think it's not. A man. Draw on. Women in Literature and life as seen by Mary Ellen and author of thinking about women published by Harcourt Brace and world. Norman Holmes Pearson professor of English and American studies and Alice Misc. Imman assistant professor of English scripts for these programs are available without charge by writing to Yale reports 1773 Yale station New Haven Connecticut 0 6 5 2 0. This is Charles Dillingham for you reports which originates in the audio visual center of Yale University and a Rs special of the week.
Thanks Yale University for the recording of this Yale report. This is NPR the national educational radio network.
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