“Reader, I married the bastard.” Or something…
Many feminists tell you Jane Eyre is Charlotte Bronte’s ode to early feminist ideas. What’s not to love: a headstrong, smart, independent, equality-loving poor woman who doesn’t use physical attractiveness or “wiles” to get ahead, and yet gets everything she needs and wants by the end. She was riding the tides all the way into shore before there was any thought of different “waves.” Then there’s that whole “madwoman in the attic” that feminist scholars and critics of all kinds love to deconstruct more than Bertha herself ever did to the dresses and veils she tore and set alight in Thornfield Manor. The madwoman, locked away in her tower must represent Bronte’s repressed anger at being a second-class citizen, not taken seriously as a valid writer because of her sex, sequestered from the literary parlours. Maybe. Every scene is another reinforcement of Bronte’s philosophy. Listen, m.snowe knows a little about this book. She’s spent a lot of time picking at the bones of this story like it was carrion. But can we just cut the psycho-babble for a second? This story just plain WORKS. To read the plot summary might not convince you. In fact, m.snowe spent a long time riding the fence on this one–after all, Eyre ends up marrying the blind candy-ass. But then m.snowe read Villette (quite possibly a much better example of Bronte’s feminist philosophy, if there is one to define) and her mind was made up. But aside from all that, Bronte understood and executed something more important than how to weave in ideas about women in society, more than her fierce feelings on inequality. She knew how to write characters. And that’s one of the most feminist themes any “lady” writer can display–the ability to write characters that have staying power, that speak to us, regardless of how we view them as people. Characters that stand up to the test of time just as fiercely as any other writer’s, male or female. Jane Eyre was no watered-down David Copperfield–David would be lucky to lick her Moor-worn boots. And that’s that.
Best Seller. Riddled with errors. All the worse because some of these errors actually reverse maybe thirty-odd (and even) years of feminist gains. m.snowe has many issues with this book, The Female Brain, by Louann Brizendine (and she hasn’t even finished it yet!). But here’s a quick run down: The audience is clearly only women, and the author writes as if she’s talking to her girlfriends. Also, she and her girlfriends are still in highschool. Because women are the obvious audience, this book is peddling “science” as a confirmation of many stereotypical, sexist, completely un-feminist notions that seemingly want to survive like cockroaches in nuclear winter (which actually is kind of a lie, too, by the way). What is m.snowe talking about? All that “no honey, not tonight” business. Or that “the bitch just won’t shut up” crap. In fact, this book has already received press and fake accolades for its scientific errors, including one that error that claimed women said 3 times as many words on average as men each day. False. So this book even won the 2006 Becky Award, that “goes to people or organizations who have made outstanding contributions to linguistic misinformation.” Congrats!
It really makes m.snowe mad when people promote this kind of 50’s era backward thinking. It makes her even more mad when even women claim “it’s science.” This is the same argument used against women in sports, in the workplace, and guess what: even math and science! But what’s even, even, even worse about this book is not that the misinformation could make women feel like what their grandmothers told them about sex was true–it’s the serious lack of foresight and research that could really cause women harm. Even the author admits that 4 in 10 women have suffered some kind of sexual abuse, whether during childhood, or later on (we haven’t confirmed these numbers with any actual outside sources, but m.snowe thinks its fair to say that this is probably pretty close). So let’s say you are one of these 4 out of 10 women. Let’s say, even, that you were raped. Now, please read the following quotes from Dr. Brizendine’s chapter, “Sex: The Brain Below the Belt.”:
“Female sexual turn-on begins, ironically, with a brain turn-off. The impulses can rush to the pleasure centers and trigger orgasms only if the amygdala–the fear and anxiety center of the brain–has been deactivated.”
“The fact that a woman requires this extra neurological step may account for why it takes her on average three to ten times longer…”
“If you’re not relaxed, comfortable, warm, and cozy, it’s not likely to happen.”
Okay, so that’s the Brizendine take. But there have been many instances where people who are sexually abused actually reach orgasm. m.snowe’s guess is that while they were being raped or abused in some way, these women were not in a comfort zone, and their feet were not being kept warm and cozy (really? scientific research on cozy feet?) As a legitimate scientific journal explains: “A woman can become aroused, her body can produce natural lubrication, and she can even experience orgasm(s) against her will while being raped.” (Roy J. Levin; Willy van Berlo (2004-04). “Sexual arousal and orgasm in subjects who experience forced or non-consensual sexual stimulation – a review”. Journal of Clinical Forensic Medicine (elsevier.com) 11 (2): 82-88.)
This is more a factor of the woman’s body protecting itself–these processes are necessary so that all a lady’s lady-parts don’t get really damaged during a sexual encounter–be it rape or an actual consensual event. As a “neuropsychiatrist” or whatever the hell this lady is, Brizendine should know better than to suggest you “must be” one way in order to orgasm, unless she is really looking to create more patients, as the women who read this and did experience some form of orgasm during an abusive situation are completely distraught by the fact that they were “comfortable” or “cozy” with their rapist. Quick, marry him!
Really, should we be surprised? Apparently this doctor is more than just that, she’s a product herself. Just take a gander at her website, if you dare. m.snowe won’t judge her by her pictures, some of which are too similar to Sarah Palin for comfort, but she doesn’t mind if the more shallowly-inclined among you do. (Disclaimer: Brizendine has advanced degrees, has done well for herself and obviously one of her goals must be advancing and improving the lives of women–and for that, m.snowe respects that. But that doesn’t mean we have to agree with her opinions, agenda, or the way she writes!)
Postscript: m.snowe couldn’t find out if the good doctor is religious, but her whole “if you’re in a loving and committed relationship you’re more likely to have better orgasms” sounds a bit too much like: “Married sex is totes the best!” Also, it grates against the doctor’s other claim, that women are similarly likely to go out and look for hot sex with “more symmetrically pleasing” guys than the ones they are in said committed love-nests with. Sigh.