Monday, August 13, 2007

well-behaved women

Kyla wrote an interesting post today as she was processing the movie "Becoming Jane," which I would love to go see. Here is the part I found very interesting (hope you don't mind being quoted, Kyla!)

"This is off topic with the movie but I found it odd when I joined the blogging world that Jane Austen and her characters are held as the role model for femininity and "Biblical Womanhood". I always loved her books and her heroines for their non conformity and their independent thinking. Yes, they were feminine and and they adhered to the social expectations but deep down they were always looking for something more than what society could offer to them. Isn't that why we choose the books we love so much?

I have never met a woman who wanted to be Beth March or Diana Barry or Melanie Hamilton or Mary
Ingalls or Jane Bennett. We always relate to the women who are different and whose aspirations exceed those limitations set upon them by circumstance and society. Does anybody else find this to be true? If we were going to use these novels as a guidebook to how to live right, then we should look at the side characters rather than the leading ladies as our role models. Maybe I am missing why people have chosen this time period to be the standard by which we should live."

Jane Austen's time period was one of women not afraid to be feminine, and of polite, gentle manners that appeal to lots of bloggers, that is for sure. But I think Kyla's right - they miss the part about the heroine's fight against that very society. The women who rebel always seem to be the ones who end up happiest. The submissive ones have sad stories. Think of Diana Barry - didn't she end up in an unhappy marriage and eventually widowed, never having done or seen anything except the town where she was born? Mary Ingalls really did get scarlet fever (is that right?) and went blind. Jane Bennett might be a role model, she was just quiet and therefore hard to fully understand and relate to. She at least ended up with a good man and a happy life.

The rebellious ones appeal to us, I think, because women (and men, for that matter) long for adventure in life. In the words of John Eldredge, "to have an irreplaceable part in a grand adventure." We want the rebellious ones to win, because it somehow validates our own desperation with...monotony.

I have always liked that bumper sticker that says, "Well-behaved women rarely make history."

I have thought about this stuff a lot lately though, and the fact is, caring for my husband, staying home with my kids, leading a quiet, peaceful existence and daily pursuing a deep relationship with God IS counter-culture right now. Nobody tells us that keeping our marriage strong and raising our kids to be people of God is a higher calling than saving the world, but I believe it is!


  1. Hi SaraKay,

    I came here from Kyla's. I like your take on this as well. I was not aware of your description of Diana Barry though. (Anne Shirley's childhood friend Diana?) Anyway, totally off topic I saw in your profile about gluten free cooking-that totally piqued my interest as I have a gluten sensitivity.

    So just wanted to say hello and introduce myself. Hope you have a good day.

  2. Sara,

    I love the quote about Well-behaved women...its one of my favorites.

    I think that by fighting the norms and spending time with your daughters you are exhibiting the same traits that we love in our heroines. Essentialy that is all that they really wanted, to be who they were meant to be and to do what made them happy whether it fit in with society norms or not. You are following your heart and showing your daughters true independence. I think that Elizabeth Bennett and Jo March would be proud!!

    Oh and I loved that I was quoted!!

  3. Hi Annie,
    Yes, that comes later in the Anne of GG books... My little Hannah has a gluten sensitivity. Nice to meet you!

    If I can just quit running around long enough to moderate my comments... :) That's a really good point that I hadn't thought of - they weren't trying to prove anything, they just wanted to be themselves. I think I might be guilty of trying to prove something far too often. :)