The Women's Room by Marilyn French - “Mira was hiding in the ladies' room. She called it that, even though someone had scratched out the word ladies' in the. The women's room by Marilyn French; 20 editions; First published in ; Subjects: Feminists, Fiction, Fiction in English, Middle aged women. The twenty-one-million copy bestseller-available again for a new generation of readers Originally published in , The Women's Room was.
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The mornings were bad. She hated to get up. Download book PDF · Women and Social Policy Chapter. Part of the Women in Society book series (WOSO) About this chapter. Cite this chapter as: French M. () The Women's Room. Editorial Reviews. Review. "An experience not to be missed." -San Francisco Chronicle The Women's Room - site edition by Marilyn French. Download it . Register Free To Download Files | File Name: Unlimited Books Online The Womens Room Marilyn French Book PDF. READ UNLIMITED BOOKS ONLINE THE.
And even locked up and anguished, they are being further harassed by various patriarchs. Eventually Mira gets into Harvard as a graduate student where her friends are a diverse group of anarchists, libertarians, peace activists, artists and scholars. They dance and eat and study and talk and she herself falls absolutely in love and discovers the bliss of passion requited. But all this goes dreadfully wrong too, and in small ways and large the group encounters such rancid bigotries, entrenched in the power structure, that all the loves fail, and the strongest of the women - Mira's friend, Val - is driven to violent alienation.
The end of the book reveals that the narrator is Mira, and the last thing she hears is that Val, during an action on behalf of a young, raped, black woman, has been killed by the cops. It is a story packed with event and character, but as repetitive as a frieze, with all the book's heroines ending up dead, broken in spirit, or utterly solitary.
French's vision is truly despairing, and it is initially difficult to understand the greed with which it was devoured or how it was transformed into support for a movement as energetic and positive as the women's movement was then.
Were we - was I - so entranced with the single, transferable explanation, sexism, that I didn't see how much the awfulness of marriage in this book has to do with the harsh materialism of upward mobility, uncriticised here by either sex?
Did I not see the devices by which the author makes the women as isolated as Victorian governesses within the huis clos of their marriages?
The panorama is one truth, but it denies the parallel truth, that the intimate, personal view of women's experience is infinitely nuanced, and in the nuances the joyful and the unexpected live. An antidote to the pain of the general oppression of women, still as cruel a reality as ever, seems to lie in the creative potential of the individual life. But that's here. That's a perception from the privileged world, now.
Somewhere else - many other places - women aspire to be where we were a quarter of a century ago. The Women's Room is so big and so earnest and takes itself so tragically that maybe it will function again as a support in a struggle for self- belief that seems quaint to us now only because it was largely successful.
Maybe, like an alcoholic's confession at an AA meeting, its other function is to evoke how awful things have been, so as never to let them be that way again. The literature of the Awful Warning is, obviously, peculiarly vulnerable to looking ridiculous.
But that doesn't mean that what it warns against has passed. The blank eyes, the empty faces, the young bodies that ten minutes earlier had paced its length, were gone.
It was these that, passing her without seeing her without looking at her, had driven her into hiding. For they had made her feel invisible.
The Women's Room
And when all you have is a visible surface, invisibility is death. Some deaths take forever, she found herself repeating as she walked into the classroom. French, b, pp.
Directly addressing to the reader, she reveals her stance towards Mira as follows: Perhaps you find Mira a little ridiculous. I do myself. But I also have some sympathy for her, more than you, probably. You think she was vain and shallow. I suppose those are words could have been applied to her, but they are not the first one that spring to my mind.
I think she was ridiculous for hiding in the toilet, but I like her better for that than for the meanness of her mouth, which she herself perceived, and tried to cover with lipstick. Her meanness was of the tut-tut variety; she slammed genteel doors in her head, closing out charity. But I also feel a little sorry for her, at least I did then.
Not anymore. Remarkably, even at this early stage, we are repeatedly made aware of the present tense of the narrating voice and of the fact that this narrator was also familiar with Mira in the past, which recapitulates her claim that Mira has changed. Soon after this passage, she says that she now often walks on the beach and thinks about Mira and the other women she met at Harvard in , again positioning herself in the past with these characters. From these opening pages onwards, the focalization shifts between the first-person narrator and Mira; yet she does not reveal her identity and speaks as if she is one of the women who once knew Mira.
Although, at this moment, she still refers to herself as a distinct person distanced from Mira, the narrator familiarizes herself, other female characters and the reader with Mira and indicates that they all have similar problems and experiences.
My head is full of voices. They blend with the wind and the sea as I walk the beach, as if they were disembodied forces of nature, a tornado whirling around me.
I feel as if I were a medium and a whole host of departed spirits has descended on me clamoring to be let out. French, b, p. Yet she still conceals herself saying that she is not a writer but a teacher of grammar and composition. Consequently, the narrator begins to present fragments of the lives of Mira and other women she has known, and thus introduces her confessional narrative as a way out to the voices in her mind.
Yet it is only at the end of the novel that they are revealed to be the same person: She [Mira] finished her dissertation, and when it was accepted, took her divorce money and went to Europe and travelled around alone for eight months, breathing it in, sucking it up. As a matter of fact, the novel goes through the shifting commentaries on Mira the protagonist who is going through a process of consciousness-raising and the narrator Mira who has already experienced consciousness-raising and her retrospection over that life.
The text thus accentuates the process of an ordinary woman gaining feminist awareness and makes this change visible through juxtaposing two different perspectives—first-person and third-person— on the same self.
Various groups of women Mira meets in different phases of her life hence illustrate the certain fragments of her process of consciousness-raising, through which the vitality of a feminist awareness is further foregrounded.
A woman writer, like a woman participating in a consciousness-raising group, selects from the possible events in her life those which appear to illustrate her philosophy and to make her into the woman whom she now is. In the opening pages of the novel, Mira is back at the university as a divorced woman and a mother to two children.
She was actually told that the school was originally designed for men and there were even places where women were not allowed to go.
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Mira at that time only wondered why this was the case, she did not think on it any further. She was disappointed to see that men felt free to abuse and rape her because she was a single woman who went to a party and got drunk; she was traumatized to observe: That a woman was not marked as the property of some male made her a bitch in heat to be attacked by any male, or even by all of them at once.
That a woman could not go out in public and enjoy herself dancing without worrying what every male in the place was thinking or even worse, what they might do, seemed to her an injustice so extreme that she could not swallow it. Since being single makes her vulnerable sexual abuse, Mira later chooses to marry Norm only because she feels she has no other option. The narrative thus shows that in real life marriage is only a legalization of the already existing patriarchal oppression. Mira chooses to be a clerk-typist since her husband does not want her to take a job in the city.
Her bus journeys to and from work are long, and she starts preparing the dinner as soon as she comes home. Eventually, she becomes a housewife and mother to two children and dismisses her desire to pursue an academic career. Through the structure of relations in suburbia, the texts draws attention to the fact that these women do not question their submissive status; problematically, the longer they keep silent, the more oppressed they become: The unspoken, unthought-about conditions that made it oppressive had long since been accepted by all of them: that they had not chosen but had been automatically slotted into their lives, and that they were never free to move the children were much more effective as clogs than confinement on a prison farm would be.
Having accepted the shit and string beans, they were content. Later, when talking about her suburban life, Mira notes many other women whose lives are continually oppressed by their husbands. Strikingly, while the narrator can directly voice the problem, the women Mira knows at that phase of her life cannot do this. Unlike these silenced characters, the narrator bluntly argues that men always win mainly because women are economically dependent on men and education, professional life, marriage, laws, and all economic and political institutions collaborate in the creation of a privileged male culture.
Distancing herself from Mira and other characters who are yet unaware of the political nature of their mundane problems, the narrator repeatedly lays bare these relations through which women internalize their underprivileged status.
From the shallow excitements of suburban cocktail parties and casual affairs, through the varied nightmares of rape, madness and loneliness to the dawning awareness of the exhilaration of liberation, the experience of Mira and her friends crystallise those of a generation of modern women. Undoubtedly, one important strength she gains is the ability to voice her problems, which is foregrounded through her interactions with the women she meets at the university.
Like the women in the suburban neighborhood, these women have problems in their relationships, as well and some of them such as Kyla and Clarissa who have husbands and Val who has a child have traditional female roles in terms of house-keeping and child-care.
This is why the narrative shifts between two different female subcultures—those Mira knows from the suburbs and those she meets at the university; women in the first group see their problems on the personal level while those in the second group see the problems of women as a political issue and look for ways to end this oppression.
The latter group have long discussions about how women situate themselves in relationships and how they become such submissive partners. Actually, all these women even those with a feminist consciousness are disappointed in their relations with men. Important to note is that as the protagonist relates her increasing awareness of gender roles, her experience of sexuality alters, as well.
The Women's Room
In this respect, Mira suppresses her sexual desires because she associates sex with men with passivity and masturbation with abnormality. Sex meant surrender to the male. If Mira wanted the independent life, she would have to give up being sexual. This situation was a terrible incarnation of her masochistic fantasies.
Women were indeed victims by nature. Yet this relationship soon proves for Mira that female orgasm is ignored and not taken serious and after a while she decides that she is frigid. Their sex life deteriorates further when they have children and she feels that the sex with him was always unsatisfying and her attempts to talk to him about sex are blocked by Norm, who reduces her to an object without libido.
She feels that he thought it was proper for her not to enjoy sex. It is only later in her relationship with Ben that Mira—now divorced and independent- enjoys the pleasure of sex. Significantly, her negative experiences of sexuality and her lack of feminist knowledge are correlated; younger Mira without an awareness of this dimension of sexual politics and the later, narrating, Mira who has experienced political and sexual awakening are juxtaposed to underline her consciousness-raising.
You've come a long way, baby
All things considered, it can be suggested that consciousness-raising not only functions as a narrative tool but also constitutes general frame and the aim of the novel.Once again, this represents a womans inferiority in her personal life and while nobody can tell anyone how to behave intimately, social customs made women obey the rules provided by men, as they must have been the most educated and therefore the most knowledgeable and they still are thought to be more knowledgeable and capable than women, as they keep on having a strong majority on leadership positions in companies or state administration, for example.
The women's room , Summit Books. The narrative thus shows that in real life marriage is only a legalization of the already existing patriarchal oppression. It is the heyday of Women's Liberation and Mira, now too, finally able to verbalize her discontent at the society around her, becomes a feminist, although a less radical and militant one than Val. A woman writer, like a woman participating in a consciousness-raising group, selects from the possible events in her life those which appear to illustrate her philosophy and to make her into the woman whom she now is.
Critics of The Women's Room considered the novel too harsh on men, whereas its average women readers did not; the latter found French's writing correct in its assessment.
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