A book by Nora Ephron
My favourite writer of non-fiction. She wrote articles (and I imagine she still does) for a range of magazines. She has published a number of these in collections. The most recent of which is "I feel bad about my neck" about being a woman and aging gracefully. But one of the first that she collated and with a similar theme was Crazy Salad.
This book was a collation of articles that she wrote during the early 1970's about women and the women's movement (ie the feminist movement). As a 20-something woman living in the 21st Century it is quite an eye opening experience every time I dive into her book. Sprawled on my bed with the book propped up on my book seat, my eyes get wider and wider as I read about consciousness-raising, the development of (what I thought were mythical) feminine hygiene products, feminist rallies, women in politics and baseball, pioneers of the women's movement, Nora's insecurity about her breasts and so much more.
I am sometimes shocked by some of the comments she makes. I can't believe that an intelligent woman like Nora, raised by writer parents who both worked throughout her childhood (in other words, a revolutionary family of the 1950's) can say such things. She talks about husbands hitting wives as though it is an everyday event, not something shocking or contemptible, not something to be fought against, but a fact of life that everyday women live with everyday. It shocks me that during the height of the women's movement domestic violence and sexual harassment was not an issue at the forefront of women's minds. No. Instead, they discussed the importance of sharing home duties, having careers, being paid the same as men and wearing slacks to church. They whinged about the "glass ceiling" and how poorly they were treated by men in the workplace. Then they went to work and let their boss put his hand up their dress. I don't understand it. I am flummoxed, confused, surprised, angry, sad, overwhelmed, uncertain, fretful and bewildered. Did I mention I don't get it?
Then, I wake up, and realise that this was the 1970's. It was a strange and confusing time in the life of America and the women's movement. The extremist views were the ones reported. This woman is enlightened and perhaps tells these stories with an hint of irony. No one realised that Jane Austen was writing parodies when she was still alive. But now, we read her books and see that while there was an element of truth in her works the best of her books are the ones that poke fun. The send up of the ridiculous women of 19th Century "society" makes her works amusing and sometimes (depending on what you have been eating or drinking) hilarious. When I place the text in perspective that way, I realise that I need to relax and stop freaking out. It is still unbelievable that only 40 years ago women were so very confused and misinformed. They felt the need to purchase ludicrous products to solve imaginary problems, or talk more than walk. However, I wonder if in 200 years this collection of articles will be studied and considered as a parody or if it will be upheld as a factual account of silly women behaving in a silly way when the whole world was silly.
I can't wait to delve into another article and see what the women of the day were doing, thinking, reading and saying. I want to read their stories, maybe I am judging them and laughing at them. But maybe, more importantly, I am finding the similarities between their silly insecurities and mine. Maybe, I am realising how lucky I am that I can learn from their mistakes. Maybe, I'm just reading a well written book by a talented author who makes me think about the past, the present and the future.
Maybe I'm just enjoying the experience of being in another world for just a little while.