The CBB
http://www.the-cbb.co.uk/

Joey the Anti-Feminist?
http://www.the-cbb.co.uk/viewtopic.php?f=8&t=5147

Author:  cruelladevil [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:26 am ]
Post subject:  Joey the Anti-Feminist?

I needs some help here - there's this fantasic scene where Miss Wilson (I think) and Joey are having a discussion. Miss Wilson says, "Don't tell me you're a feminist?" and Joey's response is, "Good heavens no!" (Or at least, along those lines... I read it once years ago and can't remember where from!)

Anyway, that's a perfect example of how highly contradictory the books can be. Even though most characters end up marrying doctors and having large families, there are quite a few examples of strong, independent women. You have the original Madge Bettany, young and independent and intent on starting her own school in a foreign country. Then, off the top of my head, there's Margia Stevens, Nina Rutherford, Eustacia Benson, Mary-Lou Trelawney (although perhaps, had Elinor Brent-Dyer continued the series, she would have been married off to one of the family doctors), Len and Con Maynard...all of these characers seem to be quite independent and career driven. And while Len is engaged in the most ridiculous manner, she's still intent on getting her Oxford degree so she can teach.

So... does anyone think you can argue the case for the existence of feminism within the Chalet School, or am I reaching at straws here? :lol:

Author:  JayB [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 9:58 am ]
Post subject: 

I think there was a discussion once in Formal Discussions on whether EBD was a feminist - not wishing to stifle discussion here, just mentioning it for people who might not have seen it and would like to hunt it up.

I don't think any of the CS characters are consciously feminist, or that EBD intended them to be. And I don't think she, or they, are interested in ideas of feminism that involve women competing with, or seeking equality with, men. I think EBD's women probably believe that women have their own specific strengths and should focus on developing them to the best of their ability - the message of the Parable of the Talents - read at Prayers on the first night of each term.

I do think, as you say, the number of strong, independent professional women in the books does send out a message to readers that this is something to aspire to. And EBD does present a variety of career choices - teacher and nurse of course, but also secretary, writer, nun, academic, archaeologist, interior designer, embroiderer, barrister, doctor, artist, musician, hotelier, department store owner, ceramics specialist, actress, engineer, dancer, journalist, librarian, and I'm sure there are more that I haven't thought of.

And the insistence on the girls being strong, helpful women, not jellyfish.

On the opposite side of the argument, she also has a tendency for her career girls to drop everything the moment a presentable man appears on the horizon - but then the married woman and mother we see most of, Joey, pursues a successful career of her own.

Author:  Sunglass [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 10:22 am ]
Post subject: 

I have absolutely no memory of ever reading this exchange - where is it from?

I think you can absolutely argue for feminist content in the CS, although it's tangled up with some very reactionary ideas about the domestic duties of women. The CS is a happy all-female community, where female achievement is valued, and which works for the good of all its members, and, certainly in the later books, prepares girls for independent careers. The mistresses are presented as professionals who've found economic and personal freedom outside the domestic sphere.

But there's an odd contradiction when you have these same mistresses saying that woman's first duty is to be able to run a home, and that intellectual achievement is no use if you can't bath a baby etc - this strikes me as quite odd, given that it's spoken by women whose every domestic need is taken care of by Karen and a legion of maids! The kind of skills they are praising are not needed by them at all. It's part of a much more old-school anxiety about what women are for, and what becomes of marriage and the family if women are economically independent, and is very much of its time. EBD can't quite get around the fact that she clearly thinks marriage and children are Woman's True and Highest Destiny - there are intermittent remarks about how Simone is 'too sweet to teach forever' and the rewarding of all favourite characters with doctors and large families, which suggest she thought being unmarried was definitely second-best.

But that then contradicts her presentation of lots of the CS mistresses as contented, well-rounded human beings. Maybe it's only OK to be unmarried if you have the CS as a surrogate family? And of course, the novels are appallingly of their time in presenting women as unable to be married with children and lead a professional life - although, while this is historically largely accurate, I must say, I fume rather at the fact that EBD doesn't raise an eyebrow at someone like Julie Lucy forced into throwing away a promising law career.

Author:  Emma A [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 10:32 am ]
Post subject: 

Sunglass wrote:
... I fume rather at the fact that EBD doesn't raise an eyebrow at someone like Julie Lucy forced into throwing away a promising law career.

Of course, we all think (probably) that she was forced into throwing a promising career away, but perhaps she got to be a pupil in chambers and discovered that it really wasn't what she thought it would be like, and threw it all up quite happily when Barney (was it?) came along and offered his hand. :wink: Daisy's decision to give up medicine, however, seems more of an inexplicable decision.

Author:  Maeve [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:00 am ]
Post subject: 

Sunglass said:
Quote:
I have absolutely no memory of ever reading this exchange - where is it from?

The exchange referred to is in Reunion between Joey and Grizel (unless there's another similar one?), but the pair use the word "feminist" so carelessly and the exchange is so light-hearted, that I don't think I would read a whole lot of political meaning into it. Joey has been saying she would like more children -- the infamous quads -- even though she already has eleven.
Quote:
Joey put back her head and the room rang with her laughter. "Oh, Griselda! ... I'd love just one more daughter."
"Don't you like boys, then? Don't say you're a feminist!"
"Oh, I'm not! I was really thinking about all the frocks I have put away which the other girls have grown out of. There are far more than Felicity and Cecil and Phil can finish, but one more girl might do it and I always did hate waste!"

Author:  Emma A [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:19 am ]
Post subject: 

I think that Joey is disclaiming the thought of her being the type of woman who thinks women are the superior sex, or one who dislikes men: which may be what EBD meant by the term. There's certainly a dichotomy in the books which presents career options as thoroughly worthy, and yet also present marriage and motherhood as perhaps more important. One could argue that the dedicated teachers who don't have any biological children, are surrogate mother-figures to their pupils, given that EBD's ideal teacher is one to whom the girls can come with their problems (even if she then ruins it by sending the girl to Joey for help!), and who can also maintain discipline.

Dorothy L. Sayers has one of her characters (I think it is the Dean) say that they are awful hypocrites in the SCR, maintaining that careers and learning are important, but also being pleased if a former student marries and gives up that promising future, thinking that at least all that learning does not make them ill-fitted for marriage and motherhood. It's one of the themes of Gaudy Night, I think - can women marry and yet be scholars (or have other careers)? Both DLS and EBD solve this problem by having their main female characters write - an occupation more easily maintained from home, and one in which a woman would not be compelled to give up work on marriage.

Of course, we're only talking about middle-class careers or professions here, since there are several working wives and mothers in the CS series - they just happen to be working class...

Author:  Sunglass [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 11:53 am ]
Post subject: 

Emma A wrote:
Of course, we're only talking about middle-class careers or professions here, since there are several working wives and mothers in the CS series - they just happen to be working class...


Indeed. And in fact, the one character I can recall from the entire series who definitively turns down a proposal from a man generally deemed entirely suitable (or deemed so by Joey, which is presumably the same thing!) because of her job is Anna, who decides she cannot leave her beloved mistress! No one else ever decides to opt for a life, say, doctoring or teaching at the CS over married life and endless childbearing...

(And, while slightly moving OT, but still generally on the CS and jobs for women - is anyone else ever slightly puzzled that Carla von Flugen ends up working as a waitress after her husband and child die? I can appreciate that her husband (who died in a concentration camp, as far as I remember?) might have left her with nothing, but when she's discovered and 'rescued' from the restaurant by Joey and Marie, it's over ten years after the end of the war, and even if she had had to take any job that came along immediately after the war, surely there would eventually have been other opportunities for a multi-lingual middle-class woman with a education from an expensive boarding school? The fact that Marie and Joey talk in terms of 'rescue' suggests that her circumstances are somewhat of a shock to them too.

Though it occurs to me as I'm writing this that both Elisaveta and Margot Venables, after they are widowed in bad circumstances, support their children through manual work. I've always assumed this was due to Margot's timidity, and in Elisaveta's case that it was due to the disruptions of war, but it seems slightly odd, still. Is there some point I'm missing here, about the difficulty of finding non-menial work for even well-educated upper-middle-class/aristocratic women?)

Author:  Alex [ Wed Oct 22, 2008 12:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

I expect it's something to do with the fact that though they are well educated they don't have vocational skills apart from those things they learned in Dommy Sci. They haven't learned, say, typing and shorthand, bookkeeping etc because it wasn't expected that they would need those things. Apart from anything else, it's more romantic to be rescued from being a waitress than a receptionist.

Author:  Nightwing [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 1:52 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joey the Anti-Feminist?

cruelladevil wrote:
So... does anyone think you can argue the case for the existence of feminism within the Chalet School, or am I reaching at straws here? :lol:


I definitely think you can! Grizel's apparent connection between hating boys and feminism shows that that's what EBD probably thought feminism was about - putting down men. Yet in her own way she supports the ideas of feminism - think back to Exploits, where Thekla says that girls should not take science because they are not as smart as boys. This isn't just Thekla being unpleasant; it was a belief genuinely held by many people, and many educational institutes. The fact that she puts the words in the mouth of an unlikeable character shows that EBD clearly thought that girls and boys were intellectually equal.

In the Chalet world, almost every woman has to choose between marriage and a career; and yet Joey, who seems to represent EBD's ideal woman - or at least the ideal she holds for herself - manages to have both, and a very successful career at that.

It's interesting to look at the triplets. It's a standing joke that the CS girls and mistresses get rewarded with a doctor, if they're good; but Margot doesn't want to marry a doctor, she wants to be one. As far as I can recall, there are no other female doctors mentioned in the entire series, and considering the way that Jem and Jack are portrayed - clever, the heads of their families, almost always right - I think this actually sends a pretty strong message.

Len may be marrying her doctor, but she makes it very clear that she is still going to complete her qualifications - compared this to all those girls who dropped their training to marry. And I think it would be fair to say that Con, who is the only one of the three whose future was not cemented, would be allowed to marry and to write, just as her mother did, if the series were continued.

Um, I seem to have written a lot more than I meant to. Can you tell that this topic is one that I'm particularly interested in? :oops: But, to conclude: although EBD may never have identified as a feminist, I think that, taking into account the era she grew up in, there are a lot of elements of feminism in her writing.

Author:  Miss Di [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:09 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joey the Anti-Feminist?

Nightwing wrote:



Margot doesn't want to marry a doctor, she wants to be one. As far as I can recall, there are no other female doctors mentioned in the entire series,


Well there is her cousin Daisy - you'd think she would have provided Margot a fairly strong role model given that she made her home with the Maynard family.

Author:  Nightwing [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:30 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joey the Anti-Feminist?

Miss Di wrote:
Well there is her cousin Daisy - you'd think she would have provided Margot a fairly strong role model given that she made her home with the Maynard family.


Ooops, I can't believe I forgot Daisy! :oops: She gets the best of both worlds, I suppose - gets to be a doctor and marry one! :lol:

Author:  jennifer [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 2:36 am ]
Post subject: 

You can draw a whole spectrum between very conservatively traditional, and extreme feminist:

- Women's purpose in life is to raise children and serve their husband. Too much learning or sports makes a woman unfit for childbearing and her proper role in life, therefore women's education should be limited to what they know to run a house. Women are weak, illogical creatures, beset by physical and emotional problems who cannot take care of themselves and need to be in the charge of a man.

- Woman's primary purpose in life is to marry and bear children, and care for her family. Being active and having an education makes her a more well rounded, interesting person, and strengthens her ability to do so. Studying and having a career gives her something interesting to do to while waiting for a husband to come along. Book learning, however, should not interfere with learning the skills required to keep a home. Some poor women can't get a husband, and have families that can't support them; they need to support themselves.

- A husband and children can be a very nice thing, but aren't necessary for a woman's satisfaction or a happy and productive life. The decision of whether to marry and have children, what sort of career to have, and how to combine career with a family is up to the woman. Even if a woman chooses to marry, life is uncertain, what with divorce and illness and death, so a woman should be capable of supporting herself financially even if she chooses to be a stay at home mom or wife.

- Men are a burden that drag womyn down, and marriage and motherhood are cages made to restrict a womyn's potential and freedom. Womyn are better off single, pursuing an interesting career and friendship. Womyn who choose marriage and children, and particularly women who choose to stay home with their family and give up their career, are weak and illogical, and traitors to their gender.


I would place EBD in the second category, and I would guess that most people on this board probably fit in the third, so we see her as somewhat old fashioned. When compared with the first, though, she's wildly progressive.

Author:  cruelladevil [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:12 am ]
Post subject: 

Maeve wrote:
Sunglass said:
Quote:
I have absolutely no memory of ever reading this exchange - where is it from?

The exchange referred to is in Reunion between Joey and Grizel (unless there's another similar one?), but the pair use the word "feminist" so carelessly and the exchange is so light-hearted, that I don't think I would read a whole lot of political meaning into it. Joey has been saying she would like more children -- the infamous quads -- even though she already has eleven.
Quote:
Joey put back her head and the room rang with her laughter. "Oh, Griselda! ... I'd love just one more daughter."
"Don't you like boys, then? Don't say you're a feminist!"
"Oh, I'm not! I was really thinking about all the frocks I have put away which the other girls have grown out of. There are far more than Felicity and Cecil and Phil can finish, but one more girl might do it and I always did hate waste!"


Thank you for that!!! It's been bugging me for ages. And it definitely wasn't Miss Wilson, lol. But while I agree the exchange is very light-hearted, I think the fact that they disregard the notion of being a feiminist so quickly and lightly is very telling in itself.

I know we come from a different time, but one of my friends also read the Chalet School as a child, and she always brushed it off as a series about a snobbish finishing school. I definitely don't agree with her on that respect (she only read about five novels admittedly, and I think all the ones she read were set in the Swiss era), but I can see where she is coming from. EBD makes it clear that marrying a good man and raising a family comes before anything else, as is demonstrated by Daisy and Julie Lucy throwing away promising careers. And Joey herself isn't exactly the strong independent woman. After all her talk about, she leaves school and hangs onto her family, gets engaged at a young age, and has the trips by the time she's 21. She is a very successful writer, but I think it's interesting that the only female character who is allowed to juggle both career and family for a long period of time has a career that can be done from home.

jennifer wrote:
Woman's primary purpose in life is to marry and bear children, and care for her family. Being active and having an education makes her a more well rounded, interesting person, and strengthens her ability to do so. Studying and having a career gives her something interesting to do to while waiting for a husband to come along. Book learning, however, should not interfere with learning the skills required to keep a home. Some poor women can't get a husband, and have families that can't support them; they need to support themselves.


Wow, I think that describes EBD and every characer in the Chalet series perfectly!!! Did you come across these descriptions somewhere, or are they your own interpretations? It was very interesting reading?

BTW, sorry for rambling, I just find this a very interesting topic! And can anyone tell me where I can find old discussion about EBD as a feminist? Perhaps I'm blind, but I couldn't find it in this forum.

Author:  Maeve [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:19 am ]
Post subject: 

cruelladevil wrote:
Quote:
And can anyone tell me where I can find old discussion about EBD as a feminist?

I don't know how to make a tidy link to it but it's in the Formal Discussions forum in the Archives thread under the heading Themed Discussions

http://www.the-cbb.co.uk/board/archive/files/BD_debate_ebdfeminist_220307.htm

Don't know if this untidy link will work either :oops:

Author:  cruelladevil [ Thu Oct 23, 2008 11:35 am ]
Post subject: 

It did! Thanks Maeve, you're brilliant! :D

Author:  ClaireG [ Fri Nov 21, 2008 4:34 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joey the Anti-Feminist?

I haven't read all the replies on this so I apologise if I'm repeating (and also that I joined tonight and have been posting left right and centre but I can't sleep and love CS!)

Feminism is a contentious subject but for me it boils down to choice.

For every mistress that ups and leaves as soon as a nice man presents himself there is another who chooses to stay in teaching. Joey asks Rosalie Dene why she's never married and she says because she's never felt the need to (or something like that, it's in Reunion I think). She illustrates that women don't have to marry if they don't want to, they can lead happy and productive lives supporting themselves in various jobs. The fact that even in the early books Daisy can be a doctor and Juliet can do a maths degree is a good show of EBDs belief that not every woman has to be a housewife (even if they did both go on to marry they didn't have to). Perhaps her tendency to want to marry people off and give them families is something to do with the fact that she herself didn't marry and have a family?

Author:  ChubbyMonkey [ Fri Nov 21, 2008 9:37 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Joey the Anti-Feminist?

"'More than that,' added Miss Wilson, who had joined them in time to hear Frieda's last sentence. 'Every woman, whether she be peasant or princess, should know how to keep house. It should be a part of every girl's education. I dislike the habit so many English schools have of turning out girls who can construe Horace, but are unable to cook a dinner; who can work out theorem in Geometry, but cannot patch a shirt; who can read French and German in the original, or know all about the growth of Parliament, or the course of the Trade Winds, and yet who cannot wash a pair of socks or bathe a baby.'" - The Chalet Girls in Camp.

The way that I read the books, it is good if a woman has a gift, and it should be nurtured, but at the end of the day family must come first and it would be selfish of a woman to put herself and her career before her husband and her children.

I think the other thing to remember is that a lot of these are set on the continent, rather than England. I seem to remember something in Head Girl about Grizel being stared at a lot when alone on a train, because even for a girl of her age it was highly unusual to be unescorted. I think that it would have been very difficult for EBD to match English attitudes to education with the pupils she was getting - as I think Simone once realises when she applies to the Sorbonne.

Conclusion: I don't think that EBD was a feminist, but I don't think that she actually disapproved of it because she could see the contributions that women could make to society.

All times are UTC
Powered by phpBB 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group
http://www.phpbb.com/