I’ve just opened, and closed, Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.
I didn’t get past page one, and I wanted to. It’s one of the most famous science fiction books of all time, with a strong message still pertinent today, written by a much-lauded and gifted author.
So why didn’t it interest me?
Because. In spite of his vision, his terror and his imagination, he could not imagine a world where, if everyone was happy and society was all worked out, women would be students of medicine/science as well.
Stop. Halt. Throw the book away.
Not for me.
Another book that I have been equally offended by, but perhaps on a much deeper level, was Herman Hesse’s Siddharta. I read almost two-thirds of the book before it bounced against the wall. (Although to his credit as a writer, I did pick it up again because the story was still ultimately compelling.) I was prepared to put aside the ‘he’ business of the book, being a male character and also the accepted pronominal form of the English language, but when he started preaching on all righteously about the pathetic lowness of the life of a woman, and excluding me from spirituality because of the fact I had a cunt between my legs and could bear and raise children (and then he ran away from his responsibility and had the gall to call it Enlightenment) – well, I said, fuck you.
Excuse my language, but sometimes, they are the only words that suffice.
Perhaps writers cannot help but be products of their time – although I have read others from earlier times who had no difficulty imagining women as full human beings capable of all things, and that being completely normal; George Bernard Shaw is one that I can readily think of, there are many others. Indeed, many playwrights were actively championing against oppressive patriarchal society, Ibsen being another that comes quickly to mind. But it is the job of a writer to tell a story. And any self-respecting writer who wants to get a story into the world, for the purpose of enriching the world, would rightly want to reach as much of the world as possible; cutting out half of your audience is one way to fill your luft ballon with lead.
It’s a lack of foresight and intelligence to exclude the thinking woman from your texts. (There are probably many women who can read such a book and not think anything of it – they have obviously either a) accepted it as fact, b) never had the pleasure of having their being and intelligence ignored, jeered at, demeaned, diminished or otherwise degraded, or c) have mastered the art of turning the other cheek – I am not she.)
There are of course other reasons not to read books, but this is a major one for me. At any rate, I wasn’t won over to Buddhism and nor did I get past page one today, so Mr Huxley completely failed in his mission. I may attempt again later, when I’m 90 and beyond caring about fools and their impressions of women, but it’ll have to wait fifty years or so before I get to that stage.