The Awakening by Kate Chopin

“Perhaps it is better to wake up after all, even to suffer, rather than to remain a dupe to illusions all one’s life.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 238 pages.
Read from June 3, 2018 to June 5, 2018.

It is hard to imagine a book considered so scandalous that is was banned for decades; this book, Chopin’s masterpiece, did just that. It was published in 1899 and from then on it has struggled to get away from the banned book realm even though it’s included on most essential feminist reading lists. Chopin is considered one of the author’s that helped in ushering 20th-century American feminism.

This Victorian novel gives a shockingly honest account of identity and infidelity from a woman’s perspective. The protagonist is trapped in a stifling marriage. She has fulfilled the role that society has put in place for her but she realizes that the life she is living is not truly her own. Following her passions, she takes in a lover and begins to make her own choices about what she wants to do with her life in accepting herself as she truly is. She begins to question how women seem to ‘belong’ to men rather than to themselves. She even distances herself from her own children as her insights begin to weigh on her further.

“…but whatever came, she had resolved never again to belong to another than herself.”

The popularity of this novel comes not from its relevance in the history of feminism but the fact that many women can still relate to the protagonist, to a smaller extent, when it comes to themselves and the choices they have to make as women. Spoilers ahead… The main controversy today comes with how the protagonist ultimately abandons her children, a choice unforgivable to nearly any modern mother. However, taken from within in context, the protagonist was never given a choice about having children. She had to. She was married, there was no birth control and it was expected of her that she would be a mother as that is the only thing of value given to women in that timeframe. The protagonist may be rich, coddled and spoiled but she does love her children. The problem is that she feels she was never given a choice in the matter when it came to becoming their mother.  Does that mean she gets to revoke her responsibilities as a mother? No, but she did anyway. This brutal honesty is what continues to make this novel so scandalous.

Readers have attacked the protagonist for her selfishness and her inability to stand on her own two feet despite the choices she eventually makes. All valid. I don’t disagree but again, what makes the book so potent is that the protagonist’s feelings are not unique, in that women all over the world know to some extent what is or what it might feel like to be in her shoes even if they would never make the same choices. Spoilers ahead… The protagonist’s demise is tragic, as her turmoil is so intense that she believed suicide was the only option for her. Suicide, with its intentions, is not in and of itself a selfish act as sufferers do believe that they are doing the world and their loved ones a favour in making the choice to relieve their suffering. The dynamic between empathy, shock, disbelief or disagreement as well as tragedy, whether for the protagonist, her children or both, are what continue to make this book so exceptional. Accompanied by Chopin’s eloquent writing, it’s no surprise the impact this novel continues to have.

“But the beginning of things, of a world especially, is necessarily vague, chaotic, and exceedingly disturbing. How few of us ever emerge from such beginning! How many souls perish in its tumult! The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clamouring, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation. The voice of the sea speaks to the soul. The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.”

 

 

Moody Bitches by Julie Holland

“Medication can make a bad situation tolerable and mask the need for change.”

“We are not men. We are women. We feel more deeply, express our emotions more frequently, and get moody monthly. It’s normal. It’s nature’s way. And we don’t necessarily have to medicate away the essence of who we are to make others more comfortable.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 432 pages.
Read from September 17, 2017 to September 26, 2017.

I will admit, this is not normally the type of book I would read but after a bad batch of PMS symptoms that I am just getting reacquainted with, I felt I needed a bit of reassurance and validation with my lady cycles. You see, I came off the birth control pill for a variety of reasons after being on it for 13 years. That is a long time to take a medication regardless of its positives (like, you know not having babies). After coming off the pill I came to realize just out of sync I was with my body and coming to the realization that I had not had to deal with any of these natural symptoms since I was a teenager. tenor

This book discusses how to deal with your body’s natural monthly hormonal changes and how society has stifled them. The author also delicately talks about the use of other medications and how they affect your mood and other aspects of your life and just how society views women and our perceived neurosis. She always enforces that many of these medications are necessary for a lot of people and encourages the reader to analyze their own use and assess it. She finds a good balance between discussing our natural cycles and how medications can affect us as women without being accusatory or denying the importance of medications. The author also subtly endorses the use of cannabis. I am not a user, nor will I likely ever be but I can’t deny the science behind its use. It is important to note that the author is a legit psychiatrist and her work is full of science-based references in facts with everything that she writes about

<blockquote>”The problem with taking your happy pills and puttering along as before is that it’s no better than sweeping dirt under the carpet. I want you to take that rug out back and beat the hell out of it.”</blockquote>

You cannot deny the benefits of birth control and the liberation that it has brought to women for so many reasons but what is not discussed, ever, is the potential side effects it has on women’s health and that fact that it is currently the millennial generation that has become a guinea pig to its long-term use. The pill is amazing and is very much needed but I was never told of any side effects of being on it and it is not something that is ever discussed in the doctor’s office and it needs to be. I feel more mentally stable after coming off the pill. I have had friends who were not themselves while they were on the pill as they had trouble with being a weepy and depressed mess. Like many other women, I also lost my sex drive while on birth control and my ability to have an orgasm while on other medication.

Women’s bodies go through a variety of hormone changes throughout the month of our cycle and we are never really taught about each stage and how to deal and welcome it. Instead, as a society, we stifle our feelings and natural cycles with Midol, anti-anxiety/depressant pills and hormonal birth control and are told that we are irrational and that our feelings are not valid. That is a major problem. It is no surprise that so many women drink, don’t get enough sleep and doubt their self-worth. We medicate away our problems, often with added side-effects, to deny ourselves our emotions and lack to find value in them. For example, that same anxiety that you may feel is also what makes you good at your job or a good parent, provided that it is not debilitating these are natural emotions that the author finds do not need to be medicated as often as they do based on her observances of the women that have frequented her office. By reconnecting with our natural cycles the author advocates for an improved well-being for women.

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While the book provides some solutions, mostly cannabis-based, the value in this book comes from the facts and information that this doctor provides in recognizing your own cycles and with validating our experiences and feelings as women.

As silly as I felt purchasing and reading this book I am so glad that I did. I think that every woman needs this book as a re-education for their well being and sexual self  Ladies, take care of yourselves and be a badass ass moody bitches.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

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5/5 stars.
Paperback, 717 pages.
Read from November 06 to 12, 2012.

I’m going to start doing some throwback reviews as I have a lot of reviews that I’ve written that haven’t been published on my blog as of yet. I’ll start with one of my all time favs, Jane Eyre which I read for the first time back in 2012.


 

Oh wow! The best book I’ve read this year by far! I’ve got this one my favourites list. This book caught me right from the start and I couldn’t put it down. I devoured a 700+ page novel in less than six days.

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel and it proved to be unlike any book I have ever read from this era. I think what I love most about this novel is that it is partially autobiographical, so it pleases me to know that woman like Charlotte existed in that time frame and that her brilliance has been retained in writing.

Jane is a head-strong and ambitious woman and this story entails her struggles growing up as a woman in the 1800’s and the difficult choices that she had to make to keep her independence and dignity, many of which most women today would even struggle to deal with. This book was a head of its time (published in 1874)  but was well received by the public even though it contradicted some of the widely held beliefs about women. While this novel is a feminist coming of age story about Jane it is also a love story, and one of the best I believe.

***Spoilers Ahead***The anticipation and build up of her relationship with Rochester I found extremely intense! The descriptions of yearning and heartbreak severely tugged on my heartstrings. Even when things did work out and they were first set to be married, I was surprised to find  found myself yearning for the standard romance that was famous in this era, and I could not understand why Jane would not participate in the happiness and romance that Rochester was trying to instill on her. I did eventually understand though, Jane did not want to be cared by or doted on by Rochester as she could take care of herself. She wanted an equal companion to love, which she would not get until the end when Rochester is blinded and they are finally are able to be together after so much separation and misery. It was so beautiful to have to two of them come together in the end after everything they had both been through. ***End Spoiler***

Jane’s personal struggles, rebellions, strength and the self-respect that she demanded out of herself and others in an age where men controlled the lives of women still blows me away. I find myself thinking in certain aspects of my life “What would Jane do?” and it helps me remember that I am the most important person in my life, that I deserve respect and thinking of Jane helps to remind me to continue to take care of myself in this way.