From May ’68 to Occupy Wall Street: Vive le Feminisme!

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These days, anyone craving an update on Occupy Wall Street can tune into the media and chose between two completely incompatible narratives. From conservatives such as Newt Gingrich, we hear “[the Occupy protesters] start from the premise that we all owe them everything,” along with his now-famous taunt, “Go get a job, right after you take a bath.” […]

Where Are the Girls in Children’s Lit?

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When people chide me for being a night owl, I blame Tolkien. I was only 11 when I pulled my first all-nighter, but I was driven to stay up till I finished The Lord of the Rings. By the time I reached the end of his 1,000-page saga, however, a part of me felt a little […]

The Hunchback of Neiman Marcus: A Coming-of-Middle-Age Tale

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Shortly before her 50th birthday, Holly downs a bottle of wine with Cousin Alice, and together they gleefully burn Holly’s diaphragm. Menopause has arrived so she’ll no longer need it. Then, on the day she turns 50, hot flashes intrude, making her feel like “a tiny cup of liquid lightning” lies inside each of her cells. […]

Wench: A Haunting Chapter in Women’s History

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What is a “wench” anyway? Does a sultry, Shakespearean woman in a bodice come to mind? According to two of its  definitions, a wench might be either: “a girl, maid, young woman; female child” (1290); or more pejoratively, “a wanton woman; a mistress” (1362). Now consider another, uniquely American usage: “A colored woman of any […]

YA Novelist Reimagines Red Riding Hood–Yet Again

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Do good girls talk to strangers? Perhaps we should ask Little Red Riding Hood. Her story has long intrigued feminist scholars for what its complex history reveals about changing attitudes towards women. In a previous Ms. Blog post, I described how Charles Perrault transformed an empowering narrative, in which a girl outsmarts a rapacious werewolf, […]

Feminist Fairy Tales for Last-Minute Xmas Gifts

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Who’s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf? Certainly not Little Red Riding Hood–at least not before Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm penned their literary versions of her story in the 17th and 19th centuries respectively. The original oral folktale that inspired them, entitled “The Story of Grandmother,” was at once more bizarre, more overtly […]

What the Ever-Popular “Exorcist” Says About Female Sexuality

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Keeping with the post-Halloween, post-election spirit, a freshly revamped version of The Exorcist has reared (or perhaps rotated) its ugly head for our viewing pleasure–this time as an extended director’s cut on Blu-ray. Director William Friedkin prefers not to call his 1973 movie a “horror film,” but rather, reaching for a more transcendent term, a […]