Sunday, January 06, 2013

On Doris Lessing and Feminism

When I first read Doris Lessing's 'The Golden Notebook', I failed to see why it was hailed as being 'a feminist classic'. In its depiction of women as being needy, desperate, and incomplete without the presence of a man; it seemed to be the exact antithesis of a 'feminist' novel. I was much younger when I read it. I imagine I expected to read a tale of triumph,of  unabashed sexual liberation, and of women devoid of any vulnerability. Reading Simone De Beauvoir's 'The Second Sex' has made me consider 'The Golden Notebook' differently.

Till very recently, and for that matter even at present, women have been objectified to the extent that they're not expected to think and function outside the box that defines their 'intrinsic purpose'. So here came a book with very gritty details of inner turmoil and personal strife. It spoke of thwarted attempts at sexual and political liberation. I particularly remember one of the men who went to the extent of deciding what kind of orgasm a woman was allowed to have.There is, in the book, a rather poignant line about women who allow men to treat them with utter disregard and remain passive accomplices in their own mistreatment. It goes on to say that such women deserve nothing better since it is all they ever ask for.

The purpose of literature is not always to exalt and glorify the human spirit. It can sometimes serve as a mirror, maybe even a magnifying glass, to reveal the sores and warts that we don't want to acknowledge. 'The Golden Notebook' did exactly that.