Tag: sexism

Ann Glaviano, “Come On, Silver” (2017)

Come On, Silver Gay, Roxane. The Best American Short Stories 2018 (The Best American Series ®) (p. 127). HMH Books. Kindle Edition. ann glaviano

Camp. (Flickr)

This is where the future handmaids of The Handmaid’s Tale go when they’re 12 to 14 years old, where they’re required to learn how to be a woman, to write letters to their future husband and learn all the ways of being with him (no gender traitors allowed), or when they’re caught playing X-rated versions of Barbie and Ken, as Josephine, or Fin, the narrator, was. A camp where girls are sent home for faking their periods. There are even “ceremonies,” as in handmaid, but not quite involving penetrative inseminations. Close enough though: “We had to put on our camp whites for the ceremony, and before we went into the lodge the female counselors told us stories about menstruating girls who were inhabited by demons. The demons could make the polish on our nails turn rotten. The smell of blood could bring snakes slithering into our cabins.”

“Everything here is a competition. Tampons versus sanitary napkins. Bras versus undershirts. On the first night, the Beav divided everyone into two teams: the Cubs versus the Colts. (I am, fortunately, a Colt.) Also, older girls versus younger girls, even though everyone at this camp achieved menarche in the past year. No one talks about the menstruation requirement. I only know because I found the brochure on Mother’s desk. The older girls are called Evening Primroses. The younger girls are called Morning Glories. (The camp is called Camp Moonflower. I am a Morning Glory.) The camp motto is Dignae et provisae iucundae, which we are made to chant three times at the beginning of each meal.” The latin translated: “Worthy and provided enjoyable.” There’s a great deal of competition between the girls. There’s meanness. There’s Fin’s crush on counselor Andrew, who takes her on a nighttime horseride intended to get her to orgasm, as it does him, though Fin seems oblivious both to the intention and to Andrew’s orgasm behind her. “My butt hurts,” is all she tells the disappointed, glassy-eyed Andrew. In the end Fin is made to swim a large distance in the lake in some form of representative ceremony, she representing Woman. She swims in the wrong direction.

Tim House, 2017

Wharton, “The Valley of Childish Things” (1896)

edith wharton the valley of childish things

Asher Brown Durand, ‘Landscape—Scene from “Thanatopsis”‘ (1850).

Wharton’s wry humor and wryer ironies displayed in a decalogue of moralistic sketches, some of them small feminist manifestos. The first is about a little girl who leaves the valley and returns a grown woman, while the rest of her friends remained behind. She returns learned and curious. The others are still playing. One boy had done likewise, but when he returns, he’s enamored with one of the little girls and pays no heed to the educated woman but to remark on her look: “Really, my dear, you ought to have taken better care of your complexion.” The fifth tale is about a man who marries a woman who was never taught to walk. She’s an immense burden when they come to a wide, deep river. He carries her across and nearly drowns. The other side is “beyond all imagining delightful.” The burdens-are-their-own-rewards moral of the tale: “Perhaps if I hadn’t had to carry her over, I shouldn’t have kept up long enough to get here myself.” It’s followed by a wonderful sketch about an architect ion heaven who never did anything great but one temple, though he knows it’s got one flaw. An angel asks him if he’d rather have it fixed. Of course he doesn’t. But his two choices are that either someone else is sent down to fix it, making him, the architect, look like a laughing stock, or they let it be, and he must, in his heavenly life, live with the knowledge of a flaw, deceiving those below. Of course he chooses the latter: all is vanity. And so on.

The Century Magazine, July 1896