Sunday, March 22, 2009

Book Review: The Purity Myth

I was pretty excited to read this book when it came out. The author, Jessica Valenti, has a blog called Feministing that I frequently read. And also, I grew up in a culture that placed heavy influence on saving yourself for marriage (i.e., no pre-marital sex). When I was younger I bought what was taught to me hook, line, and sinker, but since getting older my views have changed. So this is a subject that I'm very interested in.

Valenti's main position is that the obsession with "purity," "chastity," and "virginity" is harmful to young women because it creates a dichotomy that allows women to be only either virgins or whores. She does a good job supporting her position, and even if it is not a perfect representation of society, I think she raises a lot of good points that really require us to think about.

I had only one beef with this book. There was virtually no discussion of how the purity myth harms the women that buy into it as well. There were a couple of allusions to how sex can't magically go from being evil and dirty to being wonderful after a person is married, but I wish that she had explored that a little more. The basic idea was there, but never developed. But of course, a book can't cover everything, so it's not necessarily a weakness. It's just something that I would have appreciated. I think that the purity myth can be harmful to women even if they don't "mess up" and have pre-marital sex, I guess is what I'm trying to say.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We're (at least I'm) Back!

Wow, it's been a really long time since anyone posted on here. Does anyone read us anymore? Probably not.

Well, I'm going to start posting again whether we have readers or not (although I'm not sure we ever had readers, come to think of it...)

Here's a rough list of the books I've read since I've been gone (at least the ones that I can remember. One star (*) is not so good, and five stars (*****) is excellent!

(In reverse chronological order)
1. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (*****)

What an amazing book! I am more than a little pissed at myself for not reading it in high school when it was assigned to me, but oh well. I probably would not have appreciated it as much if I had read it then.

Not only is the plot of ATOTC engrossing, the writing is outstanding. I have a slight beef with Lucie Manette being so uninteresting and bland. (Her greatest characteristic is that she can nurture.) But I think Dickens redeemed himself somewhat with Terese Defarge and Miss Pross, as far as female characters go. Madama Defarge was everything Lucie was not, and despite her evilness, you kind of have to respect her—she's undeniably badass. And that scene at the end of the book between Madame Defarge and Miss Pross? AMAZING. I could feel the tension.

Also, I fell a little in love with Sydney Carton. In real life I would blow him off, because, COME ON. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. I think the guy had clinical depression now that I think about it. But as a character he's great. I cried during the final scene (even though I knew what was going to happen!!!) Love, love, love the closing line of the novel. It's beautiful.

2. The Trial of Queen Caroline by Jane Robbins (****)

I'm giving this book four stars because I have a huge boner for English history, English royal history, and the Regency period. As an attorney, it was really enjoyable to see the workings of the British legal system back in 1820 and how similar it is to the American system today (in some ways).

And, because I apparently develop crushes on the men in books (see supra re: Sydney Carton), I fell a little in love with Lord Brougham, the Queen's counsel. He kicked arse.

3. Privilege and Scandal by Jane Gleeson (****)

This book was about Harriet Spencer, ancestor of Princess Diana and sister to Georgianna, Duchess of Devonshire (wife of the 5th Duke and subject of the book and movie "The Duchess"). Harriet lived a really fascinating life, and I was kind of pissed that she was completely left out of the movie version of "The Duchess." She was smart as a whip, involved in Whip politics, and had a long-term affair (and two illegitimate children) with a younger man who ended up married to her niece. How can that not be interesting?

4. Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change by Stephen Kinzer (*****)

Excellent, excellent, excellent. This book did more to help me understand world politics that anything I've ever read or watched.

Well, that's all I can think of now. I'll be back, though!