Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Do Feminists Faint?

Do feminists faint? In this postmodern, equal opportunity, (insert appropriate contemporary cultural adjective here) world, do women hold the same sensibilities they did in the world of Tolstoy, Dickens, Austen, or Margaret Mitchell? Is today's woman made of harder stuff than their eighteenth and nineteenth century ancestors?

Name me one work of, say, Austen, or Dickens, in which an important female figure did not swoon upon the mention of a harsh word or at the news of their (insert appropriate male relationship term here)'s sudden death. Times up! Did you think of one? It's interesting to ponder.

Hollywood has forever etched the scene of a swooning Scarlet O'Hara on my feeble brain. In fact, somewhere in my brain's adolescent archives I think I equated fainting with femininity. That is, until I experienced that magic moment myself. As a teenager. In a high school biology class. No death or harsh words involved. Not even a lecture on reproduction. Just all out, utterly awful embarrassment.

I remember I was seated at my desk taking notes while the teacher was talking about . . .whatever. And then I was hanging over the side of my desk with my arms dangling. Neither Rhett nor Mr. Darby was anywhere in sight. The boy sitting behind me looked down and said, "are you ok?". According to him, it appeared that I was leaning over to get a book out of that little cave in the seat of the desk where you stored all your books instead of your locker because you were afraid you wouldn't have time to get back to your locker to collect your books before the next class. Sorry, for a moment I was back in high school English class reading those intricate and lengthy sentences with which George Eliot began Silas Marner. (I don't know if any of her female characters fainted.)

The teacher sent me to the nurse and the nurse sent me to our family physician who diagnosed me as having a bad cold and being dehydrated. He sent me home to rest and drink lots of water.

I am grateful that at least I was sitting down and spared the humiliation of falling ungraciously to the ground with my skirt (yes, Virginia, those were the days before the pantsuit rebellion) up over my head.

Real life is never as artistic as the novels or movies portray. Just painfully embarrassing. For at least 15 minutes.

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