Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day 2011 & Jane Eyre

I am writing this post because a few very important things have coincided today.

Today was the 100th International Women's Day. (Yes, I realise this has been posted remarkably late in the proceedings. I've been busy. Also, it's still March 8th in Canada, so it totally counts.)

Today, I finished the tenth chapter of Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, the first on my Popular Penguins list. This means I'm more than a quarter of the way through.

The cover of my edition, which I bought for $5 at a stall at a uni fundraiser in 2010.
No, it's not the Popular Penguin edition.
Yes, you're just going to have to deal with that.

Also, all the references in this article will likely have originated here. Oh, come on. Don't look at me like that. This is a blog, not a PhD thesis!

** THIS PART OF THE BLOG MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS. **

Consider yourself alerted. (I'll try to keep them as vague as humanly possible.)

Told you so.

So, it is undeniable that Jane Eyre was an early, albeit fictional, feminist. From the start of the book she's passionate, refusing to take the crap people throw at her, even when they have the irrefutable right to abuse the heck out her with no consequence whatsoever (as least as far as the law and society are concerned). As noted on that most dubious of sources, it is only when she is recognised as an equal that everyone (well, almost everyone) gets their Happily Ever After.

I cannot begin to fathom how people could have thought this story to have been written by a man, but Bronte (aka Currer Bell) pulled it off. This book really conjures the image of Charlotte Bronte finishing it, pulling off her dainty little glove and raising a middle finger to the patriarchal establishment, even if it was metaphorically.

In my previous reading of the book, and in this time around as well, I really admire that Jane acknowledges her need for love and affection from those around her, but at the same time letting them know that she will not endure undue punishment in order to receive that love. She is willing to overcome hardship to get what she wants, but she draws the line at being exploited.

I think that is a good lesson to take away from this book, and this day.

It's not about women being on top, or putting men down. It's about saying, "This is what I deserve. If you're not going to give it to me, you're not going to get what you want from me, because I have plenty of other places I can be where I will be appreciated."

Your gender doesn't matter in this lesson; it can be applied to cases based on race, religion, sexuality, body shape, social status, whatever. You have the right to be you, and if someone doesn't like that or treats you badly for it, then you've got to remind them of all the good stuff they'll be missing out on, because you don't have to stick around.

And I can tell you, that is a lesson that hit home professionally this week. I'm not happy where I am, so I'm going to change it.

Just you wait and see.