Jane Austen and Slut Shaming

So this post is kind of a riff of my post yesterday on The Lydia Bennet, and reading this blog: http://thefstation.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/pride-prejudice-slut-shaming/ and these articles: http://www.scienceomega.com/article/1117/promiscuous-women-rejected-by-potential-same-sex-friendshttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/10088832/First-date-sex-its-time-to-bust-the-slut-myth.htmlhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/celebritynews/10100935/Three-babies-by-three-fathers-will-it-be-third-time-lucky-for-Calamity-Kate-Winslet.htmlhttp://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-life/10103016/Slut-shaming-Kate-Winslet-exposes-sexist-double-standard-applied-to-women.html

I know that’s a lot of links, and I hope what I’ll write will still make sense even if you don’t have to read them. If this is an issue you’re interested in, I recommend them all though. I have recently started feeling more feminist – I mean, I was never one of the people who said they weren’t, I think its ridiculous for anyone not to want equal rights for women, but after having a number of arguments about how misogynistic  Twilight is, I’ve started to realise that a lot of women seem scared of using the F word.

Anyway, so how does this relate to Jane Austen? As I mentioned yesterday, there’s the whole treatment of Lydia Bennet- an Georgiana Darcy but in a different way(as she was seen to be blameless whereas Lydia seems to be at fault) But before I started watching The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and re-reading Pride and Prejudice, I first picked it up as an issue when I research Eliza de Feuillde.

One of the things I came across when researching Eliza – see my first post for more on this – was that she is said to be the inspiration of Lady Susan and Mary Crawford. I love Lady Susan as I think its hilarious and I like most things written in the form of letters(How awesome would it be as the next Pemberley Digital piece!) Obviously Lady Susan is not a nice woman – seen by her attitude to her daughter.  Aside from that, her negative opinion is because she has a close relationship with more than one man. Yes, one of them may be married – but if they are having affair, that does not mean she is an evil human being. And it is painted as her fault not his. He is the one who is married, not her, but she is given a lot of the blame. She is also blamed for being calculating about who she marries, which to me sounds very sensible in the world in which she lives.

Mansfield Park I’ve never really liked, which I know isn’t a uncommon opinion. And one of the reasons I don’t like it(spoiler alert!) is that Fanny gets the man she wants because Mary Crawford’s brother had an affair, so they are banished. Again, here is a woman treated badly because of a man she has a connection with. Its not her fault. And its not her fault that she is vivacious and flirty and likes male company. And then there’s Maria Bertram. Whose crime was falling in love and then being rejected. Again, she may have had an affair, and I’m not saying that is right. But she shouldn’t she damned because of it.

I know Jane Austen was a woman ahead of her time, making a living out of her own merits, and making the decision to not get married, rather than to someone who she didn’t love. She obviously had high moral standards, to which she also held up her characters. Which meant a lot of them were slut shamed, with happy endings for the leads being sorted because a scandal was covered up and the scarlet woman sent away. Maybe I am judging her so harshly because she is ahead of her time, so I am comparing her to her modern standards. I am a Jane Austen fan, I love her work, and think her social commentary is fantastic. But she does slut-shame in more than one of her novels, and I think that will continue to be the one thing that sometimes jars me of her work.

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