Sunday, October 9, 2016

From Dickens to Dicks

Yesterday, I happened to read two statements by famous men on the subject of women. The first was: 'I am sure I don't know why "a great girl" should be a term of reproach, for every rightly constituted male mind loves 'em great and small.'

That was written in 1857 by Charles Dickens (45) in his eleventh book Little Dorrit, which I am currently reading for the first time, better late than never.

The second was: 'Grab 'em by the pussy. You can do anything.'

That was a recorded statement, published yesterday in the Washington Post, made in 2005 by the 2016 Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump (59), bragging to a TV host about how being famous allows him to do virtually anything he wants to any woman he meets, without sanction.

In both statements women are objectified as 'them' or "'em", and both comments are spoken during conversations between two men. But there the similarities end.

For Dickens, women are objectified in order for his humble, honest character, a prison turnkey, to question this objectification through usage of the term 'a great girl' as a put down reference for men who get emotional: '...makes me take out my pocket-handkerchief like a great girl, as people say...', says this humble character within the prison walls.

In 1857 this would have been progressive social commentary and a reflection, too, of Dickens' own maturing gender consciousness and critique that was not so evident in his earlier books.

That this kind of gender critique has clearly been ignored, as we still, 159 years on, put women down by telling boys and men they're acting 'like a girl' or 'a big girl' when they are showing emotion; indeed, ironically, when they're being human and decent, rather than woman-mocking bullies and dicks, shows that most men never mature beyond seeing girls and women as silly, and men as silly if they behave 'like girls'.

In truth, boys and men continue to put women down as silly and easily used in order not to feel so intimidated by them, as Trump still clearly is at 59 when he has to brag about the women he can do anything to and not be punished for. In the video of what happens after this brag, when he meets the woman he said he might kiss or grope, Trump is clearly intimidated and uncomfortable around her and not at all in a position to do what he wants to her. Instead, her beauty overwhelms him (she is much younger than him, of course), as well as the TV host he had been bragging to, and instead of groping and disrespecting her they both vie for her approval.

The 'rightly constituted male mind' is supposed to love womankind, for the species to prosper, not mock, objectify and dominate us. Boyish fear of women lasting into manhood is at the root of the misogynist mockery Trump and so many other modern men are guilty of, and a humble male maturity in recognising the goodness and value of women, is at the heart of Dickens' rarely expressed sentiment, then or now.

If only Trump was the man of old and Dickens the man of today, we'd be heading in the right direction. As it stands, it would appear we're running backwards at a pace.

PS: Having finished Little Dorrit now, it seems I was a bit hasty -- and hopeful -- to cast Dickens as a any kind of feminist. He finishes on a moralising note about a woman's 'duty' to serve, expressed by a father figure to a young woman who had been in his care, as maid servant to his daughter, then rebelled against him. She comes round to thinking she was totally in the wrong and was mislead by an older woman who is also cast in the final hour as a bitter and twisted lost cause, though he had suggested some sympathy for her earlier on.

Apparently he was fighting with his wife at the time he wrote it. Hmm...

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