Grrrl’s own adventure

Guest post by blue milk (who knew there was so much to say on feminist motherhood?).

I don’t usually read Janet Albrechtsen because I don’t find her relevant, but today I did and now I’m inflicting her on you. Sorry.

I am a blogger, so I do tend to take some of my own experiences and run with them, making the odd grand generalisation in the process I’m sure, but: Ms Albrechtsen’s daughters read a Nancy Drew book and she decides we have a girl revolution on our hands?! This being Albrechtsen’s house any girl revolution going on must be at odds with feminism.

While I was reading about the pretty detective girl who respected authority and charmed criminals with a slice of homemade cake, old-style feminists revelled in being ugly and hopeless in the kitchen. Front-line feminist warriors would have despised the somewhat prissy and ever so polite Nancy Drew. Yet girls like me knew feminism was also, unashamedly, about being feminine. Nancy Drew, with her courage and courtesy, resonated in a way that men-hating feminists never did.

Fast-forward and a new generation of feminists, still peddling old agendas, would be equally horrified by young girls reading Nancy Drew, just as they would get hung up about the emergence of sassy, blonde, party girl Paris.

“Horrified by young girls reading Nancy Drew” – who are all these feminists up in arms about Nancy Drew? I thought Nancy Drew was one of ours. Ms Albrechtsen wants a little controversy for her article about a children’s movie but really, I think us ugly, man-hating feminists might have some bigger fish than Nancy Drew to fry, that’s if we could cook.

Categories: Culture, gender & feminism


9 replies

  1. Ah, I’m glad Albrechtsen’s commentariat is talking about other non-submissive female characters too – Hermione Grainger, Buffy Summers, Pippi Longstocking. I never got into Nancy Drew, but I was all over the Famous Five and Pippi as a kid. These days, I find it exhausting reading Enid Blyton to my lad – I regender and fix racist garbage all on the fly, and it seems there’s work to do on almost every page. Pippi, however, requires no editing.
    Tigtog mentioned this article a while back: ”Nancy Drew: Feminist or daddy’s girl?” by Kate Taylor.
    The article quotes novelist and satirist Ann-Marie MacDonald:

    ”It became irresistible to poke fun at. … She was a perfect daughter of paternalism. As a feminist, I wanted to take that on. She’s a girl who makes it in dad’s world on dad’s terms.”

    Taylor continues on page 2:

    Since the 1980s, the series has been subjected to scrutiny in the burgeoning field of women’s studies and literary criticism: Nancy, her critics point out, is too privileged, too polite, too asexual and too white. She is also utterly devoid of the interior life that creates great fictional characters. More recently, scholars have been more forgiving, considering Nancy’s power as a role model of independence and resourcefulness for girls.

    So there it is. Drew may be “one of ours” for some of us, but we’re ambivalent about her too – and there is no feminist hivemind.

  2. Thanks for your comment, as insightful as always. I was very amused by your description of the exhaustion of fixing up Enid Blyton books too.
    I didn’t get into Nancy Drew either but lots of my feminist girl friends did and they still get a little misty eyed at the thought of her. I tried quite a few different searches on Google to find feminist critiques of Nancy Drew and to be honest I just came across one article after another about how on balance Nancy Drew had been an inspiration to them as feminist women.
    Nancy Drew isn’t a perfect role model – “blonde, slim and attractive” were a big part of her look, and she was always solving pretty classist situations but overall I don’t think there is a big feminist uproar over her.

  3. I’m so asking for a bunch of you to come forward now and say ‘no we really do hate Nancy Drew and we’re outraged about girls reading her” and then… then I’m going to be forced to apologise to Janet Albrechtsen.

  4. I challenge Janet Albrechtsen to a Bake Off. I have many works of feminism on my bookshelves, (clearly making life impossible for my partner and son) and ALSO half a homemade banana cake on the kitchen bench, and a knitting project on the coffee table incidentally.
    I refer Ms A to Zoe’s chicken extravaganza at Crazybrave for further evidence that the Feminist Women Can Cook. Because, you know, we also like to eat.

  5. I was bored by Nancy Drew. Which isn’t the same thing as hating her on feminist grounds. I certainly don’t care about her enough to oppose a film. I was also bored by Jane Eyre. I’ve been bored by lots of books by and about feminists too. I’ve even disagreed with some of them.
    So perhaps Ms A should give up her job, forget how to read and write, and shut the hell up. I expect she’ll also take herself off the electoral role before the upcoming election, and remove any daughters she may have from the education system.

  6. old-style feminists revelled in being ugly and hopeless in the kitchen. Oh, please go and fuck yourself, Janet. Then go and read 100 feminist blogs or blogs by feminist-sympathising personal bloggers. Starting with Belle Waring.
    I had a foodblog in the works, too. It’s probably time…
    Nancy Drew never came into my radar, for some strange reason (never a big Blyton fan either). Norah Linton for me. (And there’s some big class and race issues in THAT series to unpick, too.)Also the competent and courteous heroines in the Pullein-Thompson pony novels: as a kid who was pretty much raised by wolves for part of the time, I kid you not, they were instrumental in my socialisation.

  7. There’s a perception problem here – and Albrechtsen perpetuates the myth (whether deliberately or not I do not know) – that feminists are ugly, lesbian men-haters. Thing is, it’s endemic. I was talking with a student a few weeks ago, who was appalled that she might be thought of as a feminist because she really wasn’t into that ‘burning bras and looking frumpy thing’.
    It’s insidious too. I think (no real data, but based on observations of the way the women with whom I interact behave) that a lot of women are scared of affirming their equality because they, similarly, do not want to be labelled ‘feminist’ because of the baggage that term carries. This is not a value judgement, by the way; it’s an observation. It’s also related to the ‘any successful woman in her field must be a bitch’ thing.
    So the early feminists, the bra-burners if you like (who weren’t ‘early’ but anyway), complete with the image of ugly, frigid lesbians (how do we know they’re lesbians if they’re frigid? Quite) who can’t/won’t cook, have become the public image of the feminist movement, because there was a failure to tackle effectively the (male-dominated? Yes!) media. It seems to me that somewhere along the line femininity and feminism became antithetical. Which is kind of a shame. And Albrechtsen is buying into this lie.
    You see, my student friend is also smart, sassy and very attractive. How can she be a feminist?
    (No. I don’t have an answer. But I do think that the more men speak out for feminism the easier the battle will become. Learn a lesson from Machiavelli.)

  8. I’ve never understood the ‘man-hating lesbian’ tag. In my experience lesbians just aren’t interested in men at all, which I think offends the insecure blokes more than being hated.


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