QotD: “The book that made me a feminist”

I was at Oxford in 1980 studying English. There were only four women on the course – the Brontës, George Eliot and Jane Austen. Virginia Woolf was not taught – and because I had been plodding through English Literature in Prose A-Z since I was about 12, at the Accrington public library, I hadn’t reached W.

Then I found A Room of One’s Own – but that didn’t hit the button back then – probably because I had been living in a Mini of My Own and a Tent of My Own.

Instead I found Adrienne Rich’s early poems, The Will to Change – and because they moved me so much, I started to read her essays – there is a great one about her winning the Yale Younger Poets prize and being patronised by WH Auden (women just write about themselves … blah blah), and suddenly I understood about women’s voices, creativity, silence. Crucially in the opening Thatcher era of the individual, I realised that patriarchy is a collective problem – a structural problem.

Thirty years later, filming part of a BBC2 Imagine about me, at my college, an old tutor went out of his way to insult me. The same sneer. The same contempt. And in the sting of it, I remembered that at 16 I had reached N – Nabokov – and that perhaps feminism for me had started there, in that canonised classic about serial child rape and the coercive control over the woman HH marries so that he can fuck her daughter. That was on our reading list, of course.

Jeanette Winterson, on ‘the book that made me a feminist’

One response

  1. I knew it was solidified when I read The Second Sex

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: