“The Wife” is almost misogynist

“The Wife”, enjoyable and in places subtle and supple as it is, remains open to the charge that its basic premise and plot does no favours to feminism.

Quite early on we see our heroine attend a book-reading by a female author who tells her that she might as well give up writing since women get such a hard deal from the ptariarchical world of books and their readers. And thus “The Wife” is born. In case you don’t know the plot yet, suffice it to say that The Wife looks condemned to be an editor of her husband’s works. Certainly, we never see her fulfil her literary amibitions.It only ocurred to me long after I left the film that this woman must have been a little feeble to be deterred by so slight a hand-off from a member of the sisterhood.

It is true that lots of people, men and women alike, don’t have the sheer nerve required to become a writer of any kind, let alone a creative writer, let alone a professional writer. But it is dangerous to modern young women to absorb the view that their grandmothers faced an insurmountable task in becoming writers. They should search around online and see that vast range of famous, brilliant and sometimes quite – occasionally very – commercial high-, medium- and low-brow women writers who have plied their art and trade and especially that of novelist.

Randomly, I propose they look especially at the life of Edith Wharton. They might look at Stella Gibbons. Or Kate Chopin. Or almost anyone on the lists of Virago or Persephone.

I don’t say all or any of these women had an easy ride. Any of them may have felt the head-wind of patriarchy. I do say that it was defeatist to dismiss out of hand a young woman’s ambition.

I will risk suggesting, what I can’t remotely prove, that a modern author or film-writer may enjoy depicting the dark days of the 1950s and even of today as inimical to women’s voices. Some modern feminists seem willing to perpetuate old stereotypes which weren’t as iron-clad back then as they suggest and which they would do well to kick over wherever they can. Instead, they seem to reinforce old clichés the better to trumpet their case of unending womanly victimhood.

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Publication date

11 February 2019