Portrayals of Femininity

Use this forum to discuss the October Book of the Month "McDowell" by William H. Coles.
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Kendra M Parker
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Portrayals of Femininity

Post by Kendra M Parker » 16 Oct 2018, 13:43

McDowell has some interesting female characters, such as Sophie, Paige, Tasha, Carole and Anne. Each of these women has a way that they step out of traditional models of femininity for a little while. For example, Sophie is a lesbian, Page is a high-powered journalist, and Anne doesn’t really like her role as a mother.

As you consider how the book ended, did Coles allow these women to remain out of those traditional roles of femininity, or did he find a way to re-contain them in traditional roles?

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Post by Caylie_Cat » 20 Oct 2018, 02:40

I'm not sure about the characters being confined to a gender role necessarily, but I do see each of them struggling with loneliness and self-esteem issues related to their situations. I believe these two things are the main reasons why we women fall back into our 'roles' as a default way of coping with other people's expectations, and our fear of stepping-up to our potential. I think Sophie was really the only female character to grow significantly over the course of the book.

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Post by P Reefer » 21 Oct 2018, 20:43

Paige is allowed to remain independent and in a high powered role. Sophie eventually finds herself strongly attracted to the guy Charlie which had be read as growth and exploration of a different identity.

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Post by JR Mercier » 22 Oct 2018, 01:26

I haven't fully read the book but it sounds like they all fell back into their traditional roles, which to me is a bit disappointing. I think it would have been great to see them succeed and be happy outside those roles.
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Post by Life In Books » 22 Oct 2018, 01:31

William H. Coles has portrayed feminity in a very positive manner. It didn't seem that he contained any of the female characters as per the limits about females thought traditionally. He described different female characters quite appropriately.

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Post by AliceofX » 22 Oct 2018, 04:09

JR Mercier wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 01:26
I haven't fully read the book but it sounds like they all fell back into their traditional roles, which to me is a bit disappointing. I think it would have been great to see them succeed and be happy outside those roles.
But isn't saying, "Traditional gender roles are bad," just creating new gender roles? Back in the day it was, "Marry and be a stay-at-home mom," and now it's, "Go to college and become a CEO." Personally, I don't see the difference between the two because it's just more people telling women what they should and shouldn't do with their lives. I don't think we're any more free from gender roles today, be they traditional or not, than we were a hundred years ago.

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 22 Oct 2018, 15:10

Bookmermaid wrote:
21 Oct 2018, 20:43
Paige is allowed to remain independent and in a high powered role. Sophie eventually finds herself strongly attracted to the guy Charlie which had be read as growth and exploration of a different identity.
I like the thought that Sophie was allowed to explore a different identity. My thought as I read her story was that she had shown no interest in men for almost the entirety of the book, and at the end she turns around and moves to California with Charlie. It seemed somewhat sudden to me, though Coles did hint at the things the two did to build relationship.

Paige remained high powered, but crippled by age and the publishing industry as she tried to write her book. She never got to go back to being the reporter she wanted to be. She seemed to fade out, in my opinion.

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 22 Oct 2018, 15:14

Life In Books wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 01:31
William H. Coles has portrayed feminity in a very positive manner. It didn't seem that he contained any of the female characters as per the limits about females thought traditionally. He described different female characters quite appropriately.
I think these women were very strong and interesting, but I felt they had a lackluster finish. Sophie follows the guy, Paige fades away in disappointment, Anne gets injured and only becomes a check-in point instead of a living character.

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Post by ReyvrexQuestor Reyes » 22 Oct 2018, 22:29

I think the writer is influenced by the current mores regarding sexuality. It just shows how recent authors strive not to lose a segment of readership.
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Post by Caylie_Cat » 23 Oct 2018, 02:35

AliceofX wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 04:09
JR Mercier wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 01:26
I haven't fully read the book but it sounds like they all fell back into their traditional roles, which to me is a bit disappointing. I think it would have been great to see them succeed and be happy outside those roles.
But isn't saying, "Traditional gender roles are bad," just creating new gender roles? Back in the day it was, "Marry and be a stay-at-home mom," and now it's, "Go to college and become a CEO." Personally, I don't see the difference between the two because it's just more people telling women what they should and shouldn't do with their lives. I don't think we're any more free from gender roles today, be they traditional or not, than we were a hundred years ago.
I agree entirely. In fact, I think we women have put ourselves even further into oppression by accepting the 'we can have it all' gender role. It has now become 'you MUST have it all', and whether we want to be a SAHM or a career woman or not, we are now expected to be both and do it without compromising anyone else. Men still expect a certain level of support from their partner but are not necessarily willing to step up and render domestic assistance to a woman who is assisting him in his provider role.

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Post by Kibetious » 23 Oct 2018, 05:50

Caylie_Cat wrote:
20 Oct 2018, 02:40
I'm not sure about the characters being confined to a gender role necessarily, but I do see each of them struggling with loneliness and self-esteem issues related to their situations. I believe these two things are the main reasons why we women fall back into our 'roles' as a default way of coping with other people's expectations, and our fear of stepping-up to our potential. I think Sophie was really the only female character to grow significantly over the course of the book.
I also found out that there some issues that they were each struggling with. That in spite of them having gone out of what we could term as 'traditional feminine qualities', the women still faced some struggles.
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Post by Kibetious » 23 Oct 2018, 05:53

Caylie_Cat wrote:
23 Oct 2018, 02:35
AliceofX wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 04:09
JR Mercier wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 01:26
I haven't fully read the book but it sounds like they all fell back into their traditional roles, which to me is a bit disappointing. I think it would have been great to see them succeed and be happy outside those roles.
But isn't saying, "Traditional gender roles are bad," just creating new gender roles? Back in the day it was, "Marry and be a stay-at-home mom," and now it's, "Go to college and become a CEO." Personally, I don't see the difference between the two because it's just more people telling women what they should and shouldn't do with their lives. I don't think we're any more free from gender roles today, be they traditional or not, than we were a hundred years ago.
I agree entirely. In fact, I think we women have put ourselves even further into oppression by accepting the 'we can have it all' gender role. It has now become 'you MUST have it all', and whether we want to be a SAHM or a career woman or not, we are now expected to be both and do it without compromising anyone else. Men still expect a certain level of support from their partner but are not necessarily willing to step up and render domestic assistance to a woman who is assisting him in his provider role.
Nice point here. Nothing truer than this can be said. I tend to believe that the whole issue of empowerment should not really be about one gender being 'a doing it all' or 'having it all' but rather that both can co-exist without stepping on the other.
​​​​​​He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy :techie-studyinggray:

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Post by Kibetious » 23 Oct 2018, 05:54

ReyvrexQuestor Reyes wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 22:29
I think the writer is influenced by the current mores regarding sexuality. It just shows how recent authors strive not to lose a segment of readership.
This is also true. It is a fact that some years back, this would not have been so popular. But as the world moves on, some things are bound to change too.
​​​​​​He gives strength to those who are tired; to the ones who lack power, he gives renewed energy :techie-studyinggray:

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Post by Caylie_Cat » 23 Oct 2018, 19:04

Kibetious wrote:
23 Oct 2018, 05:53
Caylie_Cat wrote:
23 Oct 2018, 02:35
AliceofX wrote:
22 Oct 2018, 04:09


But isn't saying, "Traditional gender roles are bad," just creating new gender roles? Back in the day it was, "Marry and be a stay-at-home mom," and now it's, "Go to college and become a CEO." Personally, I don't see the difference between the two because it's just more people telling women what they should and shouldn't do with their lives. I don't think we're any more free from gender roles today, be they traditional or not, than we were a hundred years ago.
I agree entirely. In fact, I think we women have put ourselves even further into oppression by accepting the 'we can have it all' gender role. It has now become 'you MUST have it all', and whether we want to be a SAHM or a career woman or not, we are now expected to be both and do it without compromising anyone else. Men still expect a certain level of support from their partner but are not necessarily willing to step up and render domestic assistance to a woman who is assisting him in his provider role.
Nice point here. Nothing truer than this can be said. I tend to believe that the whole issue of empowerment should not really be about one gender being 'a doing it all' or 'having it all' but rather that both can co-exist without stepping on the other.
Yes, wouldn't it be great if 'having it all' really meant having your choice respected and supported? Obviously, there is a case for having to do stuff you don't want to do due to economic need or situational circumstances, but overall, teamwork is the only way to get through life with everyone feeling loved and included and nobody feeling overwhelmed.

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Post by Kishor Rao » 24 Oct 2018, 01:09

Sophie is bisexual and in now tries to hide it. Hiram who has a typical opinion about everything seems to embrace this fact with utmost ease maybe because of his love towards his daughter. Paige is firm about her opinions and does not compromise with anyone. She is given an opportunity to climb to the highest of the post when her boss comes back to her and offers her a job. But Paige doesn't accept it because she does what she thinks is right and doesn't like to be controlled around. There's even an arc where she seems like she likes Sophie. Ann is just traumatized the way her son grows up and to add to her disappointment, hell breaks loose for her. But these characters hold up to their personalities until the end and never grow out of their characters.
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