I read The Fictional Woman by Tara Moss last week. I’d been looking forward to it after a friend’s recommendation and also after listening to this interview, so I (say it with me) put a hold on it at the library, and then waited for my turn to roll around. I liked it. I liked that it’s Australian, and current (two things The Feminine Mystique was not). I liked that I’d heard Tara Moss on enough TV and radio to be able to imagine her voice as I read. I wasn’t expecting so much memoiriness and I found it interesting to hear her story, especially since (besides those shows and interviews) I knew very little about her. I liked being made aware of things that I’ve never given much thought before (such as the age difference between leading men and the women they’re paired with in blockbuster movies). I liked discovering that her views on pregnancy and birth are much like mine. I liked taking photos of Moses and Alan with the book in front of their faces (they’re not perfect, but Moses would only agree to stand still for one attempt, and Alan stubbornly refused to take his shirt off [it was quite cold, but still – how cool would that have looked?!]):
The tone of the book is quite measured, and this is a review to match; I can’t bring myself to rave about it, but I enjoyed it, and if anyone asks me if I think they should read it, I’ll say YES.
Here are a few quotes that stood out for me as I read:
“According to research from the Annenberg School at University of Southern California, when men make up 83 per cent of a group, the men in that group think it’s fifty-fifty men and women, and if just 33 per cent of the people in the room are women, men perceive that there are more women in the room than men. In other words, having women as only a fraction of participants seems to read incorrectly as gender equal participation – or even female ‘domination’.” (From page 139)“In late 2013, the University of Messina published the results of a study in which 1100 fake resumes were sent out to 1500 advertised job openings. The resumes were identical except for the pictures of the ‘applicants’ and the names and genders used. A hundred university students had graded the applicant photos (which were reportedly downloaded from the internet and then Photoshopped so that the original people would not be recognisable) as either ‘attractive’ or ‘unattractive’. The study found that attractiveness played a large role in whether the applicant would make it to the next stage of the application process. This was true for all of the (fake) applicants, but particularly true for applicants using women’s photos and names. ‘Attractive’ female applicants were called back 54 per cent of the time. ‘Unattractive’ females were called back only 7 per cent of the time. This compares with ‘unattractive’ male applicants, who still got a call-back rate of 26 per cent – a rate nearly four times higher. Though the study was not designed to determine whether the more attractive applicant was ultimately more likely to get the job, the study did show that job opportunities for most people, but particularly women, were profoundly affected by perceptions of appearance.” (From page 173)“While labels are not always helpful, it is notable that the opposition to the word ‘feminism’ commonly stems from concerns about how feminists are perceived by others. Some say it is the ‘ism’ in feminism that people don’t like, but I think it is the ‘fem’ – the reference to a female focus – that people react most negatively to. We may do well to remember that the term ‘suffragette’ was first introduced as a term of derision, not empowerment, to describe women fighting for the right to vote in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It was later embraced and reclaimed by women in the suffragette movement itself. ‘Women’s Libber’ was later used as an insult to describe women wishing to have rights at work and reproductive choice, as part of the Women’s Liberation movement of the 1960s and 70s. There has never been a ‘safe’ term for feminist activism. That in itself tells us something.” (From page 299)