Thursday, February 04, 2010

Rose Is A Rose Is A Rose

Gertrude Stein's birthday was yesterday. She was an interesting writer, no doubt about that. Her experiments with language are well worth the effort to study, and her life in Paris as the center of a group of famous and talented people sounds like something from a fairy tale.

I liked the Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, but I wonder if I would have liked Gertrude herself. Not that liking an author is at all necessary for liking her work. Still, some things I've read about Stein suggest to me that her solution to the "feminist" dilemma was to adopt the role of the traditional man, while Alice, her lesbian lifelong partner, adopted the role of the traditional wife, cooking and caring for Gertrude and entertaining the "wives" when Gertrude hobnobbed with the other geniuses. This may be a misinterpretation and if so, I'm sure I will be corrected.

Still, one of the reasons I wanted to write about Stein is the chance that her life is an example of Living As An Honorary Man, one common traditional solution for women who disliked the patriarchal plans laid out for them, but also one which does not translate to women in general.

The reason I bring this up is that I find her mentioned as a feminist in some Internet sources. That made me think about what it means to be a feminist, in different times, different places and different social classes.

Some scenarios don't lend themselves very much to the kind of feminism I espouse (and spout), though they might serve as role models, in particular after some time has passed. Even Margaret Thatcher can be argued to have helped British women in politics, despite her desire to be the only woman in her cabinet.
The middle rose is Charlie Rose.