Magazine article Herizons

[We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays & Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman]

Magazine article Herizons

[We Who Can Fly: Poems, Essays & Memories in Honour of Adele Wiseman]

Article excerpt

Jane Ussher's Fantasies of Femininity opens a landscape for our self-definition as sexual women and feminists. Exposing the arbitrariness of heterosexist, phallocentric beliefs maintained through law, sexual science and media such as film and painting, she offers an invigorating view from a crumpled kingdom of the norm.

In her introduction, Ussher promises to unravel a "conundrum, the fact that representations of 'woman' seethe with sexuality yet for centuries women have been condemned for exploring their own sexual desires". But the big theme seems forced, thus the awkard title and sub-title and Ussher's ambivalent conclusions: women must negotiate the prescriptions to play "foil and fantasy", women are already doing this, women should continue.

The book is better seen as a collection of wide-ranging essays investigating what woman is expected to be, the repercussions for those who "be girl" and those who don't, and how women are creating new archetypes (the Kiss and Tell collective has a cameo in this British book). Each chapter alone proposes myriad theories and cracks conundrums. Though the material can be distressing and the writing thick (the academic book is a dense 500 pages), I was entranced by Ussher's spry intellect, if dizzied by doses of spiral, possibly circular, reasoning.

The early chapters consider 'The Script of Femininity' as put forward in women's magazines, romance books and talk shows, 'The Masculine Gaze' that frames art and film, and 'Pornography,' its relevance and the irrelevance of censorship. …

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