New review: A modern maiden?

// 13 April 2008

Louise Livesey reviews another guide to life as a modern woman which blithely ignores everyone who isn’t white, middle class and straight

The Modern Maiden_s Handbook <modernmaiden>.jpgThere is always a fundamental problem, I find, when authors deny association with feminism but then rely on feminism’s achievements as the basis for their books. Even the guest intro writer for this book, Julie Burchill, warns: “In recent years there has been an outbreak of shameless sucking up to the sad old ways of sexism, which has taken the shape of women who have benefited from all the blessings feminism has wrestled from the hands of patriarchy.”

The Modern Maiden’s Handbook: The Shameless Girl’s Guide to Blameless Living by Nina de la Mer, however, does just that. As early on page two, de la Mer is demanding that we “wave good bye to these feminist… legacies” of the contraceptive pill and “bra-burning”1 to become “modern maidens”. But so much of this “handbook” is reliant on the gains of feminism, that the repeated distancing and avowal that it has no worth is grating.

Read on here

Comments From You

Betsy // Posted 14 April 2008 at 2:17 am

The word ‘maiden’ is the most irritating in the world. I believe I will hang onto my contraceptive pill and *metaphorically* burn my bras thanks.

Jane P // Posted 14 April 2008 at 11:01 am

I hate the word ‘maiden’ too, it’s so coy and coquettish. And there are so many of these putrid ‘lifestyle’ books out right now, supposedly witty but little more than a collection of ‘tips’ puffed out by photos of said ‘maiden’ in her kitchen, wearing designer casuals, laughing uproariously while surrounded by piles of vegetables.

Haven’t read this one, so maybe it is lively and witty. But there is definitely a creeping proliferation of these books, the ones that are little more than ‘Hey – you too can look like me!’ – and have words like ‘lifestyle’ or ‘juggling’ in the title. Grrrrrr.

Nina DLM // Posted 14 April 2008 at 1:28 pm

Hi Louise

Thanks for reading my book and posting the review!

I feel bad about getting the info on terminations wrong. I did research this but clearly did not do a good enough job here.

I would like, if you don’t mind to comment on some of the other issues raised though. Firstly I have to disagree that the book is exclusive class-wise. Tell that to the legions of young working class women who are chastised in the media (Daily Mail , Five Live etc) for getting blind drunk or sleeping around. The book was meant to stand up for them, to be pro-all-women.

As for the contraceptive pill, I was trying to say what while it liberated women now many men rely on women to take the pill for birth control while at the same time refusing to wear condoms, leading to an increased risk of sexual disease. I just think we can come up with something better, less onerous to women’s health (the pill, after all, has know side-effects).

Although the book may not be overtly feminist, it is definitely pro-woman. (Though I am, by the way, a proud feminist and feel the two go hand-in-hand!). I wrote it as an antidote to the many books that preach to women and urge them to change their lives to enrich them. All I was saying was, do what you’ve got to do, don’t change yourself and your life, and don’t feel guilty for it. Sure, some women don’t need to be ‘told’ this, but I’d maintain there are others who may welcome a friendly voice, encouraging them to live life as they see fit.

I agree that the book ignores some wider, more serious issues, but there are other tomes which deal with such matters. This book was meant to be a cheeky ‘anti-lifestyle’ book, and I’m hoping it can be read in that spirit. I actually didn’t want it to be called a ‘handbook,’ by the way, indicating that there is ‘advice’ therein that people should follow – That was the publisher’s doing!

Anyway, thanks again, for taking the time to read the book,

Nina x

Irene Haynes // Posted 15 April 2008 at 11:33 am

I co-manage a website for bookgroups and this book was sent to us by the publisher as an offer to our readers. While I felt that it wouldn’t appeal to women of my age (50+) some of our younger visitors to the site actually responded positively to it praising its wit and perceptiveness. I think your bloggers who panned it out of hand should read it and see it for what it is – (as the author points out) an antidote to “self-help” books.

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