Emily Dickinson’s biopic

While A Quiet Passion may not be the best biographical film out there, it has its moments.

My favorites:

# 1 (Because it made me so angry)

Emily asks her father permission to write during the night for quiet’s sake. He agrees. Then she asks him to contact a friend who is the editor of a newspaper that publishes poetry. He does so, and soon after Emily submits some of her poems for consideration.

When Samuel Bowles, the entitled editor of the Springfield Republican, writes back, he starts by condescendingly informing that he has decided to publish one of her poems which shows “some wit“, and ends heart-wrenchingly by saying: “But I must confess that the genuine classics of every language are the work of men, not of women. Women, I fear, cannot create the permanent treasures of literature.”

#2 (Because it captures her wittiness so well)

Emily’s father: “Will you come to church, Emily? Your soul is no trivial matter.”
Emily: “I agree, father. That is why I’m so meticulous in guarding its independence.”

#3 (Because it made me think about the concept of family; the family we don’t get to choose, and the one about which we have a say, should we wish to form it).

Emily’s friend: “Will you marry?”
Emily: “I suppose in time I shall. Isn’t that what we all do in the end? I don’t know. I can’t imagine myself beyond my family. Among strangers.”

Read more:

 

Tove Jansson

I’ve lived in Sweden on and off for about six years, and this experience allowed me to hear about women whose lives I’d probably know nothing about had I stayed in my home country on the other side of the Atlantic ocean.

One of them is Tove Jansson, a Swedish-speaking Finnish author, painter and illustrator who created a series of books and comic strips about the adorable and incredibly nuanced and subliminal Moomins.

When visiting bookshops in Malmö, I remember often seeing the hippopotamus-like-but-not-quite creatures on paper without having any idea of what exactly they were or meant.

Recently, upon researching documentaries about childless women for the Empty Uterus Youtube Channel, I came across Moominland Tales: The Life of Tove Jansson directed by Eleanor Yule. Having recognized the characters, I clicked on play. And how happy I’m that I did so, as it was a great pleasure to learn so much about Tove’s life in just under an hour.

I’d have watched the documentary regardless of her marital or reproductive status, but to my greater pleasure, it turns out that she was childless.

At some point, the documentary features a scene where the narrator reads out a passage of a letter that Tove wrote to her friend, Eva Konikoff, in 1941, when she was 27 years old. It was just a little paragraph, but the letter looked so exciting that I searched online for her correspondence and found a more significant piece.

Here are some of her thoughts on marriage and having children:

All the reasons I don’t want to get married came up. One man after another, and Pappa, Faffan, came first. The whole male solidarity and protective pedestal of privileges, their weaknesses, inviolable and fenced in by slogans, their inconsistency and charming disregard for the feeling of others proclaimed with no trace of nuance as they beat a big drum from morning to evening from the safety of their boys’ network and connections. I can’t afford it, I haven’t time to marry any of them! I’m no good at admiring and comforting. Of course I’m sorry for them and of course I like them, but I’ve no intention of devoting my whole life to a performance I’ve seen through. I see how Faffan [father], the most helpless and instinctive of men, tyrannises over us all, how Ham [mother] is unhappy because she has always said yes, smoothed over problems, given in and sacrificed her life, receiving nothing in return except children war can kill or destroy with negativity. A men’s war!

I can see what would happen to my work if I married. It’s no use; I have all these feminine instincts to comfort, admire, submit, sacrifice myself. I would either be a bad painter or a bad wife. And I refuse to give birth to children who can be killed in some future war . . . Can we not be together without making demands on each other’s work, life and ideas, continue to be free beings without either one having to give way?

And here is the documentary.

 

Dana Delany

A friend of mine sent me the link to this interview with the incredibly beautiful and talented actress Dana Delany. You can read more about her life and her work here, but the reason I was sent this link is that Isabel knew I’d be happy to know about one more childless woman who seems to be having a great life!

Dana is 60 years old (I am still in shock!) and said her secret for looking young is, and I quote: 

I’ve never been married, I don’t have kids, I do yoga every day, and I drink a lot of wine.’

I am sure there is much more to it than she reveals, but, hey, why don’t we try it ourselves?

There is a yoga course waiting for me starting next week, and a  bottle of wine needing some attention in my kitchen. Off I go. Wish me luck!

 

Molly Peacock

We live in a pronatalist culture, so when you decide not to have children, you find yourself at the far edge of the bell curve. How do you live happily there? Well, you live happily there if you are comfortable with your own nature. And that requires talking about how to separate motherhood from female identity. It’s still a taboo subject — not even discussed in women’s studies programs. And endlessly fascinating to me, especially as the Census Bureau tells us we will be seeing increasing numbers of people making this decision.

Molly Peacock
(American-Canadian poet, essayist, biographer)

 

Kim Cattrall

Kim Cattrall

Fantastic interview with Kim Cattrall by Jane Garvey at BBC Woman’s Hour special program Kim Cattrall takeover. The whole thing is worth-listening to, but I have transcribed the part about not having children here for you, ladies:

– Jane Garvey: You have talked very openly in the past about not having children, which, I have to say, is a subject that I find difficult to raise with people. Particularly the women who appear on Woman’s Hour. In fact, I shy away from addressing the issue unless the person has come on specifically to talk about it. And so it is important to emphasize that you wanted o introduce not having children into the conversation. I haven’t used the term childless or, at least, I don’t think I have because that is offensive isn’t it?

– Kim Cattrall: Well, it is the “less” that is offensive, isn’t it? Child-less, it sounds like you are less because you haven’t had a child. I think that for a lot of people, for my generation, it wasn’t actually a conscious choice. It was a feeling of I am on this road and things are going really well. And I am very happy. And I’ll do it next year. I’ll do it in two years. I’ll do it in five years. And then suddenly you are in your early forties and you think maybe now? And you go to your doctor and she says to you, well, yes we can do it, but you’ll have to become a bit of a science experiment here because we have to find out how you can stay pregnant. We can get you pregnant but you have to stay pregnant now because your body is not producing. So it was a feeling of: well, do I really want to do that now? And I just thought: I don’t know if I want it that much. What also comes with having a child is: is this the partner that I want to spend the rest of my life communicating with in a very intimate, intimate way throughout the child’s life. So, for me, timing-wise it was was never right.  I have been married and I enjoyed very much been married, my two marriages, but we never really got to the point where it seemed a natural progression in our relationship that we would become parents.

Jane Garvey: so you didn’t become a parent and…

Kim Cattrall: not a biological parent. But I am a parent. I have young actors and actress that I mentor. I have nieces and nephews that I am very close to so I think the thing that I find questionable about being childless or childfree: are you really? I mean, there is a way to become a mother in this day and age that doesn’t include your name on a child’s birth certificate. You can express that maternal side of you very very clearly, very strongly. It feels very satisfying (…). There are many different ways to be a mom in the world.