Just in case any confused football aficionados have wandered in here by mistake,
my title refers, of course, to Sally and Elena, rather than Wayne and, um, Marco…
I was heartened by a recent Guardian article on the popularity of translations of Sally Rooney novels among Chinese feminists, despite the recent clampdown on the movement there. Considering the suffering that China’s male dictatorship continues to inflict on the population, and its enduring suppression of women, this is a tiny bit of good news. Foreign fiction, apparently safe in refraining from explicit political points, slips through the net.
While I usually home in on issues of gender, somehow I never made an explicit link between Normal people and feminism. ** Indeed, that may be one reason why the book and TV series have enjoyed such success.
In The sceptical feminist (1980), Janet Radcliffe Richards defined feminism as a movement for the elimination of sex-based injustice (which also allows men to count as feminists; as she stresses, feminism is important for everybody). And she tackled the resistance of some British women (then, at least) to embrace the label (a similar image problem, I think, to that of “socialism”—with conservatives fiendishly distorting what should be a self-evident agenda for social justice and basic moral decency). Now it’s quite right to bang the drum for feminism, as do plenty of fine younger authors (Laura Bates, Natasha Walter, and so on), and while evidence is ambivalent, it seems that British women, at least, are no longer so swayed by recurring negative media portrayal,
Anyway, Sally Rooney does that thing that young people can do, thanks to previous generations: while deeply conscious of gender issues, she doesn’t alienate those who for some reason balk at the term feminism. She shows deep empathy for the fucked-up worlds of both women and men; “normal people” indeed.
I’m also pleased to learn from the Guardian article that translations of Elena Ferrante’s novels have become popular in China.
All this may be largely irrelevant to people still stuck in the poor Chinese countryside, but reading of the translations gave me a sudden burst of optimism.
See also under Gender: a roundup.
* Just a selection of articles considering the feminist perspective in Normal people: