Regular readers will know that I am a huge fan of period costume drama and Jane Austen is hands down my favorite author, across all time and space forever. She is the greatest writer to have ever picked up a quill and anyone who doesn’t agree with me is wrong. Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth are the sine qua non of beautiful couples, unmatched by any other.
I was, naturally, quite thrilled to hear that Jane Austen will be replacing Charles Darwin on the British ten pound bank note. Anything with Jane on it wins in my book, but despite my enthusiasm for the Lady of the Letters, I was still able to pause for a moment to consider that the accusation that there is a dearth of women on British currency is utterly laughable.
Indeed, given the reach of the Commonwealth of Nations, surely the majority of the world’s currencies feature a woman?
54 nations, under the aegis of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Yeah, no women on currency around the globe at all.
Oh, but the Queen is not a role model for modern young women, so she doesn’t count. She’s just loyal and dutiful and practical and booooooooring. We covered some of this yesterday.
The petitioners argued that while Queen Elizabeth’s face graces the front of every banknote, the monarch hardly represents the women of England—she’s on the currency because of her bloodline, not her merits. Apart from the Queen and Fry, Florence Nightingale is the only other woman whose face has appeared on a British banknote. (Nightingale was featured on the 10-pound note from 1975 until 1992).
Florence Nightingale and Elizabeth Fry were more to the ladies liking. Florence, of course, established modern nursing. Never married, with some “close” relationships with other women. She did, of course, prefer the company of men, saying:
I have never found one woman who has altered her life by one iota for me or my opinions
Oops. Oh well. She still looks better on the surface than that silly Jane who adored the company of other women, her sister Cassandra and her many nieces in particular, and of course her beloved characters.
And Elizabeth Fry, well, she was a married mother of eleven children, deeply moved by the plight of prisoners and the homeless. She worked tirelessly to improve their conditions, all the while managing her own substantial brood and some fairly disastrous family finances.
Pretty much zero British people have any clue who or what Elizabeth Fry was or what she did. She has no grand mystique surrounding her, like Nightingale or Austen, and therefore is also a safe choice for bank notes.
Jane, of course, has an entire cult of admirers who have kept her stories alive and loved across the centuries. Jane’s books were prescribed to shell-shocked veterans of World War I, for “providing “great comfort” in a “crazy” world.
So what is the opposition to Jane taking over from Charles Darwin on the ten pound note?
And what really irks is that the best woman the banking bods can think of is one who writes about finding a husband and waits quietly for her turn.
Quietly waiting for her turn? Clearly Susie Boniface has never read Austen. Lizzie Bennet quietly waiting for her turn? When Mr. Darcy proposes marriage, Lizzie has this to say to him:
And those are the words of a gentleman. From the first moment I met you, your arrogance and conceit, your selfish disdain for the feelings of others made me realize that you were the last man in the world I could ever be prevailed upon to marry.
Yep, pretty meek there, Lizzie!
Fanny Price fends off the advances of Edward Crawford, Anne Elliot stalwartly refuses her cousin Mr. Elliot and outright refuses Charles Musgrove, Emma literally shoves the obnoxious Mr. Elton out of the carriage and asks him if he is drunk when he proposes, and Elinor Dashwood scoffs at her brother’s insistence that she grab up Colonel Brandon before her ovaries shrivel into dust at the ripe old age of nineteen. Yeah, yeah, Emma Thompson is a bit older, but in the book, Elinor is nineteen!
None of Austen’s ladies are meek or sit around “waiting for their turn”.
But they are intent on finding a husband they can love, respect, admire and prosper under.
And that, if you ask me, is the real opposition against Jane Austen on the British currency. Jane lives on in popular imagination as the woman who wrote detailed, exquisite stories about women’s search for a husband. She has been updated as Bridget Jones, another woman desperately seeking Mr. Right, to hilarious ends.
Emma becomes the delightful Cher in Clueless, incapable of seeing what is right in front of her face. The man in the “friendzone” is the one she wants.
Marriage. That’s what Jane Austen stands for, and it is something modern feminists hate with a passion. Oh, they like marriage, all right. The legal entitlement to a man’s assets, but that all rests on the assumption that the natural conclusion of any marriage is DIVORCE.
Interestingly enough, it seems like men are starting to really clue into just how vulnerable marriage makes them. Normally, the discussion of why men don’t want to get married engages some variation of the immature, stupid, lazy man-child playing video games in a Cheetos-dusted Superman t-shirt in his mom’s basement.
Helen Smith, writing at the Huffington Post offers some slightly more accurate perspectives on men’s growing reluctance to tie the knot. Here are her 8 reasons men no longer see marriage as a particularly great deal:
1. You will lose, rather than gain respect when you marry
2. Your wife will get fat and sex will be a pleasant dream
3. Your friendships will suffer
4. Your wife will take over the entire living space and declare it hers
5. You’ll lose your kids and your money (even if the kids are not biologically yours)
6. You’ll get fucked in court, no matter what
7. Pay up, or you will go to jail
8. Why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?
On the one hand, it’s refreshing to see a writer actually discuss what is happening with the state of marriage rather than just whinge about how men are lazy assholes who won’t grow the fuck up. On the other hand, it means that both men and women who are truly, deeply interested in a permanent union with one another are up against a social tide that looks increasingly dangerous to men.
Why should men get married? What are the benefits?
According to Men’s Health, there are still some pretty damn good reasons to get married.
1. Increase Your Pay
A Virginia Commonwealth University study found that married men earn 22 percent more than their similarly experienced but single colleagues.
2. Speed Up Your Next Promotion
Married men receive higher performance ratings and faster promotions than bachelors, a 2005 study of U.S. Navy officers reported.
3. Keep You Out of Trouble
According to a recent U.S. Department of Justice report, male victims of violent crime are nearly four times more likely to be single than married.
4. Satisfy You in Bed
In 2006, British researchers reviewed the sexual habits of men in 38 countries and found that in every country, married men have more sex.
5. Help You Beat Cancer
In a Norwegian study, divorced and never-married male cancer patients had 11 and 16 percent higher mortality rates, respectively, than married men.
6. Help You Live Longer
A UCLA study found that people in generally excellent health were 88 percent more likely to die over the 8-year study period if they were single.
I’m interested in those contradictory statements about sex. Which is it? Do married men have more or less sex than their single counterparts? I suspect the duration and quality of the marriage has a lot to do with it. A topic for another day.
If men are the most vulnerable in marriage, then it stands to reason that picking a partner is of vital importance. How do you know which woman will give you the benefits, and which ones will detonate the divorce grenade?
Tough call. I’ve taken a stab at that subject before, but now I want to add another flag to look for.
Does she like Jane Austen? If your lady friend has a copy of Pride and Prejudice, or Emma or the swoon inducing Persuasion on her bedside table, or a well-worn copy of Mansfield Park tucked in her bookshelf, she just might be a woman who is looking for permanent love.
A woman who doesn’t like Jane Austen?
That is a woman to avoid. She will never pierce your soul. She may leave you in agony, but never in hope. She is best left behind with her cat and her Scum Manifesto. But it’s early yet to despair. The continuing popularity of Jane Austen and her beautiful stories suggests there are LOTS of women who value love and companionship and the enduring loyalty and comfort of a happy marriage.
You just have to keep looking.
There is nothing lost, but may be found, if sought.
Lots of love,