Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Darwin's friend and colleague George Romanes said although women were the losers intellectually, having five ounces less brain, they were better at soft furnishings and disappointment.
"Which was fortunate."
I howled with laughter throughout this book whose deadpan delivery is enhanced with immaculate timing, the two paragraphs above separated by the beat of an illustration. In this case it's a woman weeping with frustration at male hegemony throughout history, men's crushing refusal to acknowledge any female accomplishment whatsoever and their inarguably superior capacity for patronising dismissiveness.
Or maybe it was just that time of the month.
It's essentially a ridicule of the ridiculous, a very real history of male oppression, insanity and hypocrisy, cooking anything up to keep women in the kitchen and stitch the more privileged into leading a life of needlework bliss.
There are also bits which are made up. Which is scandalous. I suspect that the author's a woman.
But most of this is entirely true. Quite often men are left to be damned by their own words, actions or both. There's nothing quite as admirable as practising what you preach:
"Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Restless Genius of the Enlightenment and keen flasher, said girls needed to be thwarted from an early age, so that their natural role in pleasing men would come more naturally to them. He put his own children in an orphanage to thwart them."
You can tell that Rousseau is a genius by his genius hair. This was something women lacked, observed great philosopher Schopenhauer, which "proved them incapable of any truly great or original achievement in art, or in anything at all". It's this intense level of cause-and-effect scientific study which has also proved men's infinitely more meticulous minds.
In a genius stroke to dissuade advancement by follicular folly, "Women with genius hair risked being put in asylums, as it was seen as a sign of mental instability" - which seems reasonable and consistent. Caveat coiffure.
Women's innate physical disadvantages when vying for artistic accomplishment are well documented, so we shouldn't expect much of them anyway.
"Women found lifting a pen very tiring as it caused chlorosis which disrupted blood flow and in some case led to uterine prolapse.
"Or was that the corsets?"
It was probably the corsets.
"Even if corsets did prevent breathing, women collapsed without them, so not wearing one wasn't an option."
Many are the recurring jokes, each successively funnier than the last, and there's little more mirth-making in any comedy routine (like Eddie Izzard's) than a gag in its own right which is then left well alone only to be brought back as a punchline much later on and completely out of the blue.
It's better still when that punchline is left un-signposted, in this instance by making it entirely visual. No, I can't tell you which one or it wouldn't come out of the blue.
I'm not sure whether Fleming used a pen or a brush to fashion these Victorian images which have a tremendous physicality to them, keenly demonstrating the restrictions women faced when attempting anything as unladylike as sport, but lifting either implement for this length of time must have left the poor dear exhausted. Maybe she now has man-hands and is therefore a step closer to becoming clever or a coalminer.
According to FLUFFY and PLEASE GOD FIND ME A HUSBAND's Simone Lia:
"Fleming is a genius but with normal hair."
Which explains quite a lot. I'm afraid I have to agree.