What does it mean to be a feminist? At its core, feminism is about equality, right, meaning that women are afforded the same privileges as men: personal, economic, social, and political equality. It’s hard to look at the state of the world and think that we’re actually there, though.
Meg Wolitzer’s novel The Female Persuasion is the story of Greer Kadetsky. When we meet Greer, she’s a freshman at Ryland College. She’s like many other naive college students – well, okay, she’s not naive exactly, but she hasn’t found her voice. At a college party, she’s inappropriately groped by the loathsome Darren Tinzler. She doesn’t know exactly how to cope with this until she meets super-famous feminist Faith Frank in the woman’s washroom after a lecture. Faith gives Greer permission to use her outside voice, but also warns her to “forget him” because “There’s plenty more for you to do.”
This impromptu meeting fuels Greer because Faith is an icon, someone Greer looks up to and wants to emulate. After she graduates from college, she finds her way to NYC and a job with Greer at a foundation meant to lift women up by way of symposiums and workshops. Or something. None of it was particularly interesting to me.
Strangely enough, the most interesting character in the novel is Cory Pinto, son of Portuguese immigrants and Greer’s boyfriend. Cory doesn’t attend Ryland; he got into an Ivy League school. He is faithful (mostly) and kind and smart and way more interesting than Greer, who spends most of her time slavishly devoted to her own journey. When personal tragedy strikes close to home, it ultimately causes a rift between Cory and Greer. Any time spent with Cory, however, is time well spent.
Faith is, to me, a caricature. She’s meant to be all about the gals, but not every decision she makes would demonstrate care and concern for the sisters. I’m not saying that perfection is realistic, but when Faith and Greer finally part company, the way it happens is so – well – ridiculous really. So much for having each other’s back.
The Female Persuasion was easy to read. I didn’t dread my time with these characters, but the irony wasn’t lost on me that the most feminist character in the novel was a guy.