Yes! Sense and sensibility rule. Jane Austen rules.
Defying a cadre of rad-fem intellectuals who deem the 19th-century novelist a perpetrator of evil patriarchal institutions such as getting married, Britain’s women voted Pride and Prejudice as the #1 novel that “has spoken to you on a personal level…may have changed the way you look at yourself, or simply made you happy to be a woman,” as the terms of the Women’s Watershed Fiction poll put it.
Naturally, as the U.K. Guardian reported, some Brit fem-literati were Not Amused that Austen’s saga of outspoken young Elizabeth Bentley, who softens the snobbish and cynical heart of the wealthy young Mr. D’Arcy–and wins his hand in the process–were Not Amused. Seems that “Pride and Prejudice” doesn’t have enough raunchy sex to satisfy the Vagina Monologues crowd. The Guardian reports:
“The journalist and writer Julie Burchill was particularly scathing about the chosen top five, her main point of contention being that ‘if Jane Austen heard women today talking about clitorises she’d faint … I can’t see why Pride and Prejudice would make one feel proud to be a woman. If the question was, which book makes you proud to wear an empire line dress, then I could understand it’…
“The writer Suzanne Moore similarly questioned Austen’s relevance to 21st-century women, albeit with slightly less specific and descriptive objections: ‘I can’t see how it changed women’s lives, it just confirmed what they were meant to be. It is a great book, but it’s about how women have to shape themselves within social conventions.'”
Burchill, Moore, and their ilk can take some comfort from this fact, however. The four runners-up in the Women’s Watershed Fiction Poll included The Women’s Room, Marilyn French’s 1977 horror novel about how men are so oppressive that they call it the “Ladies’ Room,” and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which is about how fundamentalist Christians force women to have babies.