Thursday, April 21, 2016

"Excellent Women" by Barbara Pym

We heard an expert on the British author Barbara Pym today.  She talked about Pym and all her books but especially about "Excellent Women" (1952).  The book portrays a middle-aged British woman who has never married and has a job but contributes work to her local Anglican church and helps her friends with their various problems and needs.  

I was very surprised to read recently that we humans living today have ⅔ of our ancestors being women and only ⅓ men, due to men over time competing with each other, killing or blocking other men from mating and mating with as many women as they could.  It seems to me that women are by far the more important sex, even though the men make noise, strut about, and hold positions of "power".  I have read that human babies are female regardless of how they turn out until some get a shot of "androgens", chemicals that masculinize the fetus into being a male.  I have read that in virtually all mammalian species, the females outlive the males.  The fact is usually ascribed to males competing and being driven by testosterone into taking more risks and encountering death and destruction more.

And there is the observation that human males need about 10 minutes or so to do their part in the continuation of the species while the female carries the fetus, gives birth and is usually then ready to start a 20 year period of parenting and a time for the rest of her life worrying and thinking about her offspring.  Not to mention grandmothering v. grandfathering.  I realize that there are some totally wonderful fathers who contribute all sorts of good things including money and love.  But in general, as mentioned in "Fighting for Life", after that initial contact with the mother, the father may be gone or dead for one reason or another.

Pym's portrait of excellent women shows they to be kind and industrious and to live in a time where it is generally assumed that any woman lives to serve people in general and men in particular.  The book "All the Single Ladies" (2016) and "Excellent Daughters" (2016) shows the general, more or less, worldwide trend away from marriage and toward more thought and deliberation before becoming a mother.  Our speaker today mentioned "hovering", such as when she and her husband visited Pym's sister, after Pym's death in the early 1980's.  The sister focused on the man present and gave him plenty of attention and checked and re-checked his comfort, his hunger, the level of tea in his cup, etc. 

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