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More Delicious Austen - Impressions and Expressions of Ijon
November 7th, 2004
02:06 pm

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More Delicious Austen

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From:cinamon
Date:November 11th, 2004 11:32 am (UTC)

My answer, part II

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But let's go back to Austen, to the quote from the quote :), and to how you read it.
You said you think she's saying, "Can't you see you are not putting up this show for him? You are doing this for yourself! Be honest..." I must say the way you read it doesn't make sense to me, considering the lines preceding this one, where Austen writes, "It would be mortifying to the feelings of many ladies, could they be made to understand how little the heart of man is affected by what is costly or new in their attire". This means, to me, that their endeavor was *not* for themselves alone, but rather, to impress men. Actually, I think impressing men was the original idea, which was then taken to a different level, and impressing men was just a way of justifying it for themselves consciously. But in no way do I think the new level was 'doing it for themselves'.
The fact they were doing much more than what men, according to Austen [and I disagree with her on that], care for, to me is an indication of a certain obsession women 'fell' into; doing something to an excess, taking something to an extreme, to the point it goes beyond the original purpose [being pretty and attract men, cause that's what you are expected to do as a woman], to the point it goes beyond reasonable ["she cannot be justified in it", etc]. Then comes the sentence "woman is fine for her satisfaction alone", which I think serves in two ways [at least :)] – the first irony, and the second, a suggestion for the future [as I explained in my first comment]. Irony, because as I see it, their behavior is an uncontrollable obsession; however, doing something for one's satisfaction alone, for me implies certain self-control, a consciousness choice. I think it's that obsession Austen criticizes, but at the same time this criticism allows her to say something about the condition of women in society [i.e. why women were in a position where they 'needed' this obsession].
I can go on and on about that 'something', but I won't here, and this is *way* long as it is. :).

All I can say is -- I wish you were right. I wish more women would dress for themselves alone,
for their own sense of self-esteem and worthiness.
And from were I'm standing, I would say – most of them still don't.

[Wow - I had to let it out. Hope I explained it better this time. :)]
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From:mux2000
Date:November 11th, 2004 12:27 pm (UTC)

Re: My answer, part II

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I think there's still here something to nitpick about :)

Let's look at the classic Austen-type female. She's looking for a husband and spends most of her time making sure she's not only attractive, but up-to-the-second in all the current fashion. When she goes to a ball, she pagents back and forth in front of the men in hopes one of them asks her to dance. She lives her life with one intention - making herself the most attractive to male suitors.

What Austen said in that excerpt (in my opinion, of course), is that much of this effort is wasted on the men. They can see she's pretty and attractive, but they don't care if the dress she is wearing is the latest in french fashion, streight from Paris, or one of her grandma's old dresses, that happens to fit her. They care if she looks nice, but they don't care about the fashion behind it.

So Austen asks "Why then do women put all that effort into being so concurrent?" And there's the rub. There could be several reasons. One is that they really don't know that men couldn't care less. That's what I think Austen thinks, but I also think that's not true. Another reason could be that they do it to be more 'correct' than the other women in her group, fighting over the same pool of available men, and thus somehow surpass them and beat them to submission. I think that is much more plausible.

The women you talk about, I think you'd agree, do it for neither of these reasons. Today's gal knows that she has to be pretty for her own sake before she can do anything about finding men. So she dresses nice and puts on makeup even if she isn't looking for anyone, for her own sake - and thus she also loses interest in the ever-changning fashion industry. I think those two are linked - if you're doing it for the wrong reasons, you'll fall into the fashion trap.

Austen saw that it was a trap and the excerpt is a warning - beware! A trap! All the excerpt says is just a 'beware' - check what your motives are. If you're doing it for the men, you can stop. They won't notice. The line you quoted says something more, though. Not only why you shouldn't do it, but also why you should - for yourself. If you do it for yourself, be ready for no one else but yourself to appreciate it, but at least you'll be doing it for the right reason.
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