Loss of Femininity

While readingĀ Not So Quiet I noticed many parallels between this book and the last book we read. One thing that really stuck out to me was how similar the women were acting compared to the men. It struck me how some of the women in this novel talked about how they were trying to keep their femininity. One particular example of this is when Helen decides not to cut her hair short. She was willing to suffer from the itchiness of the lice rather than feel the wrath from her mother about having short hair. I find this ironic because in a sense the women have lost their femininity due to how they act. In the last book the men told dirty stories, cursed a lot, and rebelled when they had the chance to. These women are doing the same thing. The are doing what is perceived as very masculine things and on top of that it is made very clear how they rarely take baths and sleep in their filth. We would not associate these attributes to what the social standards of femininity is.

3 thoughts on “Loss of Femininity

  1. I think the loss or question of femininity is definitely a major theme throughout the text. Reading further ahead, Smith talks a lot about how the subject of the women’s morality eclipses practicalities of the war; the commandment becomes more concerned with enforcing morality than recognizing that most of the women aren’t sufficiently trained or prepared for their jobs.

  2. I think this is also a prime example of how this book is a direct response to Remarque’s. The women are not clean, perfect, cheery, and saintly. They are grizzled, unclean, and hardened. Just like the men.

  3. I was also interested in the way femininity was constructed in this book, as a direct response and dialogue with Remarque’s novel. The construction of an idealized woman, of “England’s Daughters” echoes the idealized hyper-masculine man in All Quiet. Both are deconstructed in the texts, but I think Not So Quiet does a remarkable job of continuing the discussion on the way which even in war time, gender roles can be enforced strictly, even in a space you might expect to be more liberating. Smith herself shows how war has rid her of most of society’s trappings. She no longer believes in God or Country, only War, (I can’t find the exact page right now but Smith has a fantastic quote on this) yet she still hesitates to cut her hair due to her concept of femininity reinforced by her mother. Excited to talk more about this in class!

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