Monday, March 2, 2015

Book Review: The Fierce Beauty Club

A Fair Trade Book

Title: The Fierce Beauty Club
Author: Elizabeth Herron

Author's online contact page:
Date: 2001
Publisher: Fair Winds Press
ISBN: 1-931412-70-7
Length: 223 pages of text
Quote: “Following the first two great waves of femnism, which focused on political and economic freedoms, ‘the next wave [of femi­nism] needs to be primarily devoted to developing our emotional that the cages of constrictive femininity have finally been opened, women, in many ways, have to be remade.’”
Do you feel that you have to be remade? I don’t. Who does? Maybe women in Elizabeth Herron’s predicament do; her introduction to this book begins with the statement that her mother, an alcoholic, had “completely lost her way,” that she lacked “social and spiritual guide­lines” through the seasons of her life. Herron needed to be “remade” to arrive at the degree of personal liberation from which many of us start. Well, specifically, from which women who’ve found meaning in their own religious traditions start.
To some extent this book tells the story of some friends of Herron’s, ages 22 to 71, whose identifying details have undoubtedly been falsified for book purposes but are mentioned anyway. This gives the book the quality of a novel. We don’t really need to know the details about Jenny’s oversized sweater and shoulder-length gray hair parted in the middle in order to understand that she's working through empty-nest syndrome; we’ll get the details, anyway, all the way. For some readers this helps bring Herron’s ideas to life. For others, it’s a distraction.
What Herron offers her friends is, basically, the experience of Jungian psychoanalysis as a group. They make lists of what they learned about being women as they were becoming women. They discuss both ways they can get more power, in the ordinary sense of the term, and ways they already wield power without realizing it. They reach some interesting insights, like this one:
“[W]hen I  was co-teaching gender communications seminars around the country with my husband, Aaron[, t]he participants frequently scrutinized us heavily for any possible signs of inequity in our relationship. Periodically,. some woman would come up to us afterward and mention that she had actually timed the inter­vals that we each talked and noticed that Aaron had talked longer...We began carefully timing all of our lectures. I felt constant pressure to talk as much as Aaron...It then occurred to me...that when I talked less, I was able to pay closer attention to the dynam­ics of the group.”
They explore the feminine archetypes of Pagan goddesses, with particular attention to “whole goddesses” whose complex stories reveal them doing both bad and good things. They embrace their “shadows,” another Jungian exercise that can easily go too far. (Everyone has some capacity for murderous hate, but only a few people commit murder.) They assure one another that they’re attractive enough. They talk, at length and in depth, about sex.  They look for ways in which each of them can consider herself “creative.” They try, with limited success, to improve their close relationships by trying to be more independent.
Jungian psychology has been a cultural influence in Europe and North America for a hundred years now, and it’s intriguing to reflect on the fact that this approach to personal growth is part of our Collective Unconscious culture by now. Women who have an active connection with a religious tradition might feel a bit bewildered by the idea that Herron’s friends felt a need to talk through all these things without the benefit of the religious framework in which we relate to most of the topics Herron’s friends discussed. I felt, as I read this book, very much as I’ve felt while reading first-year English textbooks for foreign students. There are people who don’t automatically associate the “eee” sound with the letter E! If you’re a practicing Christian or whatever-else, this book is just not meant for you and may not be useful to you.

If you grew up without a spiritual identity, this book is for you. And you'd be in a better position to review it than I'm in. And although Amazon offers review space only to people who've bought their copy of a book from Amazon, this web site welcomes comments and dissenting reviews from anyone who's read the book.

The Fierce Beauty Club is a Fair Trade Book. To order it from salolianigodagewi @ will cost you $5 for the book + $5 for shipping. (The shipping price covers as many items as fit into one package.) Out of this, Elizabeth Herron or a charity of her choice will receive $1.