Basically, September Girls isn’t intended to be as awful as lots of people think! It’s really hard to pick up on the intended message, but if you look at a few of these things, it makes a lot more sense:
1. The feminist literature Bennett Madison uses in this book. The top two are Betty Friedan’s The Feminist Mystique and Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto. If you look at a synopsis of the chapters of the Mystique, a lot more things will make sense to you like:
– DeeDee’s reading choices: She reads the Bible and a magazine called Her Place. In the second chapter, Friedan discusses how women’s magazines were (and still are, largely) created by men. In the 50s and 60s, magazines portrayed women as happy housewives or unhappy women with careers. Also, look again at the name of the magazine: Her Place. Think women need to be put in their place. Just…well, just think! It’s not what it seems.
– The Feminine Mystique also talks about how women would often try to find their individuality/freedom with sex. Think about this when you learn how the Girls have to break the curse.
– Look at the points Solanas makes in SCUM Manifesto. In my original review of this book, I said that the male characters in it proved a lot of her points. That may have been the actual intention! Just read it and compare what she says to the way the male characters behave in the story.
2. The way the Girls are described. In the collectively narrated chapters, we learn how the Girls make themselves to look what society considers “beautiful” (and also slutty), and use their beauty as a weapon. They essentially objectify themselves. I believe Madison wrote about them in this way to mock the idea of women dressing for men, like when people say “she was asking for it” by how they dress. I think he’s basically mocking the idea that women dress to please men.
3. Bennett Madison’s tumblr. I tweeted him about all this and he sent me a link to a post that described why he writes about teenage girls. The Girls are in this particular story to tell people what it feels like to be described as a thing. Plus he has some other stuff to suggest he’s actually a feminist on there.
4. Other collective chapters. Such as the chapter on names that I ranted about in my review. Especially with the hair product names, I think Madison may have actually been commenting on how women are judged and quantified by their beauty. The first paragraph or so of that chapter also talks about what they are called by men, again bringing attention to the issue of objectification.
I would now like to change my initial one star review to a three star review. I think there were quite a few things that were clever about this book when I looked more closely, but I don’t think the majority of readers will understand that it’s supposed to be heavily ironic rather than uber sexist. I also stand by what I said about the characters and the writing (unless the writing style was also meant to be ironic…?), because despite my new interpretation of the message, I still didn’t like the characters. I’m also a little concerned because, as I said in my review, there are plenty of teenage and adult men who think this way, and again, I don’t think most readers will “get” this book on first read.
So, September Girls, I hereby give you a new rating: