by Michelle Fergusson
The Girl Sleuth: Alternative sleuths and dream careers
The girl sleuth stories like Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton and Cherry Ames open doors to new ideas, freedoms and possibilities for females. But that is just it, possibilities that always fall short to the equality oftheir male counterparts. These stories focus on social stereotypes and male chauvinism, this inhibits and overshadows girls from achieving their full potential, while putting dreams in their head that they could do more.
"The girl detectives have had an enormous influence on women's lives, in ways both good and bad. Their "liberation" was inspiring- at last females were getting credit, but it wasn't enough, and sometimes their liberation was deceptive."
(Nancy Drew was more fantasy, in wealth and situation) I will show how the depiction of sleuths and detectives in these novels while seeming to show and offer new possibilities, doesn't really.
Body of talk
What is confining and imprisoning and erases realities.
- Individualist- they don't bother to take on the stereotypical female roles of housekeeper, wife, and mother, wife; on the contrary, marriage it's suggested gives her freedom and confidence
- Allows her life to constantly be interrupted by mysteries (wedding, honeymoon)
- Not friendly to feminist ideals: Nancy Drew
- Protected and challenged by the male world, gains approval through her father, brother and husband who all have prestigious and important careers: Father = doctor, Husband = FBI agent, Brother =Reporter)
- It seems she is treated seriously and equally by these men: may be misunderstood, they are patient and put up with her
- Judy's exploits end up supporting Peter's entire career
- Judy Bolton ends up a feed for male egotism, support for the males in her life
- Does sleuthing mainly for herself, but male overshadowing is a derivative of doing
what she loves
- Series does put less value on wealth - unhappiness (unlike Nancy Drew, the poor are looked upon as evil), yet this series twists the stereotype and congratulates the female Roles of the Mother.
- Judy's mother is absent most of the time, Mothers are not models for liberation in \he
- Moving to Trixie BElton: This strengthens the role of Trixie's "ideal" Mother, which emphasizes the "beauty" and appeal of the female stereotype
- Trixie's- Typical housewife, constant references to being in the kitchen "When she dons an apron she looks younger and prettier than ever ... " (pg. 93)
- Sleuthing became a pleasurable outlet from the job of mother, wife &c
- Seemed more capable, efficient and free, but Mason showed this "freedom" in a tourist-like mentality (characters traveled, romantic settings)
- Fell short of capabilities and were still held down by roles of male power
- Glamor girls and other alternative sleuth careers: Female careers focused on were "glamorous" (hiding bigger ambitions, Nurse instead of a Doctor)
- Female careers were not important enough, sleuthing was considered something that successful males did not have time to do (they were too important).
- The unknown parallels to the familiar, Comfort travels to the destination, becomes the delusion of adventure: "They might become famous; they might secure great possessions; yet fame could fade and any possession might be lost, but memories they gained through their travel could never be taken away." (pg. 106)
- Series written in quick changes of action, the character is capable of doing too many things at once, and thus superficiail
- Particularly revealing is the stereotypical female role Cherry Ames - Cherry = nurse
- Stereotypical female careers of the time - during war a way of informing girls they were "needed": "As the war deepened .. . thousands of men were to be healed and returned to
battle ... Cherry wished she could cry out to other girls ... how desperately nurses were needed." (pg. 108)
- When the war is over, then the series' focus on sleuthing more than the nursing, a ruse
- Deeper problems: Appeal in the independence of a "career" girl not the courage and action of sleuthing
- It is deemed feminine to have an appearance and to seem what you are not. ("girliness" hiding the "manliness" of thought and actions in sleuthing)
- Comfortable male father-like and boss figure is Captain Jordan (again protection from a male figure)
- Also recurring sensation of home wherever you go (again the delusion of adventure)
The series lay bare the conflicts between adolescent romantic girls (the urge for experimentation and adventure) and her dread of the dissatisfied housewife (the dying imagination). Sleuthing becomes a positive outlet for thinking and adventure, and a way of achieving fulfillment for her the world (idea reinforced from her real experience) cannot offer under normal circumstances
Sleuth novels support the concept of Peter Pan "never growing up," and then conventional womanhood eventually happens = marriage
Contact Ellen Moody.
Pagemaster: Jim Moody.
Page Last Updated: 20 August 2009.