Sula by Toni Morrison, Book Review by Kyle Phoenix

What does it mean to be a free woman?  Not simply a woman who has the right to vote or to work but to love or not love, to marry or not marry, to birth children or not?  Toni Morrison explores these concepts in this book contrasting two childhood friends and their similar but ultimately disparate ways of occupying womanhood.  As we hurtle into the 21st century and the unwavering possibility of a female President for America looms in our visible lifetimes the definition of what a woman is and is capable of keeps radically shifting.  In another blog on women and education ( I wrote about the connection to motherhood and directly implied for you the reader, to infer that there are points when motherhood, particularly for women of color, is more trap than treasure.

There was a famous article called Daddy's Maybe and Momma's baby that talked about the social option that men have to be free of the responsibilities of procreation if they so choose.  I think that Morrison is pushing along those lines with the main character Sula, trying to explain, justify and fairly too, condemn, a woman who decides not to be constricted by her gender.  Nor the expectations of her gender.  In a class at law school recently we were exploring the topic of gender in education, going all the way back to websites advertising children's furnishings.  We were looking at them through the inspection of gender roles and inculcation   When does it begin and what are those messages of such rigid gender boundaries.  I made the observation after the professor had presented several websites of children's furnishing and Halloween costumes that the pattern seems to be to tell girls to BE and boys to DO.  I was challenged as to why and I answered, the outcome---power.  Women who grow up waiting in a corner to be actualized from their princess pink colored nests are not prepared to compete with men who have grown up being trained to do as gladiators, pirates, superheroes, etc..

That outcome expectation makes it doubly necessary for young women to read and therefore see the option of women like Sula.  To understand the price of gender and sexual independence before they are so narrowly defined by a society that wants princesses in pink rather than women as Presidents.

Thank you,
Kyle Phoenix
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