“No one makes their own way, not really. Least of all a woman. You’ll need to marry well,” says wealthy Aunt March in the latest film adaptation of Little Women to a niece who aspires to greater self-fulfillment.
The movie is director Greta Gerwig’s — born in 1983 — take on women growing up in the US about the time of the Civil War, from a 21st-century perspective.
The story follows four sisters in the days when women did not publish anything under their own name, guided by a mother doing her best, unsure of whether they would be able to succeed as an author or a painter or whether they will eventually be forced to abandon their dreams and instead find a rich husband.
Will marriage be the end of their personal development?
The dialogue between a publisher and an aspiring novelist is shown as a tug-of-war between the contemporary social expectations and feminist ideology.
As the election campaigns entered their final phase over the past month, we have seen male chauvinist elitism rear its ugly head, with attacks on unmarried women as well as those who are married and pregnant, something that we had hoped we had moved beyond in this egalitarian society.
When New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, born in 1980, gave birth while in office, she took just six months of maternity leave before going back to work, and even took her baby to a UN General Assembly meeting.
She also won worldwide acclaim for her handling of a terrorist attack in her country.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin, raised by her mother and her mother’s female partner after her parents’ divorce, was — until last week — the youngest world leader, and a new mother herself.
Life throws up all kinds of challenges and choices, and understanding how to forge our own way through is what makes us progressive global citizens in the 21st century.
We need to be able to build a world in which we can all fulfill our aspirations for who we want to be. Even the women among us.
Agnes Lee is a writer.
Translated by Paul Cooper
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