I know I usually leave "what I'm reading" for the end of the newsletter, but this week I wanted to write a little bit about The Scent of Secrets by Jane Thynne. It's the third book in the Clara Vine series, which are about a half British, half German actress who's also a spy for the U.K. This book is set in 1938, mostly in Germany, and Vine's mission is to befriend Eva Braun and steal her diary.
One story thread is about a secretary working for the National Socialist Frauenschaft, also known as the National Socialist Women's League – the women's wing of the Nazi party. They did things like publish a propaganda newspaper, promote women to get married (to other "pure" men) and have as many children as possible, and run a Mother's Service that taught women how to be "good" Germans. They specifically targeted middle class women too.
From one scene in the book, at a Mother's Service meeting: "Remember you are a German! Remain pure in mind and spirit! Keep your body pure! Do not remain single! Choose a spouse of similar blood! Hope for as many children as possible!"
I didn't know what would unfurl after the election when I picked this up in October, but me reading it now has dovetailed with reading about White Nationalism, which doesn't just see white people as supreme, but white MALES as supreme and that women should be doing, well, what the National Socialist Frauenschaft promoted.
"We call voluntary childlesness a diseased mentality," one Nazi woman says in The Scent of Secrets.
Granted, this is fiction, but it is based on very real fact – you can read a short history of the women's branch of the Nazi party and its press on childbearing on the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.
Does this and what's happening now scare me? Of course it does. But I read about it, and am writing about it, because it shows how important women are right now. We're the ones who can stop this from becoming reality again. It helps that we're starting from a different position. I don't expect the next few years to be good for us, but this isn't the 1930s. Yes we're still paid less, we're still not respected by an awful lot of people, and our reproductive rights are under attack, but more women than men go to college in the U.S. I was able to start a business and buy a home without a husband or daddy saying it's okay or co-signing a loan. As a friend said, "that toothpaste is already out of the tube." It's easier today to be an unmarried, child free, 36 year old woman than it was 78 years ago – or even 15 years ago. Most rational people don't see me as having a diseased mentality.
But some do (and are poised to be in very high places). I even had someone I know very well make a joke this weekend with a punchline relying on the fact that me getting married is a ridiculous idea. In my writing career, I've been the subject of cruel blog posts and tweets that zero in on me being less than because I'm a woman, and because someone didn't "pick" me to be a wife.
Well gee – isn't it possible that I get to chose what I want to do and who I want to be with? And that wiring myself permanently to someone might not be in my best interests? Remember ladies: We chose. We have that power. We need to remind other women of that (especially knowing how many voted for the pussy grabber). No matter what happens in the next few years, we use that power for good, wherever that good needs to be.
Last week, I wrote about women who were confronting the fact that their partners not only voted for the pussy grabber but made them feel stupid for their reactions to the election. I just saw three posts in a secret Facebook group from women who have left their partners because of it. That's some real Lysistrata shit. Bravo ladies. Keep pushing. Keep using your power – and pass it on.
I read a lot – things like this are why. The Wall Street Journal just published a great piece called "The Need to Read." Highly recommend (both he piece and, uh, reading).
Anyway, gear change. Good news: I'm going to be doing two book events in the Twin Cities (one will be a seminar and one will be a run) in late April. I also found out that my book is being taught as part of a college women's health class next year. That's very very cool.
Jen Talks About Her Book
"Ocean Drive Marathon changes course, will start and end in Sea Isle," Press of Atlantic City. This is really more me talking about changes to the Ocean Drive 10 miler, which I've run nine years in a row (and is a crucial moment in my running history – and in my book!) I'm glad the reporter pressed hard to see that there was more to the change than just the wind. I'm still disappointed and don't know if I'll be back to run my 10th in a row. It's a different race now (though I bet the shirt will stuff have seagulls in sneakers)
What I'm Reading
What I'm Watching
I saw Doctor Strange last week. I left the theater thinking "well interesting," but it's the first Marvel movie that had me thinking about the movie one day and two days later – and I'm still thinking about it. If you can, see it in 3D. It's worth the extra couple of bucks. I'm half way through the new Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life. I'll share more thoughts when I've finished it, except for this one: it hasn't been complete escapism given that Rory has my job. I have some notes…