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Aida Edemariam on Sophie Mackintosh

Echoing the disillusionment of Aida Edemariam, Madeleine Schwartz airs her misgivings about Sophie Mackintosh’s Blue Ticket in the London Review of Books:

By placing [her protagonist] in a system that deliberately withholds basic information about her body, and then concentrating on that body, Mackintosh is able to foreground a problem common to women all over the world. She is especially good on female physicality — on the mess and strength and, in extremis, the capacity for violence — and on the psychological effects of a denial of this physicality. … This is a world in which only men have agency; in which female privacy, emotions and choices are the ultimate rebellion.

I increasingly felt, however, that Mackintosh’s project was not aided by refusing men the same quality of attention. No one, male or female, is especially nice here (a political choice, and an important one), but the men in both her books have almost no redeeming features: they are predators, users, manipulators, weak, violent, incipient rapists — or, if fathers, recipients of unearned veneration and gifts. Any kindness they show is conditional and easily retracted; there is little in the way of individuality. Of course, patriarchy warps those it privileges as well as those it negates, but this reads as simplistic.