The Accidental Feminist: How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted by Her Beauty to Notice
The Accidental Feminist:
How Elizabeth Taylor Raised Our Consciousness and We Were Too Distracted By Her Beauty to Notice
by M. G. Lord
Walker & Company
$23.00 List Price
"Taylor has had many biographers. Yet their books often reveal more about their authors than her," observes M. G. Lord, author of Forever Barbie and this new meditation, The Accidental Feminist. "Some [biographers] dish," she writes, "some fawn." And some turn their targets into feminist teaching tools. An icon known for beauty, bling, and bridegrooms makes an unlikely women's libber. Yet Lord interweaves readings of Taylor and her roles to serve up a cultural history of femininity—its abuses and uses—that is at once amusing, wrenching, and inspiring.
Starting with Virginia Woolf, whose Three Guineas (published when Liz was six) "urged women to question patriarchal authority—to ridicule its trappings," Lord presents the lavender-eyed megastar through a filter of feminine subversion. In National Velvet (1944), Liz is a "twelve-year-old warrior against gender discrimination." A Place in the Sun (1951), in which Liz is the ultimate dream girl, Lord says, "is hard to view as anything other than an abortion-rights movie . . . [dealing] with the tragic consequences of stigmatizing unwed pregnancy." Giant (1956), meanwhile, "anticipated the activist she would become" by showing her stepping away from the "ranching elite" to "make common cause with the sick [and] serve a community of outsiders"—namely, Mexican workers. In Suddenly, Last Summer (1959), Liz's character crusaded against lobotomies for inconvenient women. (If that sounds far-fetched, Lord offers as context the appalling story of Rosemary Kennedy, who in 1941, at the age of twenty-three, was lobotomized at the request