- The Other Side of the Story and Alternative Scripts:Dones, Nosotras and Homes
Jo sóc de la generació dels Beatles, una generació que va trencar amb tot: amb la música, amb la pintura, amb la literatura... Els de la meva edat no tenim gaires tabús i no ens espantem per res.- Isabel-Clara Simó, Domínguez Interview
Feminist critics, in particular, have pointed out that the language and values of the powerful differ from those of the powerless and readers need to be sensitive to such differences. Years ago Judith Fetterley wrote of the importance of being a resisting reader and not letting oneself be co-opted by the values presented in male-produced literature. Rip Van Winkle may have considered his wife a shrew because she wanted him to be responsible and support his family, but readers need not buy into his (and Washington Irving's) masculinist prejudices.1 Writers too can offer resistance, and in her 1989 book Molly Hite draws attention to a strategy frequently utilized by contemporary women authors: that of showing the other side of what historically has been considered "the" story (male-authored, male-centered) and offering alternative versions which express different emphases. This other side, Hite declares, "has a venerable history of being the woman's side, the version that discloses how the heroine is constrained by a set of narrative givens not of her own making" (6). The concepts of the other side of the story and readerly resistance are important to the fiction of Catalan writer Isabel-Clara Simó, who has been a resisting [End Page 51] reader of male-centered literary and social scripts, which she has reformulated.2 Reflections on and portrayals of women's status are a constant of her fiction and constitute the essence of the collection of short stories Dones (1997). The present essay concentrates on several narratives that subsequently are woven together in the film Nosotras (2000) and then briefly discusses the film and Simó's Homes (2010).3
Simó emphasizes in Dones that all women are not alike ("Cada dona és un individu, no és l'espècie" [back cover of Dones]), and her tales depict a diverse group of characters and situations. The age and socioeconomic situation of the women differ, as does their civil status: single, married, divorced, "kept." Some are strong and some weak, some rebellious and others passive, some liberated and others not, some victims and some victimizers. Simó examines their values - which vary considerably - and the roles imposed upon them, in addition to their relationships with one another, with their boyfriends, husbands, lovers, or johns, and with their children. She subverts stereotypes and hackneyed ideas not only as to what women are like but also as to what they are capable of and what they want. In the process she employs diverse techniques and narrative structures, different focalizations and voices, and uses humor, hyperbole, irony, and colloquial language as effective strategies of subversion. Proceeding on the principle that not just by their fruits but also by their words ye shall know them, Simó has her characters speak for themselves. What they say and how they say it produces revealing portraits of self, with dialogue becoming the vehicle for often unwitting self-exposure. Readers are cast in the role of listeners who eavesdrop on a series of oral exchanges and, as in real life, determine the significance as well as the reliability of what others say.
A number of feminist critics have shown that humor is a weapon that the powerless can wield against the powerful and a means of voicing principles and goals that differ from those of the dominant, male culture. In A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture, Nancy A. Walker declares that
women tend to be storytellers rather than joke tellers. Humor functions for them more as a means of communication than as a means of self-presentation, a sharing of experience rather than a demonstration of cleverness. Related to this is the fact that women's humorous expression is almost never purely comic or absurd. Even when, as is frequently the case, it points to...