Modern Pride, Modern Prejudices

I’m going to start this blog with a little gushing.  Bare with me — it does have a purpose for this feminist blog.

One of my fascinations in media and storytelling is when people try to adapt old, usually outdated, classic stories into modern settings.  There are plenty of movies and books which are different reiterations of Shakespeare’s works in today’s society, Disney did an animated version of “Oliver Twist” in modern New York, and plenty of modern adaptions of fairy tales.  Why do people feel the need to do this?  Is it because they’re interested in the creative challenge it would be, or is it just a cash grab?

Of course, this means I fall prey to it, myself.  My favorite author would have to be Jane Austen, and for good reason — her novels were usually written to highlight the flaws with then-common laws and conventions, particularly for the autonomy of women.  Her main characters were almost always women — more than a few were women from poor backgrounds — and her two most famous novels created interesting, realistic, and enjoyable characters whom also had strong relationships with each other.

My favorite novel by Jane Austen is Sense and Sensibility (Sorry, Mister Darcy fangirls — I just couldn’t get through the book) and I absolutely adored the 1995 movie directed by Ang Lee and with the screenplay written by Emma Thompson.  So, if I had to get bitten by the “Re-imagining” bug, it would be for this novel.  I’ll defend myself by pointing out that Jane Austen wrote to draw attention to the social injustices of her time, and as times have changed, I think it’s more than appropriate to tackle new social issues and make the most of it.

So… I come to the feminists of this community with an inquiry: Given Sense and Sensibility’s plot, and the beginning inertia driven by the fact that, at the time it was written, women were not allowed to inherit property from their fathers or husbands (hence the term “Bereaved widow”) wives and children of second marriages were often cut out, entirely, and how marital laws constrained women in their social classes, it would only make sense to tackle a different set of laws that restrict women in today’s society.  I’m American, so I’m tackling American laws.  To make the plot workable, I thought of changing the Mrs. Dashwood to a Ms. (Never married to Mr. Dashwood) Rodriguez — an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who could not obtain citizenship and whom Mr. Dashwood had an affair with.  The laws under examination, therefore, would be how immigration laws negatively effect low-income women of color, from reproductive rights, protection at work, how marriage laws affect such things as insurance, visitation, and inheritance rights.  Social issues addressed would include racial barriers and notions of women always being at fault in affairs, such as slut-shaming.

Yes, yes — I can hear the booing from here.  You’re welcome to take torches and pitchforks to my door if you can trace me.

So, my question is thus: Are there any articles or blog posts — either posted here or other sources — that any of you would recommend on the above laws and issues?  The very last thing I want to do if I’m going to be writing something that could be potentially inflammatory is get facts wrong.

Leave your recommendations in the comments below, and feel free to follow the story at, under the title “Common Sense, American Sensibilities” and leave criticisms there.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Join the Conversation