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Could Jo starting a school for boys actually be a feminist act

It took some time for me to understand why Jo wanted to start a school for boys. When I was a child and I would read the chapter “Laurie makes mischief and Jo makes peace”, that´s where Laurie pulls a very mean spirited prank and is catfishing Meg. The child me was very upset with him but I didn´t really understand what all it meant. Then I read Little Women again when I was 16 or 17 and then I understood that he is actually doing something really disturbing and I was shocked that Jo didn´t say anything. Jo was like “my poor Laurie”.

I think especially women, very easily want to ignore when a female character turns a blind eye on a male character. Either I didn´t see it or I didn´t want to see Jo´s maternal love for boys it and it took me a very long time to get it, that not only Jo loves boys, Jo adores boys and Jo also came to realize that there were set of behaviour patterns in boys world that she did not accept. When Laurie proposes to Jo, he basically treats her the same way as he did Meg, in this earlier chapter.

When Jo is 15 and she witnesses Laurie´s mischief, she thinks it´s harmless. She is actually quite misogynistic.

Laurie proposes when Jo is about 26 or 27. He is blackmailing her to marry him. Jo still has extremely maternal feelings for him. She knows that she doesn´t love him romantically and she knows that she has feelings for Friedrich. She doesn´t know yet what kind of feelings they are, but she knows that they are strong. Laurie threatens to kill himself and Jo almost sees him more as her child. She pets his hair and she feels bad for him.

Then in Little Men Jo is in her 30s and she wants to start a school for boys because she loves boys and she understands their inner world, but Jo also wants to teach her boys to be respectful towards women. She has grown out of her own internalized misogyny. Louisa May Alcott refers to this as character´s growth when they advance in their judge of character, which is Jo´s case means moving on from Laurie to Friedrich, and Friedrich, in general, has more respect towards women than Laurie

Laurie becomes more respectful towards the fairer sex when he moves on from Jo to Amy.

When we know this, that Jo wants to start a school for boys actually makes perfect sense and that she wants to teach boys how to treat women with more respect is also feminist.

There are tons of Alcott scholars, many who identify themselves as feminists, who wish to erase Jo´s love for boys completely because it ruins their views on Jo, but that Jo wants to teach boys to be more respectful by itself is actually very feminist agenda. We fail to understand this because Laurie´s proposal to Jo is sold to us as something romantic, which is not in the book and we are encouraged to ignore Jo´s maternal nature and misogynistic behaviour of her youth. 

Recommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in Classic Literature

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