Sunday, April 29, 2007

Uncle Fanny and Aunt Quentin?

So here's the story. Last week at work, I was on the phone a lot with a guy named Quentin who happened to be quite absent-minded. Soon I was referring to him as Uncle Quentin to all and sundry before this woman I work with asked me whether I was referring to Aunt Enid's Uncle Quentin. Realization struck. Yes, in this country they do know Aunt Enid. So then we started talking about Aunt Enid and her works. Particularly the backlash against her works after the 60s. Sexism, Racism, Snobbism and all other -isms that she was accused of that somehow we Indians never seem to hear of or care about until we reach our 20s. But anyway, here's the interesting part - like all self-respecting British women of the 80s, my colleague's mother made sure that her daughter never read Aunt Enid. But daughter does know all Aunt Enid stories. How, you ask? Her mother used to read it out to her switching characters - like all her male and female characters were switched. Which means that Aunt Fanny becomes the absent-minded scientist. Cool, no?

Why all this now? Because I want to read more about research done on these lines. Anyone care to enligten me where I can find more?

Neela, TR: If you guys are lurking, please to help out. There must be something in all those journals you read, no?


Amy said...

Hmm.. Pretty interesting. Looking forward to hearing more about this. Like you said, it's something people growing up in India are almost totally unaware of. This is the first I'm hearing about it.

Veena said...


Yeah, its interesting we never hear about it in India. We sort of all grow up and thinking back, we just put it down to the times she lived in. Anyway, I remember hearing about the movement quite late in my teens. And even then, that was because I was reading "smuggled" feminist literature, as one of my friends called it. (It happened to be an article in the Guardian :))
And its the role reversal in general that I am interested in - sure there must be tons of research about it.

Tabula Rasa said...

hmmm. i'm afraid i'm going to be pretty useless at this. first off, is "aunt enid" enid blyton? and even if that were to be the case, i'm afraid i haven't ever heard of aunt fanny or uncle quentin.

to make things worse, i'm afraid the journals i read tend not to differentiate amongst genders -- more often than not when gender is mentioned it is to point out that no differences were observed. and that's helped shape my view of the world.

i guess the point is that wherever there's a hint of feminism in the air, i'm afraid.

Veena said...

1. I don't know how these things work but if you ever receive a letter from some Bong Junta of the World (or some such org) claiming that you are being disowned, you know who to blame. Bill cannot believe you have never heard of Uncle Quentin and is busy dashing off some emails.

2. No differences? You mean to say women do not have better self-control?

3. Good to know that you are afraid of all the right things!

Seriously, no, wasn't thinking of Uncle Quentin / Aunt Fanny specifically. Just looking for studies where they tried these gender role reversal type activity. I will have to wait for Neela now, I guess.

Falstaff said...

Am very curious to know what your colleague's mother did with George. Was she now a boy named George who dressed in skirts and demanded to be called Georgina?

Tabula Rasa said...

1. i was finally moved to google. AHHH! FAMOUS FIVE!!!! why didn't you just SAY so?! (who cared about the grownups in enid blyton anyway, except for maybe stopping to laugh at mr goon.)

2 (and 3). not when i'm around :-D

i guess n!'s the cross-dressing expert in our little soiree.

Sunil said... exactly did your colleague's mom describe the gollywogs or "dark natives" or other such characters in the EBs??

I'm going to shut up now and lurk reading the comments, hoping for more enlightenment.

Veena said...

Falstaff: That was my first question to her. Yes, his name was George but he wanted everyone to call him Georgina!

TR: Redeemed. You know Mr Goon!

Sunil: Will ask next time. But I remember reading an article about how some people wanted to make golliwog white or make him all good or something. Will see if I can find it.

Falstaff said...

wow! I'm impressed. And also somewhat bewildered. It feels like the amount of effort required to turn the stories around this way is probably greater than it would take to just make up a new set of stories.

Plus I'm not sure fully inverting the stories makes sense. The idea is to project equality, after all. I would have thought the more logical course would have been to make them all girls - after all, it's not like there's any sexual tension involved anyway.

Anonymous said...

The re-issues of the Noddy books that are published in the UK these days have replaced the naughty golliwogs with naughty goblins.