Here's an excerpt from my short story published in Westerly, 62.1
The story consists of five fragments, focused on women's experiences. This fragment is called 'Who is Sylvia' (the title alludes to Sylvia Plath's poem, 'Mirror,' about the female fear of ageing). It describes an academic feminist who believes that the different stages of the feminist movement have been increasingly liberating for women, only to succumb, in her later years, to self-denigration, based on her ageing appearance. Part of the intent of the fragment is to suggest the difficulty for even the most intelligent and knowledgeable feminist woman to free herself from the tyranny of appearances.
Sylvia was the proudly steadfast product of 1960s feminism. Vigorously supporting the empirically verifiable claim that women as a group were subjugated by a pervasively patriarchal ideology, she also refused to be a victim, valiantly adhering to the social constructivist argument that patriarchal culture could be deconstructed and hence reconstructed to serve the interests of female empowerment. Later in the century, Sylvia eagerly embraced the philosophically liberating belief that the very category of femaleness was ambivalent and provisional, if not entirely untenable. 'Woman', she now saw, was gloriously elusive, defying the epistemologically reductive binary model of gender that historically rendered the female inferior to the male.
On the morning of June 23rd, 2016, Sylvia noticed that her bedroom mirror was leaning to the side. She stepped back, stepped forward, made the necessary adjustment. But then, as both the subject and the object of her disconcerted gaze, she was jolted into studying her refection: for although her lover called her comely and her friends extolled her dignity, all she could see was a sadly wrinkled forehead and two listless, sunken cheeks; five deep rows of lines around a tight, scrawny neck; two sagging, dispirited breasts.
She could find no words to rescue her.