‘Do you like me, or do you respect me?’‘I don’t know—at least, I cannot tell you. It is difficult for a woman to define her feelings in language which is chiefly made by men to express theirs. My treatment of you was thoughtless, inexcusable, wicked! I shall eternally regret it. If there had been anything I could have done to make amends I would most gladly have done it—there was nothing on earth I so longed to do as to repair the error. But that was not possible.’
—Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd, Chapter LI
Bathsheba Everdene responds to Boldwood here with an utterance that seems as if it had been inserted into the galley proofs of Thomas Hardy’s idyl of the Wessex countryside with a drawing knife and rubber cement. Could this be feminism? Of course, I’ve known women who would have taken the opposite approach, and celebrated that as feminism: fearlessly appropriating male discourse and then not apologizing for her rude treatment of her suitor.