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Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang by Joyce…

Foxfire: Confessions of a Girl Gang (1993)

by Joyce Carol Oates

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921159,508 (3.7)23
  1. 10
    Dietland by Sarai Walker (sparemethecensor)
    sparemethecensor: Female collectives take justice into their own hands.
  2. 10
    Pretty little dirty : a novel by Amanda Boyden (citygirl)
    citygirl: The violent side of suburban teenaged girls.

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Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
I can't believe I made it to my 50s without reading a JCO novel. I can't remember what made me pick this particular book of hers, but I'm glad I did. The story in and of itself felt like a somewhat familiar theme but JCO's prose is very captivating and I enjoyed the story and the development of the characters. I will definitely read more from her in the future. ( )
  Danean | Jul 10, 2015 |
i am so unsure about what joyce carol oates was saying here. we have this group of young women who are made more powerful and actualized by being together, but they're also made dangerous and reckless and violent by being together. they have this incredible sisterhood which is both life giving but also stifling. they have this anti-patriarchy group where they've created a mini-patriarchy amongst themselves.

is she saying that patriarchy is unavoidable? that despite the draws of women to form or envision or make their own societies that it ends up creating more problems?

i don't know. this book was so hard for me to get into. it took me almost 5 days to read the first 80 pages. the style was tough for me but once i got past that 80 page point, it didn't bother me anymore. what was even harder to get past for me was what she was talking about the entire time. was she suggesting "fuck the idea of 'fuck the patriarchy'" because of what it could lead to, or was she saying "look at these strong girls and what a mess they made; too bad they didn't have older women they could really rely on to help lead them"? a combination of both? neither? i have no idea and don't feel like this book does much for me without it having a larger point, and one that very specifically isn't 'beware of women when joined in sisterhood.' (there isn't enough in the story or characters to carry this for me without my understanding the message.)

although i like this, in reference to victim blaming in rape culture:

"Goldie squirmed and objected, whining, 'She's the asshole, letting him get away with it.'
Legs said, 'You're the asshole, letting him get away with it.'" ( )
  elisa.saphier | Jul 9, 2015 |
Every patriarchal society I'm familiar with has an obsessive fear of women on the edge. A good woman in a patriarchal society accepts her place as a vessel for others and the abuse at the hands of men that this entails without complaint. She does not express her displeasure or her wish for a different way. She certainly does not respond with violence. As a result, women who do -- or women on the edge of doing so -- upset the natural order. It scares people.

This has been true as far back as Maenads, the mad female followers of Dionysus whose anger was wrapped up with their sexuality. They were mad because they rejected the role of woman as wife and mother and instead pursued sexual pleasure -- some of the worst things women can do in a patriarchal society. These were the classical women in a frenzy. We see this today, too -- have you ever seen the show Snapped or wondered why society is so much more fascinated by female serial killers than male? Foxfire presents the 1950s incarnation of this idea.

From the beginning of Foxfire, women's anger and sexuality come closely intertwined. In chapter five, just forty pages into my copy, the girls undertake an orgiastic initiation ceremony replete with shirts being torn off, exposed breasts, passionate kisses, even smearing blood on each other and licking it off. Lots of breasts, lots of licking.

This is not a thing that women do to each other in real life. It hardly seems like something written by a woman; it seems like the kind of sleepover fantasy a perverted man who knows nothing about teenage girls would envision. And it's titillating. The point of the scene is not to express women's solidarity with each other but to titillate, that cross between eroticism and fear that women in a frenzy inspires.

There's a strange strand to this book that I wasn't sure how to interpret. The book simultaneously glamorizes and warns against women forging their own path. Their gang is forged through an unreal sexual frenzy that of course spells disaster. The Foxfire girls are to be admired, but they are also dangerous. Their gripes against the violence of the men around them are valid, but they are also to blame for their victimization.

It's as though Joyce Carol Oates couldn't decide about feminism: is it good or is it damaging? I wrestled with this question the whole time. And I'll admit that this is colored by the past Oates books I've read, We Were the Mulvaneys and A Fair Maiden, both of which had troubling views of sexual assault and blame. For her, feminism seems to be more a nice jaunt for a teenager or college girl that should be swiftly abandoned in favor of marriage and family. To her, feminism's limit approaches only misandry, so it may be safe to be toyed with but is definitively not safe to adopt long-term. This becomes cartoonishly true toward the end of Foxfire, where all men are declared the enemy and these frenzied women go too far.

Because that's what this is about: WOMEN in a FRENZY who GO TOO FAR. It is not, notably, about the men who sexually assault Rita and Maddy, or attempt to do so; this is seen as morally wrong but somehow expected of men. It is about women who are righteously mad who lose the legitimacy of their anger through their insistence on feminism and communism. Don't these women realize that they can be mad but should eventually just accept their place?

Not recommended. ( )
1 vote sparemethecensor | Jul 3, 2015 |
What do you do if you're a poor girl from a broken home in small town America? Foxfire are a kick ass girl gang from the 1950s - wreaking revenge on the petty perves and sleazy men - until the inevitable come down cold turkey. Written up as a diary, Maddy's recollections of a time of transgression, when a bunch of marginal reject girls somehow managed to take some control, are powerful and intriguing
  otterley | Apr 2, 2014 |
They are poor, living in the wrong side of town, mostly from broken homes. But most of all they are girls, constantly objectified by men – from the groping and yells of the boys their own age to the scary sexuality of the adults. But gathering around the charismatic, unpredictable Legs, five girls form a gang. Not just a group or a club – a Gang, just like the ones the working class guys have. And after Foxfire is formed, there is no stopping them. They are about the get their revenge, on the whole world.

Several people drew parallels between this book and a play I wrote this spring, which made me curious to read it. I find JCO is very much a hit and miss writer for me (the Blondes are few and far between!), so I didn’t really know what to expect. But this high paced YA book was very much a hit, and the comparison to my play is flattering indeed.

Not really plot-driven, OR character driven, this book is instead thrust forward by a form of restless anger. The episodes told seem almost random, gaps are left, ideas flare up and pass. But the picture painted of a small town in America in the fifties, with any amount of dirt hiding just under the surface, and the girls who suddenly refuse to waddle in that dirt, is a punch in the guts of a book, engrossing, fast, intoxicating.

The ending is over the top, perhaps, and rather unlikely, but in it’s context it works. I’m with Legs, Monkey, Boom-Boom and the rest of them to the very end, and am sorry to let go. ( )
  GingerbreadMan | Jul 21, 2013 |
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In Memoriam Marilyn, Rose Ann, Jean, Marian, Goldie, Beatrice --
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Legs Sadovsky leads a girl gang called Foxfire during 1955 in her upstate New York hometown.

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