Study Guide

Nation Women & Femininity

By Terry Pratchett

Women & Femininity

[Mau] didn't know how to make a ghost bag. That was a woman's task. (2.147)

We learn early on that Mau's people see certain things as men's duties and others as women's duties. That's right: Daphne's crash-landed on the set of Mad Men. Only with fewer pants and girdles.

At the [Women's] Place, the gardens of the women grew the things that made the living enjoyable, possible, and longer. (3.29)

The men grow food; the women grow medicine, herbs and spices. Also, "possible" is a key word here, as without women, none of us would be here. (But that's true of men, too: the world needs both, folks!)

[Daphne's] grandmother had said that a lady should never lift anything heavier than a parasol. (3.63)

Is a globe heavier than a parasol? Daphne's grandmother should pick one of those up and learn that the world doesn't revolve around her.

[Daphne] was not taught anything that could possibly be of any practical use whatsoever. (3.65)

Daphne often frets that her skill set doesn't mesh well with island living. Practicality all depends on context. Starting a fire from sticks and flint would seriously not be practical in British polite society. In fact, it might get you into some pretty hot water—and not the kind used to make tea.

Who'd want a pony when you could have the whole universe? (4.10)

Daphne eschews the typical gender norms, wanting a telescope instead of a pony. Would Marie Curie have discovered whatever she discovered if she had played with My Little Pony—or do the toys you play with as a kid even matter?

The secret [to invisibility] was to wear ribbons in your hair and skip everywhere. (4.25)

If Harry Potter knew this, he wouldn't have needed that invisibility cloak. (And we'd love to see Daniel Radcliffe in pigtails.) But seriously, what Daphne means here is that everyone overlooks girls. Turns out, they probably shouldn't.

Sewing, provided you weren't doing it to make something useful, was one of the few things a girl "who was going to be a lady one day" was allowed to do, at least according to [Daphne's] grandmother. (4.27)

People are still taught "impractical" skills today, but as we said above, it all depends on the context. Martha Stewart makes millions of dollars with decoupage, but she might not be able to build a hut out of palm fronds. (Okay. She probably would be able to.)

[Girls] magically knew things, like how to hold babies the right way up and how to go 'Ooozeewididwidwden?' without the baby screaming until its little face went blue. (5.122)

You might think this is just a funny thought of Mau's, but here's the real funny thing: Daphne does magically know things. The Woman's Place speaks to her. Perhaps it's just instinct, but it could be magic too. Lady magic.

It seemed to Daphne that the men thought all women spoke the same language. (6.57)

Here's another funny thing: women kind of do speak the same language, at least in this book. They all talk about babies and getting married, and healing people, and apparently you don't need to speak the same language to birth a baby.

From the Woman's Place, everything was a matter of perspective. (15.306)

Many things in this novel are about perspective: us and them, men and woman, and child and adult. Is Nation suggesting that women are particularly good at having perspective? Or is this a lesson that the men in the novel need to learn, too?