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Nancy Lee

January 12, 2013  10:27am

Fantine's plight is exactly the same as that of many women today. I serve in a ministry to women who work in our city's sex industry, and Fantine's story is their story. Many of them are not there by any kind of free choice -- overwhelmingly, they have abuse in their pasts, do not have a diploma, and they are working there only because it's the sole way to earn enough money to support their children. They, too, have been abandoned by their kids' fathers. This isn't a misogynistic film -- rather it is one that tells the truth, and honors women who have very few choices open to them. That is the crime -- the lack of choices that lands women in the sex industry in the first place. I'd like to see more conversation among feminists about how to help our sisters who find themselves in that situation, and more focus on prevention.

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Missy Indeedy

January 11, 2013  12:32pm

Laura, this line here resonated with why so many modern-day feminists that I know are balking at this film's supposed message: "But acknowledging former cultural realities is entirely different from writing with a misogynistic agenda.". It's a shame that so many are unable to separate the two. This was a fantastic piece on Les Mis and I, for one, hope it reminds us all that there is hope - even in the bleakest of circumstances. And even if that hope doesn't manifest itself fully until we've left this earth.

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Christian Lawyer

January 11, 2013  6:48am

Fantine and Valjean are parallel characters. Both are strong. Both are willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their family. Both sacrificed. Both need rescue. Both receive unexpected grace from one who could have judged them harshly. Valjean's grace was a second chance. Fantine's was knowing Cosette would be saved. Her death, though, isn't a misogynistic sacrifice, or to show women are doomed without good men. Fantine's death, and Javert's arrest of the wrong man, teach Valjean that his grace was meant for more than his own salvation. His indifference to his foreman's predations had led to Fantine's death. Indifference to the prisoner would let him rot in jail. Valjean realized his grace demanded to be multiplied. So, he risked freedom to save the prisoner and God gave him a third chance. He rescued Cosette and, with strength and tenderness, he, like Fantine, became both father and mother to her, and then to Marius. And grace would lead them both home.

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Grady Walton

January 10, 2013  5:18pm

"Making poop jokes?" Ah, well, such is the reputation of my gender. Anyhow, I loved this article. Les Mis demonstrates how much Satan hates God's creation, of both genders. It's tragic that men have been abandoning their social contract with women since that unfortunate event in the Garden.

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Marshall Shelley

January 10, 2013  1:50pm

Well put, Laura. Well put.

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Hannah Anderson

January 10, 2013  10:07am

I agree Tim. The wonder of Les Mis is how perfectly is captures the human experience, regardless of class, gender, or century. Some may believe that Hugo's portrayal of women is misogynistic, but to me it reads as an accurate rendering of how necessary both women AND men are to human flourishing. Fantine found herself in a desperate situation because men failed to hold up their end of the social contract. Her lover shouldn't have abandoned his child and the foreman shouldn't have unjustly dismissed her because she wouldn't capitulate to his desires. The issue isn't that Hugo believed that she wasn't equal to men--she is a very strong character--but that men were not acting responsibly within society. So when Valjean steps in, he is not "rescuing" her in a pejorative sense, but fulfilling the roles that her lover and the foreman should have. He is a foil to them, not her.

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Gina Dalfonzo

January 09, 2013  6:33pm

That was a wonderful piece, Laura. Very true and very moving.

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Tim Fall

January 09, 2013  5:58pm

The title suggests that Les Mis reveals something about modern women. I think your excellent article, Laura, shows that what Hugo's story reveals is that modern women are the same as women have always been. The same could be said about modern men. We're not all that different today from the way people were centuries ago. Ecclesiastes 1:9 comes to mind - "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." Cheers, Tim P.S. Not a fan of this new format. I found a bunch of great blogs that I now subscribe to by clicking on the commenters' names, and some of those bloggers have become my blog world friends. Can we please go back to being able to link?


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