Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Robert Dornan's Goodbye American Woman: A Review

Robert Dornan's Goodbye American Woman is a curious example of a North-American anti-feminist backlash. I am co-authoring this post with a guest blogger who was kind enough to recap the content of this book for me.

Guest Blogger:

I picked this book because I got interested in how North American guys perceive Russian culture and people.

I grew up and lived next to Moscow until I moved to the US in 2003, which gives me some grounds to think I know how things truly are in Putinland. Given a delicate subject of this book – Russian women – I hoped to have a good laugh while comparing the content of this book with reality.

I am happy to say my expectations have been exceeded fivefold.

The author starts by introducing two Canadian guys, Bob and Alex, who work as mid-level software engineers in Toronto. Both their professional and personal lives leave much to be desired (i.e., suck): the only source of joy in Bob’s after-divorce life is spending time with his kids. Although Bob (according to his own words) is fairly good-looking with a long string of pretty girlfriends in the past, his present condition (according to his best friend Alex) is termed as “butt-ugly”. Unlike Bob, whose child support payments put a sizable hole in his budget, Alex has managed to escape the dark side of marriage by never having one in the first place. In fact, he appears to be performing better in the dating department, although he complains that it’s not cheap: despite all the equality talk, Canadian women are not eager to split the dinner bill and 99% of the time Alex has to pick it up. It’s a good thing that he can economize by still living at his father’s place. To make it short, both guys seem to be disillusioned in bitchy, pushy, over-demanding, and mercenary women.

Alas, they don’t see any way out: since all the women in North America are like that, what is a nice Canadian guy supposed to do? cross the Atlantic?

Literally enough, crossing the Atlantic turns out to be the solution to all of their problems. The two friends are forced to fly to Moscow, Russia, to fix a few software bugs, and they end up fixing their miserable lives into the bargain. As it turns out, Russian capital is filled with warm, hospitable, fun-loving people who quickly bring back to life the jet-lagged Canadian pilgrims. Russian women prove to be absolutely gorgeous, elegant and feminine creatures who are so much unlike their North American sisters that it’s just breathtaking, period. Most importantly, Russian ladies are smart and sensitive enough to see what great guys Alex and Bob really are, and they have no inhibitions expressing their appreciative feelings to the two gentlemen. After they spend ten days in Moscow, our newly born software engineers return to Toronto, but life is never the same without their Russian girlfriends. Within a few weeks, they fly back to their loved ones and propose. Needless to say, the two ladies are beside themselves with joy and gratitude and can only answer yes. In a few months, all six of them (I forgot to mention that each lady has a fairly grown up kid) would move to Canada to start a new life.

Now, if Alex and Bob strike you as two losers who cannot put two and two together, I agree. The funniest thing is that the book has no lack of information about what is really behind that syrupy fairy-tale. A few other characters in the book supply lots of accurate facts and opinions about what drives the men and women who sign up for that mail-order-bride-like business. However, all of their advice falls on deaf ears: Alex and Bob never stop to wonder why it only takes them a 13-hour flight to Moscow to become marriage material.


It is funny to observe the many forms anti-feminist backlash can take. The author of this book feels uncomfortable in the world where women have claimed for themselves a place of equality and human dignity. He hates the idea that a woman can have thoughts, desires, and opinions of her own. In the inhospitable universe where women have other goals than attracting and satisfying men and men have to learn to treat women as human beings, Dornan turns to the myth that submissive, compliant, doll-like women exist in parts of the world still unspoiled by vicious feminism. The greatest joke of the book is that in his search for such women he goes to Russia, of all places.

Anybody with a modicum of intellect and historical knowledge would realize that Russian-speaking countries have a historical legacy of female empowerment unmatched in the West. Women of my generation (early 30ies) were brought up by mothers and grandmothers almost a 100% of whom worked full-time their entire adult lives. In class, at work, at home, and in the majority of public settings, Russian-speaking women have been dominant (or, I would even say, domineering) for decades. This, of course, came at the price of complete sexual disempowerment and repression for women.

This is why it is so hilarious that anybody would be so deluded as to search for a sexy submissive doll in a Russian-speaking country. If anything, the pathetic mail-order bride seekers find the exact opposite.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very stupid book. I wouldn't waste time reading it.

Clarissa said...

I applaud your wise decision! :-)

Anonymous said...

I wonder what made you wanna read something like this. :)))))))

The review actually made me curious to check it out.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like a very stupid book.


So what? Dumb and Dumber is a dumb movie about two dumb people, but I enjoyed it also. As I said, my goal was to have a laugh. The same applie to another great American comedy, "24".

Guest Blogger

Izgad said...

The early modern Russia that I know about from my reading was somewhere along the lines of the Taliban in terms of cloistering their women.

Clarissa said...

Something like that did exist in early modern Russia, you are right. It was never as extreme as the Taliban, but in that general direction.

The revolution and the communist repressions, though, changed things pretty dramatically.