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The Feminist and the Cowboy reading 'an unlikely love story'

posted on 2023-05-22, 15:34 authored by Pini, B, Whelehan, IM

This chapter focuses on the 2013 memoir The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story written by US author Alisa Valdes. The self-described "feminist" of the title is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of young adult novels, short stories, and contemporary "chick-lit" Valdes' association with chick-lit, and the marketing of the memoir as connected to, but also different from, this genre is evident in the cover design. The picture of a woman's bare legs with bright red toenails is suggestive of the "feminine images that serve as icons of the chick lit genre" (Johnson 2006, 152), but sitting atop these bare legs rests a very masculine and, importantly, rural accessory-a cowboy hat. The raised feet and lower legs suggest a prone and naked woman, either pre- or post-coital. While a key generic feature of chick-lit novels is the cosmopolitan, urban setting, this tale has a rural setting; and the types of socio-cultural norms, values, beliefs, and practices imagined as integral to this setting are explored in this chapter. Chick-lit heroines, as Whelehan (2005, 177), has noted, are faced with the prospect of having it all, courtesy of second wave feminism, and writers such as Valdes, in common with her chick-lit forebears, sees this as a burden rather than a liberation. In this chapter we explore this view of feminism as expressed by Valdes, giving particular focus to the contested relationship between rurality and feminism that she so overtly foregrounds in her book's title.

In examining Valdes' book we build upon a rich body of literature in which feminist rural studies scholars have demonstrated the significance of data sources such as film, documentaries, media reports, online discussion lists, and fiction to understanding the intersections between gender and rurality (e.g., Brandth 1995; Liepins 1998a; Little 2003, 2007; Mayes and Pini utilized significantly in a rural studies context we agree with Gonnan-Murray (2007, 3) that it offers useful insights into "life experiences, everyday lived geographies, and intimate connections between places and identitles." Like Gorman-Murray (2007) we use a combination of context, textual, and discourse analysis to detail Valdes' representation of the relationship between feminism and rurality, where feminism is associated with bloated (feminine) urban liberal ideologies and rurality with nature and traditionalist (masculine) conservatism. It is a relationship Valdes (20l3, 1) charts through a story of what she refers to from the opening page as her "awakening," This awakening results in what she depicts as a shift from a dogmatic, angry, and unhappy feminist single life in the city to a contented, calm, and traditionally feminine partnered life in the country.


Publication title

Feminisms and Ruralities


B Pini, B Brandth and J Little






Lexington Books

Place of publication

United States



Rights statement

Copyright 2015 Lexington Books

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives


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