Greek-Canadian journalist Justine Frangouli-Argyris knows how to weave a story, entwining it with the fabric that lets readers leap over cultural walls and embrace different experiences. Her meta-feminist novel “High Heels for Six” is no exception as it chronicles the friendship of six schoolgirls reunited after twenty years of separation. The novel is semi-autobiographical, drawing from her own memories of a tragedy that saw one of her friends and her mother leave the island of Lefkada.
The book traces the links between the two, binding their development with the ropes of tradition and the restraints of a desirable pair of high heels. Here’s what the Huffington Post blogger and prolific author told Proto Thema about meta-feminism on the occasion of International Women’s Day (March 8). (Scroll down for a sample).
Which real-life tragedy is the book inspired by?
“The book is inspired by the tragic suicide of the father of one of our schoolmates from Lefkada. We woke up one morning to the the news that Telemachus Papaminas (not his real name but the one used in the book) had stabbed himself in the bathtub. He was found drowned in a pool of blood by his young and only daughter. Our island was plunged into a ‘redness’ of the blood of this great man, our memories stained forever. Immediately afterwards, our classmate and her mother left the island.”
How much of your own personal story as a Greek woman living in Canada is depicted in the book?
“My personal experience as a Greek woman who emigrated to Canada is described in the novel through the evolution of Julia’s story. All my novels are set in an experiential canvas because, for me, a novel is the “literaturization” of real life.”
What is the difference between a Greek, a Canadian and a Greek-Canadian woman?
“The Greek woman rests firmly on her feet, she is openhearted, hospitable and spontaneous. The Canadian woman’s character depends on whether her origin is English or French. The Anglo-Canadian woman is hardworking, detached and somewhat distant. The Franco-Canadian is warmer and more generous but tends to keep to her own family. The Greek-Canadian woman has been defined by her efforts of trying to belong to the Canadian society but she finds herself in a defensive position as she is trying to be a part of both the Canadian and Greek social fabric simultaneously.”
Have you known real friendship as described in the novel and how close are you to the women you write about?
“I was blessed to grow up on the small island of Lefkada where I was able to make close friends from school in my early childhood. With these friends, I still walk, side by side, in both joyous and difficult moments. I must say, that in the course of my professional life, I met other girlfriends whom I also hold close to my heart today. My immigration to Canada made me appreciate the value of friendship and people. After my family, my girlfriends are the greatest investment in my life.”
How do you think that twentieth-century feminism has failed to liberate women’s desires?
“Feminism was a highly aggressive movement that gave many conquests to women but left them unprotected in the new era. I think that feminism has brought partial equality to women but without the backing of a psychological and social support net. So, now, the contemporary woman is trapped in a reality that has filled her life with obligation, not liberation. The traditional standards of marriage, children and family have remained constant but the modern woman now has the added responsibilities and extra hours of work.”
The book is billed as a “meta-feminist” novel and yet it is also about migration. How is feminism filtered through the theme of migration?
“The book is a post-feminist novel from the point of view that women are now trapped in this reality. They feel that since they have gained a place in the work force and in society they must also become beautiful objects of desire by way of the cosmetic and fashion industries.
Feminism for the Greek immigrant woman had a very strong influence on migration as she came from the villages of Greece where she was isolated in the historical role of wife and mother to an industrial society where she opened up to the many work opportunities.”
How have you experienced the themes of feminism and migration in your own life as a Greek-Canadian?
“Feminism in Montreal’s Greek community never took on the form of a movement. Equality at work came as a natural evolution of life in a new place that she came to in order to strive for a better life. Many women in the Greek communities in Canada are strong feminist models given their achievements in both the professional and social spaces.”
One last question, just to enlighten me. What’s the difference between post-feminism and meta-feminism?
“I will answer you by quoting Wikipedia:
Post-feminism is a reaction against some perceived contradictions and absences of second-wave feminism. The term post-feminism is ill-defined and is used in inconsistent ways. It was historically used to pose a contrast with a prevailing or preceding feminism.
Meta-feminism is the era in which women have become the equal of men in the historically masculine field of sexual opportunism.
So, meta-feminism is even beyond post-feminism in the sense that women not only feel liberated and desirable but engage in sex by male rules.”
About Justine Frangoulis-Argyri
Justine Frangouli-Argyris was born on the Greek island of Lefkada and graduated from the University of Athens Law School’s Political Science Department. A member of the Journalists’ Union of the Athens Daily Newspapers (ESIEA) she has worked for major radio stations in Greece as well as Greek state television. Since 1989 she has been living and working in Montreal, Canada, and is a correspondent for the Athens News Agency (ANA) and a series of major newspapers. In Canada, she is active in the local Greek-Canadian community and also contributes to various publications. Her weekly articles about Canada and Greece are enjoyed by Huffington Post readers.
The Lonely Path of Integrity (Exandas Publishers, Athens 2002)
Shopping Around the World: Unbeatable Bargains and Bite-Sized Stories (Ellinika Grammata, 2004)
The Legacy (Ellinika Grammata, 2005)
High Heels for Six (2006, also on Amazon Kindle since 2013, reprinted by Armos Publications in 2013)
Havana Diaries (2008)
For the Love of Others (Psichogios 2009)
Love in the Fog (Psichogios, 2011)
Pol and Lara are traveling (Children’s book, Psichogios, 2011)
To visit her blog CLICK HERE