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No Woman is an Island

The Guardian recently had an article about the Scottish island of Eigg.  I am a sucker for all things island-related; the more remote and bleaker, the better.  I’m not against Bora Bora, but my heart starts pulsing like a homing beacon when I see pictures of underpopulated, craggy settings.  I love grey rocks and I cannot lie.

The article opens:

Small islands are like celebrities: they loom far larger than their actual size, they are pored over by visitor-fans and they become public possessions, laden with reputations and attributes they may or may not embody.


(And it feels pretty damn accurate when I think about my favourite celebrities.  They’re less of the Bora Bora variety; a little more off-the-beaten path and therefore remote, with dark, bleak hearts.)

But there is more:

Fredrik Sjöberg, an author I visited on the tiny Swedish island of Runmarö, believes small islands possess “a peculiar attraction for men with a need for control and security” because “nothing is so enclosed and concrete as an island”.

Ooooh, you had me at control. I loooooooooove being in control.


The literary academic Peter Conrad offers a more Freudian interpretation, suggesting that an island is a “uterine shelter” surrounded, like the foetus, by fluid, and attracting men in search of a mother or a primal source of safety.

Oh. Yuck. You totally had me celebrity swooning and control and then lost me the second you brought fictive pregnancy into it.

Let’s brush that last one under the rug, shall we?

It’s actually a fantastic article about an island community that bought itself, about ownership and freedom.  Our fears about islands and the reality of those spaces.

I think there really are two kinds of people in this world: those drawn to small islands and those who prefer mainland.  In my heart, I’m an islander living on mainland.  What are you?


1 Suzanna Catherine { 10.17.17 at 8:20 am }

I’m an island person, too, currently trapped on the mainland. Back in the late ’40s and early ’50s, my grandparents owned a cottage on an island in Puget Sound. The only access was by ferry boat. Today, in 2017, it’s the same. If you want to visit, you catch the ferry. And that was the phrase back in the day! Nothing was as disappointing to me and my cousins as driving down on the dock and seeing that fat little ferry chugging off without us. Oh well, there’d be another ferry in about 45 minutes.

Count me among the island lovers. As an adult, I lived on Port Royal Island off the South Carolina coast.

2 torthuil { 10.17.17 at 8:41 am }

There are days when I think I could totally live alone on an island….at least for a while…..as long as I could choose when to leave. Never thought of it as a metaphor for a uterus though lol. But Ive never lived on an island so I don’t know if perception matches reality

3 Cristy { 10.17.17 at 8:44 am }

This is an interesting article, as it describes two types of island people. There is those who want to own and have control. Then there are those who want to be outside of society, building their own way of life. I’ve encountered both types, but there’s a third type that wasn’t described here: the ones that want to build community.

Now you’ve got me thinking about the islands in my own life (there are many) and how I exist with them.

4 Mali { 10.17.17 at 7:28 pm }

Interesting that you read the thing about islands attracting men who like control as a positive thing, because you like it too. Whereas I read it and thought, “creepy” because I hate men that want to control everything and everyone. And immediately imagined being stranded on an island with a controlling man. Nightmare territory.

Bora Bora is beautiful, by the way, but I think it’s pretty over-developed now, which really puts me off. I adore the Pacific Islands, because they’re small and remote, but still balmy and warm. Though after our recent trip, I’m rather fond now of wild and remote places too.

As long as I wouldn’t feel stranded there.

(c) 2006 Melissa S. Ford
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