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The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer

From: Jo
Category: Books
Date: 06 July 2005


The Female Eunuch is one long rant divided up in to various subjects, e.g. Work, Puberty, Energy, Soul etc. – some sounding like this might be part of a modern esoteric spirituality. To my surprise the spirit is that of a young angry person (she must have been around 30 when it was first published), I had expected something more mature and measured, a slick and comprehensive look at women and their role in society based on researched fact rather than fearsome opinion and random examples. Ideas are thrown in higgledy-piggledy, and further more much of the anger seems directed at women, as if she were annoyed at being born to this dismal sex, which perhaps she has every right to be when we consider the passive and obsequious role many women choose to play, seemingly unable to help themselves out of their traps. However it is always easy to blame the victim, and particularly abhorrent when it comes to violence, apparently ‘violence has a fascination for most women; they act as spectators at fights, and dig the scenes of bloody violence in films. Women are always precipitating scenes of violence in pubs and dance-halls’. In other words domestic abuse is caused by women’s ‘need for the thrill of violence’, for Germaine however this is not a problem “At various stages in my life I have lived with men of know violence, two of whom had convictions for Grievous Bodily Harm, and in no case was I ever offered any physical aggression , because it was abundantly clear from my attitude that I was not impressed by it”

She adds to this bizarre theory (as if to complete the joke) that ‘if women were to withdraw from the spectatorship of wrestling matches, the industry would collapse’ and suggests that women ‘offer a genuine alternative to the treadmill of violence’, though as often throughout this book she does not state what that alternative might be (especially difficult when you don’t even realise that you admire violence). We’ve heard it before, women who repeatedly end up in domestic violence, look for it in their partner.

There is much to say about the contents of this book, and much that I would like to review. Often Germaine offers the counter-intuitive, perhaps I should say unconventional argument – for example the role of mothers (mother almost becomes an insult in this book) who become the ‘dead heart of the family’, blackmailing their children and husbands through false altruism and retarding the child’s intelligence through too much attention:

‘Mothers who were less nurturant towards daughters during pre-school years had the more academically successful daughters’

It is always best to choose the evidence that suits your case and ignor everything else. This idea of over mothering comes up time and time again, and it is worth considering when one listens to women on Radio 2, June 2005 discuss ‘empty nest syndrome’ and their ‘five o’clock club’ which is necessary to replace their student child. Clearly a lot of us do have ‘assumptions about the importance of their role as bearers and socializers of children’, and Germaine is right to question these and dare mothers to leave their children and partners as an alternative to an ‘atmosphere of suffering’. Children like what they are used to, and are quicker learners than adults. ‘The prejudice against the substitution of any other person or number of persons for the omnipotent mother is very strong indeed’. This is where the problem lies.

Other areas discussed are the myth of the vaginal orgasm, body perception – cosmetics, and woman’s role in the consumer culture, women at work. Much of what is said reminds me that this was written some time ago but these often tend to be superfluous details and antiquated exclamations like ‘hooey’, after all “ if you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your menstrual blood – if it makes you sick, you’ve a long way to go, baby”.

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