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BOOK REVIEW GERMAINE GREER THE FEMALE EUNUCH 1971 Flamingo Press.

 

An explosive feminist textbook examining the appalling oppressive conditions faced by women in the family and the workplace in the late 20th century, a situation largely unchanged today.

 

Too many women mistake security for love, marrying for money and the protection that having a man in the house affords at night. Love itself is all too often reduced to a commodity and a controlling factor in life. Greer cites many examples from classical literature, Shakespeare and modern Catherine Cookson style romances of women using their charms to capture a man, and gain his financial or physical protection. Relationships in books and in life are largely rooted in conditional criteria, governed by control factors and possessive power struggles. Beautiful girls become status symbols for men to show off to their friends.

 

To Greer, many women readily accept their seemingly apparent status as weaker, and somehow uglier than the male. Men expect their women to be glamorous while they themselves have potbellies and receding hairlines, and bad habits.

 

The Female Eunuch was written as women gained stronger roles in the workplace but not an equal wage to their male worker a struggle that still goes on.

 

Greer is critical of the bitchiness of many women, who sometimes slap down their men in the presence of other women to help show their power and help keep their men from flirting with other girls. Women who attain strong business positions will often become masculine in attitude, and sometimes block career progress for other women even more than the men already in such positions. To Greer, the biggest threat to feminism is that women are becoming more like the men who have ill-treated and suppressed them for so long. Women who are turned on by male aggression and machismo wanting men to fight for their affections, disgusts her. She believes that much violence and warfare would be curtailed if women developed a stronger distaste for such behaviour.

 

Greer has nothing but contempt for the vanity of buying the most expensive cosmetics and clothes, when many are little more than branded products that are no more effective than the cheaper substitutes. She rightly despises the claims that every blemish, wrinkle and spot needs to be buried under creams and the quack claims of miracle cures for ageing and skin decay that people, and especially women, should accept naturally.

 

Greer believes that the more radical feminists have failed. The extreme exploits of groups like SCUM (The Society For Cutting Up Men) and the feminist shooting of Andy Warhol, have largely served to bring the (predominantly male) authorities down on the extremists and have largely pushed the more revolutionary minded feminists underground, and rendered them ineffective.

 

Not surprisingly, many men regarded the book as a threat, and as a male reader I found myself feeling some guilt in reading it. Some women became quite hostile toothier partners on reading the book, and it led to some divorce proceedings.

 

The book is far from dated. It reads as relevantly now as ever, it is only flawed in having many boxed in quotations permeating and fragmenting the text at random intervals. Though interesting in themselves, the quotes do not relate directly to any given section of the text, and would better serve as chapter epigrams. The importance of the text however is inescapable.

 

Greer wrote a sequel, The Whole Woman, in 1999.

 

Copyright. Arthur Chappell

                                   

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