Female Eunuch

Germaine Greer and her book ‘The Female Eunuch’ created quite a stir 40 years ago when it was published. BBC ‘Women’s Hour ‘ have just broadcast a slot on it and a several recent articles have been published. For example

This link.

I must admit I have never yet read it. Though it is on the list.

Any thoughts on the changes we have seen in women’s lives over the last 40 years?

Author: Sarah

No time to lose. No, time to lose. Make time to stand and stare.... Did you see that?

78 thoughts on “Female Eunuch”

  1. I never wanted to read The Female Eunuch, since I never had a great opinion of Germaine Greer. Now that it’s forty years out of date, I have even less desire to read it.

  2. Hi Pseu, I have not read it either. I remember when it came out, I was only a kid, but was horrified by the cover illustration. This from Wiki:
    “Greer argued that women should get to know and come to accept their own bodies, taste their own menstrual blood, and give up celibacy and monogamy.”

    I cant imagine such exhortations have done anything to benefit anybody. Personally I think society would have been better off with out her. But perhaps I would say that.

    I did quite enjoy “The Women’s Room” by Marilyn French, despite her assertion that “all men are rapists”. I read that when I was at sea – physically and metaphorically.

  3. I’m doing something wrong when I try to post a link in post. I’ll ask Techie advisor when he’s home. In the meantime the link is live above.

  4. The book started the ball rolling for women’s lib in UK, though from the excerpts I have read, in a rather distasteful way. (Thank you for your quotes, Sipu.)

    But life for women has changed dramatically in the last 40 years.

    Or has it?

  5. Germaine Greer, wasn’t she the tall, scraggy colonial female that used to be famous and played about a bit on the ‘Kenny Everitt show’? Never did a lot for me personally, I’m sure the feeling would be mutual if she knew of me.

  6. I think Ferrets video says it all; when Germaine came on the scene, and lets not forget that was in the hippy/counterrevolutionary days, women needed a good shake up and encouragement to find a voice in a male dominated world.
    Sadly for Germaine, not that much has changed, including her approach to social comment.
    But as we say down here, she is not a bad old stick.

  7. Pseu, (forgive me) if women in the UK would rather not have their car door opened, their partner not go to the bar and order drinks, kill insects, pay for dinner, invite them out on a date, ensure that they get home safely, etc. I can live with that.

    It just disappoints me no end.

    The day that any of my daughters suitors treat her with the sort of disrespect that you highlighted here will be the day.

  8. The common misconception about feminism is that manners are out of the window, and equality between sexes means we should treat each other the same.
    This won’t and cannot happen. Ladies should be ladies and men should be gentlemen.
    But the achievement of feminism should be that women are given equal rights and opportunities. If you look at CEOs positions for instance, the picture tells us that this is still not happening. And lets mention what women have to endure in third world countries.
    Also I reckon that some lesbians have done the movement enormous damage, all this man hating stuff is rather counterproductive.
    So on many fronts this issue is still being fought and far from over.

  9. Pseu :

    >But life for women has changed dramatically in the last 40 years.

    Not if you have to dress in a black bin liner, it hasn’t. Or in most poor countries. Or for the worse for working class women where ‘equality’ just means lack of respect. (Dis I hear someone mentin the Law of unintended consequences?)

    Greer is a rancid, miserable sod who’s caused no end of damage to the cause of equal treatment for women.

  10. Soutie :

    Pseu, (forgive me) if women in the UK would rather not have their car door opened, their partner not go to the bar and order drinks, kill insects, pay for dinner, invite them out on a date, ensure that they get home safely, etc. I can live with that.

    It just disappoints me no end.

    The day that any of my daughters suitors treat her with the sort of disrespect that you highlighted here will be the day.

    In fact I haven’t given any opinion about women’s lib here.

    Rainer, a lot of sense you speak there.

  11. I feel I should read the book, but can feel it will incense me. Thank you for your thoughts Bravo

    I feel the key to “women’s” rights is mutual respect between the sexes, accepting that women are different to men and that each should have equal opportunity.

  12. Maybe I misread you Soutie, but just to clarify, no-where did I say anything about what women in the UK want.
    Personally I rather enjoy being ‘looked after’ in the way that you outline, though some men would then say,
    “You can’t have it both ways.”

  13. Pseu :

    I feel the key to “women’s” rights is mutual respect between the sexes, accepting that women are different to men and that each should have equal opportunity.

    Sot on, Pseu. Three tests for a real man, the car door, the door to the pub, and the table test 🙂

  14. Sorry Pseu, perhaps the fact that you are in the UK, quoted a text from the BBC and then mentioned that “life for women has changed dramatically in the last 40 years.” made me think that you were referring to women in the UK.

    Sorry if I got the wrong end of the stick.
    😦

  15. I haven’t read the book, Nym, but I have seen enough of Ms Greer to believe that sometimes she was somewhat strident. She has, I believe, moderated her views over time.

    Women’s Lib went much too far, in my opinion, both sexes suffer from this. I agree with you, men and women are different and that should be a strength.

    I have no wish to return to the dark ages, but it was rather better somehow when the sexes had defined roles.

  16. I have just pulled my copy of another of her books, The Whole Woman, Doubleday 1999. from my shelves.
    In this she trashes The Female Eunuch thoroughly.

    It is a great pity the bloody woman couldn’t make up her mind the first time round in my opinion! Considering the dubious sexuality of the feminists of the time, eg Gloria Steinem and her merry band of lesbians, I believe they ‘sold a pup’ to the average intellect, gullible females of the time, both sides of the Atlantic.

    As to changes of the last forty years? Most women seem to be working harder, have less leisure time yet still bear the burden of most of the housework and child rearing. They ‘bought the pup’ and it grew into a very unfortunate copy of Cerebus!

    Not personally my scene! I never bought into such feminist crap and cheerfully paddled my own canoe in whichever direction suited me, net result I have had a fortunate existence where I could afford domestic staff when I chose to work. I got to choose, so many didn’t, that is the consequence of following the herd and not thinking for yourself. The cosy feeling of being part of a conforming group is the price you pay. In my estimation, the position of women in today’s society is worse than that of their mothers and it is their own fault.

    PS I always buy these kind of books, they are a source of great ironic laughter to me and I do like to know what makes my ‘protagonists’ in society tick!
    I also read the original, I considered it seminal to the genre.
    Far too many people take stances on things/situations/politics merely because their peer group appears to think it is a ‘good thing’. Very dubious mental processes in my book!

  17. Dearest bravo!
    Those are not HUSBAND tests!
    They are conducted in the first three dates or so.
    Fail ANY and one moves on!!

    MARRY them? Not on your nellie!

  18. Pseu, I was only thinking today about an amazing passage from the Female Enuch that sent shivers down my spine when I first read it at uni. It gives Virginia Wolf and Wollstonecraft a run for their money, beats Fay Weldon, Dworkin, Naomi Wolf and Paglia hands down, and should be required reading for every 16-year-old bulemic, every twentysonething fan of Cosmopolitan/Sex and the City, and every die hard thirtysomething addict of Grazia and Desperate Housewives…

    ‘Maybe I couldn’t make it. Maybe I don’t have a pretty smile, good teeth, nice tits, long legs, a cheeky ass, a sexy voice. Maybe I don’t know how to handle men and increase my market value, so that the rewards due to the feminine will accrue to me. Then again, maybe I’m sick of the masquerade. I’m sick of pretending eternal youth. I’m sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. I’m sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything I see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs; I’m sick of weighting my head with a dead mane, unable to move my neck freely, terrified of rain, of wind, of dancing too vigorously in case I sweat into my lacquered curls.I’m sick of pretending that some fatuous male’s self-important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention, I’m sick of going to films and plays when someone else wants to, and sick of having no opinions of my own about either. I’m sick of being a transvestite. I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate.’

    Like The Beauty Myth, this book was something of a wake up call for me. But it hasn’t cured me of compulsive Desperate Housewives viewing, nor my lifelong addiction to lipgloss 🙂

  19. Christina! You sound like you may have spent far too long in the dubious company of The Rules… 🙂

  20. Yes, that’s a goodie, Claire. I’m glad to see a challenge to the Osbornian orthodoxy here. 🙂

    Feminism was badly needed, imho … and probably still is. But not in its more doctrinaire or anti-male guises. We’re all human.

  21. Hey Brendano; thanks…I was meant to be doing a blog about the Beauty Myth, actually.
    I sound like a bit of a strident feminist in my first quote; I’m not, honest guv!
    I’m not in favour of the rape reform law lot, for example, and I agree with some of what Christina has said, namely that the far fetched notion of Having It All merely equates to Doing it All, for most women. I spent a blissful, if stir crazed year on maternity leave, attending baby groups and making apple pies (again) and loved it. And, like most of my working-mum friends, I would jack in the job tomorrow if there were money and security to do it, but alas, the world’s just not like that. I love that quote from OZ,I think, who said recently that, in a world without men, there may be less wars, but there sure as hell would be a lot of intense discussions once a month…
    I think feminism in its most strident, bra burning form has probably had its day in WEstern society at least. But it’s worthwhile hearkening back to those bra burning revolutionaries every now and again to cut through some of the crap force fed to women through advertising and the media, and to remind us again that we do have choices.
    But thanks for your insight as well 😉

  22. Claire, I never followed any rules, but then I never ended up in Blackburn either!

  23. I’m just glad to have lived through the whole thing and survived. For a while back then, I had to make an instant value judgement about every woman who crossed my path based on various factors including age, style of dress, location and context.

    If I stood back to let her go first or held a door open for her, would I be thanked for my courtesy or scowled at for attempting to impose my stereotypically-male and patriarchal values on her free spirit? I got quite good at picking the right option, to be fair.

    These days, it’s so much easier. I get away with the courtesy bit every time, which is a good thing as it’s the mode that I am comfortable in. This could, of course, be because all that the women see is a sad old fart who is obviously about to drop off the twig and who can be humoured during the short time that he has left to clutter up the planet.

    I prefer to think that it is because there has been a sea change in our society in the past four decades and that most women are completely sure in and of themselves. No longer do they feel the need to burn their bras. Equally, no longer would they feel guilty about buying a Wonder bra if they wanted to. They do not do things to please men. They do them to please themselves and because they can, as far as I can see.

    Healthy, in my opinion. And GG played her part in that. Can’t help liking her style – I fancied her something rotten in her (and my) time, by the way.

  24. Pseu; thanks hon. That quote is one that will stay with me forever, along with Naomi Wolf’s rather more recent assertion; ‘Virginia Woolf asked what women would do if they had a room of their own. Sex and the City has the answer they’d f*ck a lot.’
    Christina; nope, can’t see you following any Rules either, somehow, a very laudable thing too! But hey; I’m not entirely sure you could say I’d truly ‘ended up’ in Blackburn, not just yet anyway, according to that thirtysomething navel of mine… 😉
    John; what can I say?! You sound like you got the balance right all along, hon! And like Pseu I am definitely not averse to having the odd door opened every now and again … 😉

  25. Not averse, Claire, tut tut, I agree with Tina here. It is a basic requirement; it is simply good manners. I’m probably a dinosaur though! 🙂 Mr Mackie and I would get on well.

  26. I read the Female Eunuch as a teenager and was aghast. As says, women have no idea how much men hate them. i think that is still still true, And equally shocking. I am deeply suspicious and wary of women who dismiss feminism. My mother has been an example to me of how women have struggled against the odds, and anyone who poopooos the feminist movement and pretends theat the best womnen will rise to the top anyway needs their head examined. I am a feminist, and the daughter of a feminist and proud of it. But there is still a very long way to go. And Claire, DHW is not the way!!!
    Instead try Mysogonies by Joan sorry-can’t-recall-her-surname

  27. There’s a book on my shelf called Irish Feminist Review 1984. In it there’s a photo that shows my wife (then my girlfriend) at the front of a march in Dublin, holding with other women a large banner that reads ‘Post-Referendum Solidarity March’. There was a major need for a feminist movement in Ireland at the time as the forces of Catholic reaction, alarmed by what they saw as a new spirit of freedom and openness, were trying to impel us backwards into the Middle Ages (which in some respects had only just ended).

    I was proud of her then and I still am now, as she has never lost her principles, her common sense or her sense of humour … or her stubborn intolerance of medieval garbage.

    My daughter’s generation owe a great deal to at least some of their mothers.

  28. Hello Ara! They not put you back yet? Grr…
    But I should probably clarify this one. Doors? Yes! Paying for drinks/meals? Yes! Earning pennies while I spend them at the Clinique counter? Yes,yes… oh, yes! (Telling me to shut it and stop thinking I’m in when Harry Met Sally..? Oh, alright then. 😉

  29. ISobel; well said! I was beginning to feel accused of being out on a rather unshaven limb…
    What is DHW btw?! 😉

  30. I never read the Female Eunuch. A friend suggested that I read it, and after he’d described what it was about I said ‘Why should I waste my time reading what I already know?’.

    I agree with Christina, the Woman’s Lib movement sold women a ‘Myth’ every bit as bad as the one from which they were trying to escape. I have no doubt that equality under the law, equal pay and laws against discrimination on grounds of gender would have come about without Ms Greer and her harridan crew of followers. In my opinion, she made the fatal mistake of ‘fighting’ men on their ground – and this has actually led to many women ending up with the worst of both worlds.

    I find the quote from Greer’s book (#24) to be one of the saddest statements of victimhood that I’ve ever read. So she was tired of all that… who forced her to pick up all that rubbish? No-one – and plenty of women didn’t. So many of those who jumped on the ‘bandwagon’ of Women’s Lib fell into the reverse trap of believing that they could only be ‘free’ if they walked around like a bundle of washing done up ugly.

    Well, I revelled in looking at the world through my false eyelashes, I loved dressing up and making the best of what I’d been given, I thoroughly enjoyed being treated with courtesy and good manners, and no one ever mistook me for an ‘unliberated’ woman. It was, and still is, called ‘self-respect’.

  31. Hello Claire: no, I haven’t been re-instated, but yes double Grr!
    Men do have their uses and I don’t think there is much point in asking them to get in touch with their “feminine side”.

    Yes, by all means move towards a common ground here but I think it has all gone a bit too far, is my opinion. They are generally, but not always, useless when it comes to housework, and we are so much better at fixing cars! 😉

  32. Men hate women?
    Come come!
    Plenty of humanity are totally ‘hateable’, both men and women, utter sexist nonsense.
    How can anyone swallow such patent rubbish?

    I personally dodge women on the whole I find most of them unutterably silly and tedious and have thought most of them a prime excuse for men to be homosexual, can’t say I blame them!
    Nothing I ever read here makes me want to change my mind!
    Must be greenhouse time, get more sense out of vegetables!!!

  33. Claire, I think there is quite a dangerous and misogynistic complacency abroad.
    Feminism is not abou false eyelashes, looking attractive or anything like that. It is about women, all women, having equal rights, equal opportunities and equal respect and boy(!), there is till a long long way to go. Look at ladettes, and see how they conform to a sexist view of society. It is definitely not about women behaving like me. Heaven forbid. Too tired to continue. Only wish that Aged Parent was still up to articulating the arguments…

  34. Sorry. Just raed rainer no11 amd agree. And Pseu I do not understand what you mean. Can’t have respect and politeness and courtesey? Why not? Are you discourteous to men? If so, ask yourself why. I can’t see it has anything to do with feminism. Interesting how feminist attitudes have been equated with lesbianism. A subtle or not so subtle way of saying ‘real’ ie straight, women don’t need feminism. Bollocks. I’m straight and a feminist and I dislike my sexuality being brought into it when I speak my mind.

  35. Isobel.

    I come from a long line of women who knew exactly who they were, what they wanted and had been brought up with an ‘I can’ attitude. It horrified me, as a teenager, to meet so many women of my mother’s age and younger who were happy with their ‘second-place’ role and, in fact, didn’t want any thing different. They didn’t want ‘freedom’ and didn’t understand why anyone else should have what they didn’t want. In my view, they were more of a stumbling block to women’s rights than many men.

    The ‘ladettes’, as you call them, are entitled to conform to whatever standards they want, and if conforming to a ‘sexist view’ of society is what makes them happy, who are we to condemn them? We can smile, we can shake our heads sadly – but it is their choice. And, I don’t believe that we have the right to make them live their lives as we think they should, any more than those friends of my mother had the right to deny us what we wanted simply because they saw no value in it.

  36. Boa; that’s great if you are strong and independent enough to dismiss it…but frankly, I think that it is a fallacy to brand it a mere expression of victimhood. It sounds a cliche, but you don’t need to even look at statistics for anorexia and other eating disorders, you just have to walk into any ordinary state secondary school in Britain, or any office, or any one of the numerous nail bars or beauty salons on the high street, or any French lycee full of chain smoking stick thin beauties, to see the insidious and undermining effects of the beauty myth are as alive today as they ever were.
    I love my make up as well, but I’m not sure it’s as much a mark of healthy self respect, as…I don’t know, low self esteem. And I think that Germaine Greer, along with Wolf’s Beauty Myth, has never been more poigant as an antidote to today’s air brushed, celebrity ridden, perfection obsessed society.

  37. Isobel; God, how long is it since I heard someone admit openly to being a feminist! Bienvenue, ma chere! I think I’m beginning to understand the plight and the secrecy of the Masons… 😉
    I agree, with every word you say, as it happens. I’ve spent my whole life playing the system – because it’s the only one there is. Victimhood again, I suppose. But it can be fun as well. 😉

  38. Oh! Do not get me totally wrong Claire!

    I’m all for the information being out there, and for trying to do something about way the ‘fashionable body shape’ is positively dangerous and life-threatening. The problem, as I see it, is that such books and information are only read by those who are already at least part-way ‘converted’. No one is going to convince people with only half a brain that they shouldn’t try to look like a matchstick scraped thin if the ‘celebrity’ world doesn’t start changing its image.

  39. My number 45 should be ‘behaving like men’ not ‘me’.
    I see no contradiction between being feminine and being feminist. How could there be?
    Now must get to bed.
    “!
    last comment by Cat (neutered male,unreconstructed)

  40. Oh, sorry Boa then! I do believe these books are something of a clarion call. I read the Beauty Myth at the age of 19, and was hooked. It could have been written for/ about me; it totally turned my perceptions around and for that I will always be grateful. It looks at beauty in the media from an entirely logical, objective standpoint, as well as an internal, intensely personal angle, and demonstrates how the damage is universal – without getting into the muddy waters of strange conspiracy/anti men debates. It is much more positive than Greer, though, concluding that we can wear lipstick or dungarees or whatever without comprimising our integrity. My mum says, ‘Well you’re thin. Get a grip.’ I can, because I’m 32, not 22. But it was, and still is for me, a personal journey.
    Navel gazing again, I guess 😉

  41. Interesting discussion.

    I don’t think “we” have achieved something good. I don’t see it only from women’s perspective. Not only beacuse of feminism, but after decades, family is deeply damaged, so is society. We don’t have families we have individuals. And I very much doubt happier than before. It seems to me we have more liberated but far less happy individuals.

  42. Hi Levent…
    You are right to say that individualism has taken precedence, and women’s rights are a part of this. In the past, the interests of the individual were suppressed in order to accommodate the greater good of the family, and society at large.
    I think that individualism does have to give way to an extent when it comes to family life. But I think there has to be a balance, because family life and society can become just as damaged when individual needs are repressed.

  43. Hello Claire,

    In my opinion (loud emphasis), if one believes his/her life is limited to this one, individualism is inevitable. This is the only way it makes sense. You know, limited time, lots to do, lots to enjoy…
    Every kind of norms, morals, including family values are merely useless restrictions.

  44. Levent: Well in my opinion (Louder emphasis), that depends on how you view the nature of happiness, luv 😉
    Yes, can I borrow that flower for my hair? And are you going to San Francisco? 😉

  45. Very good point! Of all the views I can think of, I end up at the same point, though. I will think about it. Thank you. Or maybe you can point it?

    Flower? Sure! We share everything, right? 🙂 I’m just IMAGINing going to San Francisco with my long hair. 🙂

  46. I have to say, that disliking other women is something I grew out of long ago. I like men, but I must say, that as I grow older, I have learnt to value my friendships with women too.

  47. Ah San Fran…brings back memories. My husband (then boyfriend of two months) took me there, all expenses paid in 2003.. I reminded him of that last week, and he said, ‘Hmph. And I’ve been payin’ ever since as well!’
    Where have all the flowers gone…?!

  48. Two chats I had:

    We were talking about the divorce of a friend, with my best buddies. And the rows they had about sharing the house etc. All my buddies agreed, in such a case, man should leave only with his jacket. Then it came to this “on her own feet girl” thing. I said if we men were real men, parents wouldn’t need to worry about their daughters and few people would be thinking about this own feet girl thing. No real men, no real women. They turned into each other.

    We were talking about our moms’ generation and ours. Most of our moms are house women, and most of our generation are working women. Moms’ generation seems more happy and content, they achieved their goal, establishing a family (which can only be done by women) and rasing children. For our generation seem to be chasing the carrot and definitely less happy.

  49. Levent; interesting point…my mum worked through raising my sisters and I, but she was a rarity, since all the others in the neighbourhood did not. But then it does have its up side. Sometimes when I get to work, it’s like an oasis of normality because I just get to focus on one thing, instead of multi tasking left right and centre. I get to actually sit, and have coffee, at precisely 10.30 am, without anyone screaming, fighting, crapping themselves or wiping their noses on me. BLiss! 😉
    Sorry; forgive me for rambling; should have gone to bed ages ago.

  50. This was an interesting discussion, thank you ladies! But I found Miss Osborne’s and Boadicea’s input the most valuable. But to ask these two one question, isn’t your own strength and determination something that perhaps your upbringing has installed in you? And then, if that’s the case, wouldn’t you admit that not too many women had this fortunate encouragement and therefore needed the feminism movement. Bit like a union for downtrodden females, wouldn’t you think.
    Thank you Isobelandcat, for I really liked what you had to say.

  51. You might be right, Rainer. I suppose I could have taken on board my father’s opinion that a woman’s place is at a kitchen sink – I chose to ignore him and agree with my mother. You would be correct in thinking that there were some very interesting ‘discussions’ in our household… 🙄

    I don’t believe that anyone can be given ‘freedom’, it’s something that has to be taken individually. I could, and did, spend hours talking to women who ‘envied’ me, few were prepared to stand up and make the changes for themselves. I gave up.

    If I didn’t make it clear earlier, I agree that there was much to be done in the way of improving the legal and social status of women. But, I am convinced that equality under the law, equal pay and laws against discrimination on grounds of gender would have occurred anyway – without loss of respect. Greer and Co, and the likes of the Greenham Common mob did women no favours.

  52. Wow what a lot of comments after I disappeared. Good discussions!

    I have another subject up my sleeve. Coming soon.

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