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May 19, 1971 - Image 5

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Michigan Daily, 1971-05-19

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I Wednesday, May 19, 1971


Page Five I


Woman as Eunuch *1-.*k

Germaine Greer, THE FE-
The surest guide to the cor-
rectness of the path that
women take is joy in the strug-
i gle . . . Joy does not mean
riotous glee. but it does mean
the purposive employment of
energy in a self-chosen enter.
A good deal of recent literature
from proponents of the Women's
Liberation Movement fails to rise
to a level worthy of the serious
problems involved. However,
some useful and carefully writ-
ten statements-among them, Si-
mone de Beauvoir's, Second Sex,
and Caroline Bird's, Born le--
male-have kept the discussion
of the issues at a rational and
refreshingly intelligent plane.
Happily, Germaine Greer, a
thirty-one year old Australian
born professor of 17th century
English Literature has added an-
other book to this list. The Fe-
male Eunuch, a lively and au-
thoritative analysis of the fe-
male, calls upon women to e--
lenge the most basic assumptions
about the direction of their lives
and to explore all the possibili-
ties of what they might be. If
women free themselves, Greer
maintains, they will ultimately
liberate their oppressors.
The Female Eunuch aigues
that through a distortion of sex-
ual relationships, emphasis has
been placed on the mystique of a
masculine - feminine polarity
that has resulted in the astra-
tion of women's sexuality. The
E female form, conceived as an
ideal of the "Eternally Femi-
nine," is dressed in frills and
curls, pampered, and protected
and remade by a society which
willfully intervenes in the wom-
en's growth processes. The femi-
nine object is a thing stripped of
sexuality, the most fundamental
explorative process, and is there-
by castrated of its curiosity. This
sexual castration that a woman
undergoes from infancy deforms
her spirit and mind as well. Sex
and sexuality are made the per-
ogative of men. Having been de-
prived of her sexuality, the "fe-
male eunuch" is enclosed in a
dubious security blanket of white
picket fence dreams, family, and
housework. She learns to limit
the horizons of her quest and
never comes to terms with her
Self. Women's creative energy.
- an ill-used resource, is convo-
luted by constant frustration. It
becomes a destructive force that
is ultimately transformed into
self-abuse and hurled in confu-
sion at the woman herself, her
friends, her lovers and her fami-
' The pronounced oective of
this book is subversion, subver-
sion of the recognized and estab-
lished societal relationships that
dictate peoples lives, binding
them through marriage to filial
and economic inter-dependencies.
By artfully dissecting a number
of assumptions made about the
female body and the stereotype
of the, mythical woman, the au-
thor exposes the uncertain foun-
dation of the belief that de-
pendency and inferiority are
either naturally or uniquely fe-
male. She sees no reasonable
' justification for the emphasis up-
on the differentiation of the sex-
es, since at conception the only
difference between the male and
female body cells is one "tiny"
chromosome which is not in fact
a sex chromosome. Vigorously
she reects demands made upon

women to contour, comb and
scent their bodies to please
others. Predetermined standards
of sexual excitement as defined
by Masters and Johnson, Ann.'
Koedt, and others, ere repudi-
ated so that every altenative for
individual sexual expression, cani
be kept open for possible ex-
ploration. Real satisfaction in
love making, Greer believes,
should be found in people, not-
Germaine Greer iL dramatical-
ly iconoclastic. the strikes tell-
ing blows at unrealistic notions
of romance, at middle-class love
and marriage, and at the rati-si.-
ale of the nuclear family. For
her, contemporary attitudes to-
ward romance are a "sterile
self-deception" which sanctions
"drudgery, physical incompe-
tence and prostitution" and must
therefore be counteracted. The
heroic mythology surrounding
falling in love and getting mar-
ried is traced from feudal litera-
ture to the present time where
Greer documents the wys in
which it still holds firm in spite
of the failure of most personal
experiences to meet up to the
standards of the ideal.
Most women who have fol-
lowed the direction indicated
by the myth (of marriage)h
make an act of faith that de-
spite day-to-day difficulties
they are happy, and keep on
asserting it in the face of blat-
ant contradiction by the facts,
because to confess disappoint-
ment is to admit failure and
abandon the effort. It never
occurs to them to seek the
cause of their unhappiness in
the myth itself
The pressure exerted on wom-
en by their role-defined responsi-
bility to the modern nuclear
family also receives severe criti-
cism. Again and again Greer
itemizes evidence of the aliena-
tion, frustration, and sense of
aloneness that is created when
people attempt to live up to the
demands of exclusive dependen-
cies like marriage. In the service
of others as wife and mother,
the woman loses her own iden-
tity. "Obviously," says Gree'',
"any woman who thinks in the
simplest terms of liberating
herself to enjoy life and create
expression for her own poten-
tial cannot accept such a role."
Unforutnately, the alternative
Greer offers for the family mere-
ly replaces one impractical anl
unworkable situation for a fan-
tasy of another. She proposes an
organic family in which child
and adult societies would be free
to "merge" with one another "in
Further Suggestions
Caroline Bird, Born Female,
Pocketbook, 95c.
Simone de Beauvoir, The Sec-
ond Sex, Bantam, $1.25.
Robin Morgan, editor, Sister-
hood is Powerful, Vintage, $2.45.
Judith M. Bardwick, Psy-
chology of Women, Harper &
Row, $7.95.
Shulasmith Firestone, Dialec-
tic of Sex, William Morrow,
M a r y Ellmann, Thinking
About Women, Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, $2.65.
Kate Millett, Sexual Politics,
Doubleday, $7.95.
Lisa Hobbs, Love and Libera-
tion, McGraw-Hill, $5.95.
Sookie Stambler, Women's
Liberation: -Blueprint for the'
Future, Ace Paperbacks, 95c.
Cynthia Fuch Epstein, Wo-
man's Place, University of Cali-
fornia Press, $2.45.

conditions of love and personal
interest." Children would be
placed in the hands of those peo-
ple in a community to whom
child rearing is a chosen way of
life rather than a necessary con-
dition of existance, thus avoid-
ing the present situa'ion where
the parents' neuroses are trans-
ferred to their children. Greer
emphasizes that the family al-
ternative she suggests is not an
institutionalized baby farm, but
rather a harmoniously linked
community where parents and
children would have a multitude
of roles to choose from. The or-
ganic family would free both
children and parents from the
responsibilities of being exten-
sions of one another. Each fami-
ly member would be -ecure in
the understanding that no one
was performing out of a sense
of obligation.
While an organic f arai!y of
non-dependent relationships cer-
tainly has much to say for it,
Greer does not successfully spell
out her plan. To some extent she
is developing a Utopian construc'
in which beings behave ration,l-
ly, carefully considering them-
selves and others before taking
any action. In this reviewer':
opinion, there is no evidence
that people will naturally ex-
press such benevolence and ra-
tionality. The organic family is-
mains still a blissful dream.
Greer's real contribution here ,s
her superb criticism of current
family patterns and if her specu-
lations are somewhat unsatisfac-
tory, they nonetheless provide
an encouraging beginning in the
search for alternative family
One of the most devastating
and no doubt controversial sec-
tions of this book jeals with
hatred. Here Greer presents a
gloomly display of the ways in
which misdirected creative ener-
gies in women are released.
Powerfully argued chapters on
'Loathing and Disgust,"
'Abuse," "Misery," and "ie--
sentment," document at length
the effects of perverted and hypo-
critical love relationships which
are built upon a fallacious hope
for security-the security of de-
pendency rather than individual-
ism; the security which is found
in a denial of life, a hopelessly
unattainable goal in the modern
world. Mutual exploitation pat-
terns of male-female associations
are also ruthlessly exposed.
Greer shows how the hatred
generated by arbitrary assump-
tions made about the way wom-
en should look, act, and behave
wreaks havoc on relationships
between-men and women and be-
tween women and women. It is
no surprise to find that the "fe-
male revolt takes curious and
torturous forms, and the great-
est toll is exacted by the woman
upon herself."
Finally, The Female Eunuch
examines the rebellion that has
characterized women's recent
responses to the unacceptable
roles society has dealt them. In
a book that is surprisingly crit-
ical of various liberationists' ap-
proaches, the reader is present-
ed with a sense of the chaos
that has characterized much of
the Movement's literature and
many of its activities. Greer
challenges Betty Friedan for be-
ing representative only of ."the
cream of American middle-class
womanhood," and for trying to
provide equal opportunity with-
in an unsatisfactory status quo.
She indicts the radical feminists
for being caught up in polemi-
cal banter'which Is too academ-
ic for most women, adding that

they have mistakenly adopted
"male kinds of groups and or-
ganizational structures."
While Germaine Greer stands
aloof from any single group or
philosophical position, she nev-
ertheless supports the efforts
each woman chooses to make on
her own behalf. S h e councils
that the first exercise of a free
woman is to devise her o w n
mode of revolt, a mode which
will reflect her own indepen-
dence and originality. In spite
of her critical evaluation of the
activities of women's groups,
sh e is encouraged to observe
that the "new feminism" is re-
ceiving ever broader support
from the most conservative to
the most radical sectors of so-
Greer's real hope for women
is that having challenged the
assumptions upon which their
lives have been built, and hav-
ing examined the circumstanc-
es of their condition, they will
set about to bring a revolution-
ary change in those conditions.
She looks forward to the time
when women will refuse to con-
tribute to the societal constructs
that repress them. They must
bring about what Greer sees as
a "genuine revolution" which
redefines traditional concepts of
work, p1 a y, and interpersonal
relationships. Women must use
their creative energies to devel-
op a system which does not al-
low itself to adopt the arrogant
and aggressive methods of their
oppressors. Women must join in
cooperatives to support one an-
other's struggle. They must stop
deifying violence from karate to
football to war; they must no
longer clothe and masquerade
themselves for the pleasure of
others; they must reject snar-
riage and those who are already
married, must reestablish t h e
terms of their marriages to meet
their real needs. Women 'ust
dare to be eccentric, pervecsc,
determined, and selfish, w it h
the clear objective of seeing that
they are "emancipated from
helplessness and walk freely
upon the earth that is their
The Female Eunuch presents
a sensitive and complete argu-
ment for an inevitable and nec-
essary revolution in attitudes
towards women. Qui te a dis-
tance is covered in a relatively
brief volume and tome -readers

may be disturbed by the brevity
of aspects that are of particular
interest to t h e m. Objection
might also be raised to the se-
vere criticism that is levied at
women themselves. But careful
reading will reveal that a firm
belief in women enables Greer
to be ruthlessly honest and to
hold out the highest of expecta-
It is up to women to devel-
op a form of genuine woman-
power . . . to devise a moral-
ity which does not disqualify
her from excellence, an d a
psychology which does not
condemn her to the status of
spiritual cripple. T h e penal-
ties for such delinquency may
be terrible for she must ex-
plore the dark without any
guide. It may seem at first
that she merely exchanges one
mode of suffering for anoth-
er, one neurosis for another.
But she may at least claim to
have made a definite choice
which is the first prerequisite
of moral action. She may nev-
er herself see t h e ultimate
goal, for the fabric of society
is not unraveled in a single
lifetime, but she may state it
as her belief and find hope in
The Female Eunuch speaks to
men as well as to women with
passionate sympathy and fer-
vent anger. Its sophisticated ex-
amination of the female comes
from a wise woman who insists
upon individual self expression,
and, is herself an example. The
Female Eunuch is both a per-
sonal statement as well as a
catalogue of the issues and ar-
guments raised by supporters of
the Women's Liberation Move-
ment. While much of the state-
ment made here nas been made
before, and while the problems
pondered here have been pon-
dered before, the contribution of
Germaine Greer in The Female
Eunuch is that it says it again,
but this time, with striking vi-
tality, sensibility and coherence.
Today's writer . .
Ellen Pechman, a research
assistant in the school of natural
resources, is currently working.
on gaming-stimulation. She is
.alo a former elemenaiy scol
teacher and an active partici-
pant in women's liberation,

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