The Female Eunuch
|The Female Eunuch|
|Dewey Decimal||305.42 21|
|LC Classification||HQ1206 .G77 2001|
|Followed by||the whole woman|
The Female Eunuch is a 1970 book by Germaine Greer that became an international bestseller and an important text in the feminist movement. The main thesis of the book is that the "traditional" suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, and that this devitalizes them, rendering them eunuchs. The book was published in London in October 1970. By March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing. It has been translated into eleven languages.
A sequel to The Female Eunuch, entitled The Whole Woman, was published in 1999.
Synopsis and themes 
The book is a feminist analysis, written with a mixture of polemic and scholarly research. It was a key text of the feminist movement in the 1970s, broadly discussed and criticized by other feminists and the wider community, particularly through the author's high profile in the broadcast media. In sections titled "Body", "Soul", "Love" and "Hate" Greer examines historical definitions of women's perception of self and uses a premise of imposed limitations to critique modern consumer societies, female "normality", and masculine shaping of stereotypes quoting, "The World has lost its soul, and I my sex." In contrast to earlier feminist works, Greer uses humour, boldness, and coarse language to present a direct and candid description of female sexuality; much of this subject having remained undiscussed in English-speaking societies. Richard Webster writes that Greer's "scathing irreverence towards Freud and psychoanalysis" was inspired by Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex. The work bridged academia and the contemporary arts in presenting the targets of the final section of the book, Revolution; it is in accord, and often associated with, a creative and revolutionary movement of the period.
Greer argues that men hate women, though the latter do not realize this and are taught to hate themselves (Wallace 1997).
Greer references the loss of women's freedom with the "sudden death of communism" (1989) as catapult for women the world over for a sudden transition into consumer Western society wherein there is little to no protection for mothers and the disabled; here, there is no freedom to speak:
The freedom I pleaded for twenty years ago was freedom to be a person, with dignity, integrity, nobility, passion, pride that constitute personhood. Freedom to run, shout, talk loudly and sit with your knees apart. Freedom to know and love the earth and all that swims, lies, and crawls upon it...most of the women in the world are still afraid, still hungry, still mute and loaded by religion with all kinds of fetters, masked, muzzled, mutilated and beaten.
"The title is an indication of the problem," Greer told The New York Times. "Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives -- to be fattened or made docile -- women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It's a process that sacrifices vigor for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed." (March 22, 1971). "The essential factor in self-realization is independence, resistance to enculturation; the danger inherent in this is that of excessive independence or downright eccentricity; nevertheless, such people are more capable of giving love, if what Rogers said of love is to be believed, that 'we can love a person only to the extent we are not threatened by him'. Our self-realizing person might claim to be capable of loving everybody because he cannot be threatened by anybody.":
His word pronouced 'selfishness' blessed, the wholesome healthy selfishness that wells from a powerful soul - from a powerful soul to which belongs a high body, beautiful, triumphant, refreshing, around which everything becomes a mirror - the supple, persuasive body, the dancer whose parable and epitome is the self-enjoying soul.
Two of the book's themes already point the way to Greer's later book Sex and Destiny, namely that the nuclear family is a bad environment for women and for the raising of children; and that the commoditization of women's sexuality by Western society was demeaning and confining. Girls are feminized from childhood by being taught rules that subjugate them, she argued. Later, when women embrace the stereotypical version of adult femininity, they develop a sense of shame about their own bodies, and lose their natural and political autonomy. The result is powerlessness, isolation, a diminished sexuality, and a lack of joy:
The ignorance and isolation of most women mean that they are incapable of making conversation: most of their communication with their spouses is a continuation of the power struggle. The result is that when wives come along to dinner parties they pervert civilized conversation about real issues into personal quarrels. The number of hostesses who wish they did not have to invite wives is legion.
Greer argues that change had to come about via revolution, not evolution. Women should get to know and come to accept their own bodies, taste their own menstrual blood, and give up celibacy and monogamy. Yet they should not burn their bras. "Bras are a ludicrous invention," she wrote, "but if you make bralessness a rule, you're just subjecting yourself to yet another repression."
Critical reception 
In January 1972 The Age's reviewer Thelma Forshaw described The Female Eunuch as "the orchestrated over-the-back-fence grizzle ... based on the curious fancy ... we were all men, and then some fiend castrated half of us and gave us a ghastly internal bookie's bag called a womb". The newspaper declared that the review "has stirred up a considerable controversy". According to Keith Dunstan in the book, The Best Australian Profiles (2004), "[t]he reviews of [the book] were extremely mixed. The most famous was by [Forshaw] of The Age". Dunstan contrasted this with a positive review by Sylvia Lawson of The Australian, "[it has] been greeted in Australia with some fantastically myopic, complacent and resentful printed comment ... [the book] is neither dogmatic nor complacent, neither strident nor paranoic ... [it is] ranging, exploratory and questioning".
Laura Miller described the book as a "fitful, passionate, scattered text, not cohesive enough to qualify as a manifesto. It's all over the place, impulsive, and fatally naive – which is to say it is the quintessential product of its time."
- Wilde, W H; Hooton, Joy and Andrews, Barry (1994) . The Oxford companion to Australian Literature (2nd ed.). Melbourne: Oxford University Press. p. 271. ISBN 0-19-553381-X. "... the book became almost a sacred text for the international women's liberation movement of the 1970s, notwithstanding sporadic criticism of aspects of its ideology from some feminists."
- Greer. The Whole Woman Doubleday, ISBN 0-385-60016-X
- Greer, Germaine. "The Female Eunuch." UK: Harper Perennial, 2006.
- Webster, Richard (2005). Why Freud Was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis. Oxford: The Orwell Press. p. 22. ISBN 0-9515922-5-4.
- (Foreword to the Paladin 21st Anniversary Edition, 2006).
- Dunstan, Keith (2004). "Germaine Greer". In Matthew Ricketson. The Best Australian Profiles. Melbourne, Vic: Black Inc. p. 53. ISBN 9781863952934.
- "Letters to the Editor". The Age (Fairfax Media). 20 January 1972. p. 8. Retrieved 13 November 2012.
- Laura Miller (1999-06-22). "Germaine Greer". Brilliant Careers. Salon. pp. 1 of 2. Retrieved 2007-05-22. "They didn't become megastars, but they became a librarian or something. I've heard women say again and again when the subject of Germaine comes up: 'Well, her book changed my life for the better.' And they'll be modest women living pretty ordinary lives, but better lives." Women entirely unlike Germaine Greer, the feminist who improved the world in spite of herself."
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