Female Eunuch vs. Whole Woman

Article excerpt

Remember Germaine Greer, the fetching feminist photographed in the feather boa for the back of her book, "The Female Eunuch" in 1971? She looked like a modern Moll Flanders - and acted like one, too.

Germaine Greer was a pivotal figure in contemporary feminism, fusing women's liberation with sexual liberation. She's back with a new book, "The Whole Woman," and it's testimony to the failure of the fusion of those two liberation movements. Gone is the saucy, sexy, sassy, and witty feminist that men liked.

She has retreated from "femme fatale" to feminist fatality, from enjoying men to hating them, from sexual liberation to psychological imprisonment. "The Whole Woman" ought to be called "The Half-Baked Woman," so completely does she succumb to the worst of the mirror-image, male-chauvinist stereotypes of her sex. She rages as an overtly untamed, post-menopausal shrew who celebrates female genital mutilation as attesting to "cultural identity," comparing it positively to tattooing and body piercing. (Aren't the women who flee their country to escape genital mutilation asserting their cultural identity?) Her new book is a best seller in England.

This could be dismissed as a pitiful aberration if it were not being hailed by her prestigious New York publisher (Knopf) as a feminist's "call to arms." Young women who don't know Germaine Greer's personal history in contemporary feminism may misunderstand where she stands in relation to her sisters (and brothers) at the end of the century. Her new book reveals her to be an anachronistic crank. She ought to be in the Smithsonian.

What's fascinating though, is that a reread of "The Female Eunuch" shows a similar, ill-informed ignorance (albeit with a better sense of humor), which once passed for feminist intelligence. Samples:

cOn the mother-child relationship in the nuclear family: "During the day the child may be bullied as often as petted. What is certain is that he has too much attention from the one person who is entirely at his disposal. The intimacy between mother and child is not sustaining and healthy."

cOn marriage: "If women are to effect a significant amelioration in their condition it seems obvious that they must refuse to marry."

cOn true liberation: "Women's liberation if it abolishes the patriarchal family, will abolish a necessary substructure of the authoritarian state, and once that withers away Marx will have come true willy-nilly, so let's get on with it. …