Books: Where Feminism's a Load of Bull

By Barnard, Josie | The Independent (London, England), January 25, 1998 | Go to article overview
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Books: Where Feminism's a Load of Bull


Barnard, Josie, The Independent (London, England)


GERMAINE GREER said once that the term post-feminism is "bullshit" because the "post" suggests that feminism is dead. In the world of Animal Husbandry it never had much life in the first place. Laura Zigman's first novel turns on an all-nature, no-nurture theory of male behaviour in which "Bulls" (men) are genetically programmed to treat any "New Cow" almost immediately as an "Old Cow" to be put out to pasture in favour of a new "New Cow". The reader is tossed natural history titbits, from Darwin, The Hidden Life of Dogs, Scientific American (did you know that male banana slugs chew each other's penises off after mating?) Such "proofs" are put to some good comic use. Desmond Morris's description of animals' "dash- and-hide" tactics, for example, applied to men whose hot pursuit has gone cold, acquires a slapstick familiarity.

The book resembles a transatlantic Bridget Jones' Diary and may have the same appeal. The obsessive list-making narrator Jane Goodall is a drinking, smoking, attractive thirtysomething careerwoman who spends her evenings reading back copies of the New Yorker and eating take-out moo- shu vegetables. Then, to adopt Zigman's style: {ENTER Bull} Ray, who is tall, dark and handsome with a washboard stomach to die for {MATING SCENE DELETED}.

Mannerisms like this screenplay use of capitals within square brackets distract from the main strengths of the book. Zigman is good on basic human needs and failings. She conjures the headiness of a new relationship and the pain of being dumped when no reason is given. "It's like random violence. All you want to know is what the victim did to bring on the attack so you can prevent it next time.

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