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The Female Eunuch

At its heart The Female Eunuch is a call for freedom from a constricting conformity that still exists. Although flawed and occasionally quaint today, it’s a furious book that’s far from obsolete.
It’s at its best when angry, which is often. The strongest chapters, such as ‘The Object of Male Fantasy’ and ‘The Stereotype’, are those that attack social conventions, particularly the doll-like ideal of passive femininity. Here the writing is both elegantly mournful, ‘It still comes as a surprise to most people to learn that Marilyn Monroe was a great actress, most pitifully to Marilyn herself, which is one of the reasons why she is dead’, and viciously witty, in gleeful lines like ‘No woman wants to find out that she has a twat like a horse collar’. Its combination of detail and vitriol makes it both academic and engaging.
There’s a lot to digest; slang, class, communism, marriage, education, employment, violence and, of course, sex. Inevitably there are weaknesses. The statistical and psychoanalytical sections feel irrelevant now, some parts are too anecdotal, and occasionally Greer tries too hard to be controversial; ‘Hopefully, this book is subversive’. However, these flaws don’t affect the force of the book’s main arguments.
The final chapter, on revolution, is optimistic, and since its publication in 1970 much has improved. However, as long as ‘c*nt’ remains the worst word one can say and politicians have to defend being unmarried, The Female Eunuch will remain powerful and unsettling.

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Tags: Germaine Greer, The Female Eunuch

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