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Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human…

Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility

by Germaine Greer

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Greer worries at the beginning of this book that she may be overdoing it, and people may be alienated rather than persuaded. That's certainly true for me.

When people found this book to be an odd contrast to The Female Eunuch (which I also didn't like), Greer said that it is consistent, being taken from the bits of the earlier book that no-one liked. The parts where Greer, moved by loving close-knit Italian family life decides that it would be a great idea to buy an Italian farm and have her children raised by her tenants. Except for visits, she would continue her sophisticated life in decadent England. (She has denied this, but read the book.) The parts where she said she changed her style of dressing in order not to make a spectacle of herself in rural Italy, after urging the rest of us women in the Western-industrial cultures (WICs) to join her in making a spectacle of ourselves at home.

The greatest flaw in Greer's consideration of birth control is that she seemingly cannot see the difference between having two children, or twelve, or twenty-two. She argues as if one is for or against children, and cannot want a limited number of them. She is wildly indignant about the death of one woman from an IUD and oblivious to the much more common deaths of women from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. She incidentally defends selective female infanticide and argues that women may be responsible for rape, since men may need for us to appear to be afraid of them.

I can appreciate the need to accept other people's right to their own values, but why is Greer such a hypocrite about it? She is extremely intolerant towards anyone in WICs, even, or especially, if they seem to share the attitudes that she lauds here. She talks loving of the traditional cultures' warmth towards their children, although she mocks parental and marital devotion in WICs. Greer's thinking seems to be permanently warped by her bad relationship with her parents, especially her mother, but she refuses to consider that others in WICs may have found family life more satisfying. Throughout her writings, I cannot get over the feeling that one of her chief purposes is to offload responsibility for the Greers' problems outward to "society"; she seems to believe that in any other type of culture, she would have had a happy childhood. Perhaps that is why the woman given to sharp and incisive comments about her own society is so gormlessly naive about others, accepting everything at simple face value, assuming that everything functions according to those societies' highest ideals. All spouses are loving, all parents are devoted.

Beyond the stupidity and hypocrisy of her opinions, it's simply not a good book. As usual it is inflated with extraneous material, arrogant and illogically argued. Obviously, it is possible to do a lot of research on a subject without gaining much insight. ( )
  juglicerr | Oct 5, 2007 |
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