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The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (1970)

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Reading The Female Eunuch now feels to a certain extent like reading a pamphlet from the Suffragist movement; the arguments are clear, but the backdrop is somehow distant and faded. How much that changed backdrop is a result of the efforts of people like Germaine Greer is for the historians to say, but this book clearly earns its place on the bookshelf as one of the most important works in the women's liberation movement.

Despite being written in 1970, there is nothing stale about this book. Greer's writing can be very punchy, at times witty, and the threads of her argument are clearly and logically set out. For a book that has sold over a million copies, she is extremely eloquent, at times even a touch grandiloquent, and her choice of words sometimes had me reaching for a dictionary. That aside, the book is fairly easy to read for its subject matter.

Nevertheless, it is not Greer's arguments or her choice of phrasing that are difficult to understand, but the context in which they were written. It is difficult for anyone born after that time to comprehend how much society has changed in the intervening period, at the most fundamental, interpersonal level. In this light, Greer's arguments can seem overdramatised, perhaps even alien to someone reading them today, but there is plenty which bears relevance to understanding how we got where we are, and perhaps knowing where we have yet to go.

Greer covers the whole gamut of the female experience, from birth and childhood, through sex and marriage, to the workplace and public sphere. In covering this massive range of subjects, from the most tangible in terms of jobs, wages and taxation, through to more esoteric notions of imagery in language and psychology, one gets a clear notion of Greer's ideal vision. Although there are far more criticisms of the status quo than overt recommendations for change, in questioning some of the core elements of society, it leads all of us to critically appraise our modes and ways of life.

Many people who haven't read this book, and men in particular, assume it must be written by a man-hater, an irrational and fiery-hearted misandrist nailing her theses to the church of patriarchy. In truth, the book is a deep and basic criticism of that day and age's society, pointed as much at women as at men for perpetuating a system which essentially encouraged contempt for half of the population, in many ways treating them as second-class citizens. There is an important distinction here between sexual equality and women's liberation, for Greer argues for fundamental changes as a way to improve the lives of everyone. This is not a call to gender war in a Marxian vein; in fact, although Greer has a clear leftist bent, it seems she did not put faith in the class revolution to put society on the correct footing.

There are just a couple of criticisms I have about this edition. The first is that there is no index, which I feel would have been a useful addition. Although Greer divided the book into well arranged and clearly labelled chapters, it is still difficult to find references without having to guess under which subheading you might find them. Secondly, as part of Flamingo's Seventies Classics Series, this really should have come with an introduction. Printed over thirty years after its initial publication, with so much having changed in the intervening period, a simple outline of the society in which this book was written, and an overview of its reception and responses, would have been an extremely welcome addition. ( )
  Fips | Oct 30, 2016 |
I adore men, I love my cigarettes and scotch, take pleasure in my womanly curves; simultaneously I greatly want women to obtain their freedom of rights.

Feminism may be an archaic phenomenon in the urban world yet it is still in the nascent form in numerous authoritarian patriarchal configurations and societies plagued with female foeticide. This manuscript does justice to such dwellings where women irrespective to their economical standing bear subjugation to various norms of religion and cultural obligations.



Alas! I cannot go through anymore feminism prose. My audacious teenage years and traumatic squabbles with my mother altered me as Simone de Beauvoir of the house. And now I am extremely fascinated with Lady Gaga simply for kicks. ( )
  Praj05 | Apr 5, 2013 |
I read this book at 14, and it was possibly the best thing to read for a vaguely angry but not entirely sure why girl who grew up in a strict religious environment with a serious problem with women being their own person. I still remember suddenly realizing just how screwed up my idea of my gender was, how out-dated the opinions of those around me even compared to a 70s book. I've not yet read it again, mostly because I expect it to let me down. Though it's been years, I still remember some very negative things about transgender people that I felt uncomfortable with even at the ( very uninformed) time. Still, I remember it very fondly. I think I wanted to be a bit like Greer after reading this book. I don't anymore, but I'm still very grateful for her giving teen me another idea of who I wanted to be - when the only idea of the "ideal woman" proposed by my family and their religion was that of an obedient, sexless, voiceless little wife. I don't expect it to have the same effect on many other people my age because most girl I know simply didn't grow up with such ridiculous elders. ( )
  Merinde | Mar 31, 2013 |
International bestseller and milestone in the re-thinking of the very basic facts which continue to hag-ride our behavior -- gender differences and similarities in the body, the soul, and what we love and hate. Greer chapters each of those topics, concluding with a call to revolution. With Notes.

Greer presents a direct description of sexuality--not content with mere anatomy or indirection. Looking at how they are treated, she concludes that "men hate women", even though they do not realize it, and men end up hating themselves.

No actual eunuchs were injured in the analysis, but Greer invokes literary and consumerist evidence that "Women have been separated from their libido", and cut off from their capacity for action: castrati, sacrificed for fattening docilities. My reading is that Greer is all about elevating humans to a greater capacity for love, compounded by the joy of really being together. I think this book changed the lives of people in the 1970's, and not just in the English-reading world.

Curiously, the "supergroupie" demystifying academic author published a kind of sequel to this work, in 1999, entitled The Whole Woman. ( )
2 vote keylawk | Feb 17, 2012 |
Back in the day, this book was very important to me; it helped me think about what being female really meant, and about how it should affect my life. Skimming back through it now, it seems awfully simplistic, too facile, and rather a rant. But that's looking at the book through "presentist" glasses. A key feminist work, which affected lots of lives. ( )
2 vote annbury | Sep 5, 2010 |
Showing 1-5 of 14 (next | show all)
Greer’s books may have self-contradictory elements, and I must admit that as a 21st-century reader, I’ve found that they can be choppy and manifesto-like, with off-putting wild generalizations and quasi-magical terminology... But then I turned to her chapter called “Family”... Bingo.
 
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0586080554, Paperback)

A new cover re-issue of the ground-breaking, worldwide bestselling feminist tract. Re-issued to coincide with Doubleday's publication of The Whole Woman, the sequel to The Female Eunuch. Probably the most famous, most widely read book on feminism ever. First published in 1970, The Female Eunuch is a landmark in the history of the women's movement. A searing examination of women's oppression. A worldwide bestseller, translated into over 12 languages.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:00 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

A new cover re-issue of the ground-breaking, worldwide bestselling feminist tract. A worldwide bestseller, translated into over twelve languages, THE FEMALE EUNUCH is a landmark in the history of the women's movement. Drawing liberally from history, literature and popular culture, past and present, Germaine Greer's searing examination of women's oppression is at once an important social commentary and a passionately argued masterpiece of polemic. Probably the most famous, most widely read book on feminism ever.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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