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The Female Eunuch is a book first published in 1970, which became an international bestseller and an important text in the feminist movement. The author, Germaine Greer, became well known in broadcast media of the United Kingdommarker, the United Statesmarker, Canadamarker and her home of Australia. It has been translated into eleven languages.

Description

The book is a feminist analysis, written with a mixture of polemic and scholarly research. It was a key text of the feminist movement in the 1970s, broadly discussed or criticized by other feminists and the wider community, particularly through the author's high profile in the broadcast media. In sections titled Soul, Love and Hate the author examines historical definitions of women's perception of self and uses a premise of imposed limitations to critique modern consumer societies, female "normality" and masculine shaping of stereotypes. In contrast to earlier feminist works, Greer uses humour, boldness and coarse language to present a direct and candid description of female sexuality; much of this subject remained unspoken in English-speaking societies. The work bridged academia and the contemporary arts in presenting the targets of the final section of the book, Revolution; it is in accord, and often associated with, a creative and revolutionary movement of the period.

Greer argued that men hate women, though the latter do not realize this and are taught to hate themselves. Arguments and fights broke out over dinner tables, and copies of it were thrown across rooms at unsuspecting husbands (Wallace 1997). It arrived in the stores in London in October 1970. By March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing and had been translated into eleven languages.

The book's main thesis is that the traditional, suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, and that this devitalizes them, rendering them eunuchs. It is a "fitful, passionate, scattered text, not cohesive enough to qualify as a manifesto," writes Laura Miller. "It's all over the place, impulsive and fatally naive—which is to say it is the quintessential product of its time."

"The title is an indication of the problem," Greer told The New York Times, "Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They've become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master's ulterior motives—to be fattened or made docile—women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It's a process that sacrifices vigor for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed." (March 22, 1971).

Two of the book's themes already pointed the way to her later book Sex and Destiny, namely that the nuclear family is a bad environment for women and for the raising of children; and that the manufacture of women's sexuality by Western society was demeaning and confining. Girls are feminized from childhood by being taught rules that subjugate them, she argued. Later, when women embrace the stereotypical version of adult femininity, they develop a sense of shame about their own bodies, and lose their natural and political autonomy. The result is powerlessness, isolation, a diminished sexuality, and a lack of joy:
The ignorance and isolation of most women mean that they are incapable of making conversation: most of their communication with their spouses is a continuation of the power struggle.
The result is that when wives come along to dinner parties they pervert civilized conversation about real issues into personal quarrels.
The number of hostesses who wish they did not have to invite wives is legion.


Greer argued that change had to come about by revolution, not evolution. Women should get to know and come to accept their own bodies, taste their own menstrual blood, and give up celibacy and monogamy. But they should not burn their bras. "Bras are a ludicrous invention," she wrote, "but if you make bralessness a rule, you're just subjecting yourself to yet another repression."

While being interviewed about the book in 1971, she told The New York Times that she had been a "supergroupie". "Supergroupies don't have to hang around hotel corridors," she said. "When you are one, as I have been, you get invited backstage. I think groupies are important because they demystify sex; they accept it as physical, and they aren't possessive about their conquests." Greer continued to be renowned as the outspoken author of The Female Eunuch, but mainly published works that were academic feminism or studies of the historical women artists.In 1999, The Whole Woman was published with the first line;
This sequel to The Female Eunuch is the book I said I would never write.


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