Reading The Female Eunuch in midlife after 8 years of marriage....

(33 Posts)
tootsietoo Sun 24-Mar-13 17:26:11

....not a good idea is it really? I'm on the "Misery" and "Resentment" chapters at the moment, so perhaps it gets better. I'm hoping for some helpful ideas at the end!

Two people have used the same phrase when I've mentioned it to them - life changing. When did you read it for the first time, and did it change your life?

UptoapointLordCopper Sun 24-Mar-13 18:51:27

I haven't read it, but I've just read Delusions of Gender and it's making me see discriminations and social conditioning and strange assumptions everywhere and I have also harangued a good few friends about it since. May well read Female Eunuch at some point and become even more popular ...

tootsietoo Sun 24-Mar-13 19:59:19

Blissful ignorance is easier!

Zatopek Sun 24-Mar-13 20:04:11

I read it when I was late 20s. Shortly afterwards I got out of a relationship I had been in for several years. It was pre DC.

It certainly gave me a wake up call.

TheAccidentalEgghibitionist Sun 24-Mar-13 20:04:47

I read it when I was 20 and it was life changing for me.
I haven't reread it so I don't know how it's stood the test of time but I found GG to be such a powerful inspiring voice.
Might reread it now!

k2togm1 Sun 24-Mar-13 20:15:55

Is it still relevant? How do you feel about her discrimination for transgender and homosexuality? I haven't read it, just been put off by reviews!

I read the female eunuch when I was 17. It definitely shaped my feminist principles. The whole woman came out when I was around that age too, although I didn't agree with Greer's stance on transsexuals (and still don't)

What was her stance on transsexuals?

The chapter in the whole woman called The Pantomime Dame discusses it. Even the title gives you a good idea. Greer also left Newnam college when a transsexual was employed there.

KRITIQ Sun 24-Mar-13 21:03:44

Madwoman's Underclothes is better - shorter bits you can dip in and out of. With Greer, I agree with about 80% of what she says, but vehemently disagree with the other 80%, which therefore knocks her completely out of my Top of the Pops of feminism.

I'm finding it really difficult to get into, to be honest.

But ... she didn't just leave Newnham because a transsexual was employed there, it wasn't that simple. Newnham is set up to give women a place to work or study, with the recognition that it there are specific challenges women face to get a job in academia. And there are. Something like 6% of Maths profs are women, I was reading last week.

I don't think anyone doubts that there are also challenges for transsexuals getting into academia, but as I understand it, Greer's issue was that this person had made their career while living as a man, then transitioned when established in that career.

That means that Newnham was in the difficult position of having to decide whether to employ someone who'd encountered the challenges and setbacks of being transsexual, or someone who'd encountered the challenges and setbacks of being female.

I don't agree with a lot of what I've heard Greer saying, but I don't personally think it's wrong to worry about the women who did not get that job opportunity.

tootsietoo Mon 25-Mar-13 14:02:05

It did take me a while to get into, I find her language fairly opaque. Obviously a lot has changed and I feel that some of the social scenarios she describes are anachronistic. But equally so little has changed! For someone like me (i.e. very MC and conventional) there are not really any alternatives to the traditional domestic set up unless you stay single and child free and as she points out, that is fraught with judgement and discrimination itself. And still women have the burden of the domestic drudgery she describes, almost no matter what their job/career/earnings status. Still! It beggars belief. It is articulating so many of the nagging uncomfortable thoughts which I have had since way before I got married. Yet I don't know if there is any point those feelings having words. There's nothing I can do about them! The book I read before this one was Jude The Obscure. And it terrified me how little had changed in nearly 120 years as regards marriage. Must stop reading "important" books and stick to entertaining fluff.

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 25-Mar-13 14:21:51

Tootsie - I think it is important that these feelings are articulated. At least then you know that you are not going mad! Also I feel that I need to "inoculate" DSs about gender stereotype and expectations, constantly pulling them up on whatever the stuff you get in school, in books and on telly. I also find myself taking more of a back seat at home with cooking and housework on weekends when DH is around - it is good for the kids to see that a man can cook and wash up and do the laundry and it's normal. wink Sometimes it feels like a losing battle, but if we all just accept it we will never change anything. And I think things may not change at a drastic pace but I'll be damned if I don't make the effort to start at least something here at home. smile

Funnily enough I read Jude the Obscure before we got married too, and nobody seemed to understand why I did not want a wedding (we did magistrate-then-pub type thing) and why in fact I was so touchy about it. And I have blocked out of my memory someone asking me who was fucking "giving me away". WTF. angry (That's why I should continue to block it out of my memory!)

tootsietoo Mon 25-Mar-13 14:34:19

Baby steps! You are right, at least understanding the problems and having words for them will enable me to teach the DDs as much as I can. Although at the moment DD1 is doing very well by herself - she isn't going to get married or have babies apparently. I suspect most 6 year olds are feminists though, it's only as they get a bit older that the rot starts to set in. They both thought it was hilarious when Daddy was ironing his shirts last night and he kept sending them upstairs to tell me that I should be doing it. Me not find it so hilarious.

The whole wedding thing - http://cdnmn.com/emo/te/6.gif - so with you.

tootsietoo Mon 25-Mar-13 14:35:24

Baby steps! You are right, at least understanding the problems and having words for them will enable me to teach the DDs as much as I can. Although at the moment DD1 is doing very well by herself - she isn't going to get married or have babies apparently. I suspect most 6 year olds are feminists though, it's only as they get a bit older that the rot starts to set in. They both thought it was hilarious when Daddy was ironing his shirts last night and he kept sending them upstairs to tell me that I should be doing it. Me not find it so hilarious.

The whole wedding thing - angry - so with you.

tootsietoo Mon 25-Mar-13 14:35:56

aaargh, sorry, not got the hang of editing yet!

Zatopek Mon 25-Mar-13 21:14:37

It's partly because of "Jude the Obscure" that I decided not to get married

As Aunt Drusilla tells Jude the "Fawleys aren't made for marrying". I always felt that about my family too.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Mon 25-Mar-13 21:44:41

Bump

snowshapes Mon 25-Mar-13 22:47:53

>>It's partly because of "Jude the Obscure" that I decided not to get married<<

A wise, wise decision.

tootsietoo, you say >For someone like me (i.e. very MC and conventional) there are not really any alternatives to the traditional domestic set up unless you stay single and child free <, but I am not really getting what you mean. Why does being middle class mean that there are not alternatives to the traditional domestic set up? Or is it being conventional? I'd wager the latter, because being middle class surely gives you the financial means and the social confidence to carry off alternatives more easily (that is to say, I don't see the Daily Fail wasting its ink over the lone middle class mothers who can afford to raise their children themselves). Or am I missing the point? Do middle class and conventional go together?

Lottapianos Tue 26-Mar-13 19:01:36

DP and I have decided not to get married but would love a civil partnership. I've never been convinced by arguments that marriage isn't how it used to be and that patriarchal baggage is a thing of the past. I've not read Jude the Obscure but am very interested after reading this thread!

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 26-Mar-13 19:03:38

Can't answer snowshapes's question to tootsie, but there are parts of Delusions of Gender that said, if I remember correctly, that certain stereotyped behaviour seemed more marked amongst the "white middle class". I remember wondering why.

Some books make you go shock. Jude is one. Tess is another. Also Kafka's the Trial and Conrad's the Secret Agent. Makes you go "YOU CAN'T DO THAT!!! shock shock" Note that I don't read that many "worthy" books. Mostly I read detective novels. Those are anomalies. grin

tootsietoo Tue 26-Mar-13 21:04:59

Snowshapes, no reason why they should go together particularly. I probably shouldn't have muddied the waters by throwing class into the mix. I mean being conventional then. Or maybe more to the point, being "a good girl". Someone who doesn't like to cause controversy! I have a friend who has three children with an on/off boyfriend who's not around anymore. Some people say she's mad/sad/bad. I say she's brave, and she's done the right thing for her. She works blimming hard, but she is mistress of her own destiny. I don't know if I could have so defied what was expected of me!

Lottapianos, I only read Jude because a friend refused to tell me the ending because she couldn't bring herself to talk about it! So of course I had to read it then. No doubt, it is thoroughly depressing (if you intend to read it DO NOT google it first, it really is shock) but very interesting on the subject of marriage and women.

Civil partnership does sound so very.... civil. And a partnership. So much better than marriage!

Jude and Tess are the only Hardy books I have read. Are they all as bleak?

Will get onto The Trial and The Secret Agent right away LordCopper! Only got a couple of chapters into Heart of Darkness - must try again.

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 26-Mar-13 21:11:10

I did read Heart of Darkness, but only remember that I liked it, that it was miles better than Apocalypse Now. But reread. But reading Montalbano now. grin

UptoapointLordCopper Tue 26-Mar-13 21:11:34

Civil partnership does sound so much more civil!

Zatopek Tue 26-Mar-13 21:13:00

Far from the Madding Crowd has its moments but is quite uplifting at the end.

I love the beautiful symmetry of Mayor of Casterbridge but that does not end well.

I like the defying of convention in the non -happy ending in most Hardy novels

Zatopek Tue 26-Mar-13 21:21:33

Tootsietoos- Is being unmarried with children really so controversial these days?

Obviously it is down to your upbringing but class has nothing to do with it surely. I have a friend who felt she had to get married because she came from a catholic family where everyone had married before having children. I come from what some would consider a "MC" background myself but it wasn't particularly conventional although my mum is religious. We all have a good feminist streak though.

And actually most people I meet don't particularly know whether I'm married or not. They never ask and actually more often than not work colleagues will ask about my "husband". THey could be using it as a synonym for partner for all I know.
I could correct them. but it seems a bit churlish to do so. If they asked whether I was married, I would say No but it's a question no one asks.

I'm fairly sure there is a class element. I would have to find stats, but I would put money on that getting married before you have children is still something middle-class, even if it is much, much less of an issue than it was a generation ago.

Obviously this is just anecdote, but I went to a naice middle-class school and only one person had her children before she got married - but she had a mortgage on a house with her partner and she did tell me she occasionally got comments as if this somehow needed to be known about in order to make up for her not being married. confused Everyone else has got married before having kids. It has really surprised me how very conventional people get about things like marriage.

TheDoctrineOfSnatch Wed 27-Mar-13 19:45:25

I dunno, LRD - until civil partnerships for opposite sex couples are allowed, it's the simplest way legally to sort stuff - it's like buying life insurance before you go on a trip. If you are making the mortgage, wills, kids decisions then it's going to be in the mix.

Practical is a big part of it as well as conventional (and conventions no doubt sprang from practicality too in part)

ediblewoman Wed 27-Mar-13 19:58:29

I know the discussion has moved on a bit but I read the Female Eunuch at 16 almost 17 and it blew my mind. I don't always agree with everything GG says but I agree with a lot of it, even some of the more unpopular stuff. I loved her boldness, her certainty and her bravery. I still do.

The marriage issue is a funny one. I got married because I wanted to make a public statement about a private sentiment, my love and commitment to DH, and because, cold practical alert, we wanted children and had a house and it circumvented the need for complex legal arrangements that would still fall short on the protection that marriage/civil partnership can provide.

MidnightMasquerader Wed 27-Mar-13 20:39:44

I read TFE in my early university years - so maybe 19, 20? I thought it was amazing.

I haven't read it since. I suspect I probably shouldn't. I have been a feminist from as soon as I heard and understood the word, but my feminist sensibilities have been totally heightened since having DC and becoming a Mum. I'm in a great partnership with a hands-on Dad/husband who had a stint of his own as a SAHD. But... my eyes have been opened so much further as a result of motherhood, wifehood, etc, nonetheless.

I think re-reading it may just get me too riled up...

As for marriage, yes, I completely relate to the conventional middle class upbringing, and expectations, and the 'good girl' phenomenon.

Out of my circle, I can only think of one friend who had a baby before wedlock - but even then, it was a stable, long-term relationship and they are both graduate professionals. They got married before No. 2 was conceived...

Zatopek Wed 27-Mar-13 20:50:30

I'm going to offer a few stereotypes here (but I'm genuinely fascinated to know what part of the middle class is so "conventional" I'm assuming it's an upper middle class thing? Public School, Telegraph (Daily Mail) reading parents

Are the parents who would like their daughters to be "good girls" expecting them to be virgins on your wedding day too?

Plenty of Guardian reading liberals amongst the middle classes too who I'm sure would have been enjoying the "freedoms" of the 60s and possibly burning their bras to boot and would not expect their daughters to marry.

snowshapes Wed 27-Mar-13 21:12:55

Zatopek, that was really what I was thinking. It is of course correct that you are more likely to have a child out of wedlock if you come from a less privileged background, but that was not really what I meant. Historically, the women who have challenged the conventional/traditional discourses around marriage have been those who have been able to access education and follow a different path, or they had the financial means to be able to live independently from a husband. I am thinking about say, the New Woman discussions of the 1890s, which really questioned marriage and motherhood as women's destiny. Working class women may have been living independently from their husbands, but it was a precarious existence, eking out a living and dependent often on relatives or public assistance.

I think the second wave feminists who would not expect their daughters to marry are another example, yes. They may not statistically be the largest group, but because they are often in public positions (say, universities) with some intellectual clout, they maybe have more impact.

That said, I do think there is a huge pressure to get married, even today. I managed to do it twice, when I would have been far, far better not doing it at all. I am not exactly sure what legal protection it does offer you, really, especially if you are financially independent to start with.

doctrine - oh, absolutely. In fact I think a lot of it is practical - I know plenty of people who married so they'd have simpler mortgage arrangements. I was really just thinking about the class side of it.

zato - nope, the people I know are Guardian-reading liberals mostly. My own parents are, and certainly didn't expect no sex before marriage for their children. It was what doctrine describes - half and half practicality and half and half, yes, an assumption that it was the 'done thing'.

Mind you, my Guardian-reading dad told me I wouldn't be a real adult until I was married hmm, so I leave you to judge how far his 'liberal' credentials might go!

I don't think it's about the virgin-bride thing ... I think it's an unexpressed snobbery about someone getting married being seen to be 'secure'. I reckon that's why the mortgage was a good substitute for the one person who had kids before marriage. I do think amongst some circles there is still a stigma against having children in a relationship that's not seen to be stable. It is really sad, actually.

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