The Female Eunuch (1970) Book Insights

Subtitle: None

Publication date: 1970

Author name(s): Germaine Greer

About the author

Germaine Greer is an international bestselling Australian writer and public intellectual who is regarded as one of the major voices of the second-wave feminist movement in the latter half of the 20th century. Greer’s statements have gotten her into controversy even with modern feminists. For example in 2015, students at Cardiff University started a petition to stop her from speaking at the University’s campus because she famously said, “I don’t believe a woman is a man without a cock”. She went on to say, “You can beat me over the head with a baseball bat. It still won’t make me change my mind.”

Brief summary

The Female Eunuch (1970) is an informative bestselling feminist classic that looks at the societal expectations that hold women back. The author calls on women to take on the world by creating new definitions of femininity. It encourages women to take ownership of their bodies, sex and lives instead of pandering to societal expectations.

Who is this book for?

Sociology students and anyone interested in learning more about second-wave feminism.

Buy book

Amazon.co.uk / Amazon.com

Disclaimer

The content creator or LarnEdu does not necessarily support the views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the text/book.


Lessons and key book insights

The female Eunuch book insights-1970 image

Introduction

Feminism in the twentieth century led to so many societal changes. It has enabled women the right to vote and own property. However, there is still a long way to go especially relating to women’s ownership of their bodies (reproductive rights).

Even though this book was published in 1970, some of the issues it posed to solve still exist today.

Society has turned women to Eunuchs

Society expects women to be submissive, agreeable, patient, and polite. It expects women not to be bossy, dress a certain way and not to engage in premarital sex whereas it does not expect this of men.

In the movie industry, dominant women are portrayed as athletic and arrogant or sly and alluring. Male violence in movies is predominant, and the hero in these tales usually gets to bed the dominant woman.

Societal constructs that limit women’s expression and right forces women to change their appearance, and attitude to fit this construct which forces them to be disenfranchised, trapped, and without much bargaining power so making women look like Eunuchs.

Societal construct limits the sexual expression of women

Women are put in a place that prevents them from prioritising their sexual pleasure. Societal reinforcement forces women to treat sex as a passport to a commitment from a man instead of a pleasurable experience for both parties involved.
Another societal construct that disempowers women is the portrayal of penetrative sex as something for procreation or male desire even though vaginal orgasm is euphoric for women as opposed to clitoral stimulation, which is viewed as the key to female sexual pleasure. Most women have limited understanding of their sexuality because of this societal construct.

Society should see sex as a pleasure women owe themselves as human beings instead of a reward for men.

Societal expectations limits women from enjoying the progress made because of feminism

There has been much progress regarding women rights but women are still conditioned from a young age to act live cautiously and not ambitiously. Girls are given dolls to play with and stay close to their mothers. Boys, on the other hand, are given the freedom to run wild, live courageously and stay with their fathers. Girls grow up dependent on their mothers, which prepares them for dependency on their husbands in their adult life. Girls who rebel against this societal construct are shunned and looked down upon which forces other girls to comply.

Even though more and more girls are going to universities, most are not motivated to learn but rather to find husbands of a higher status or gain approval from their peers and professors, which reinforce the societal expectation that women should be agreeable, and submissive.

How societal expectation of gentile feminity hurts women

Women are expected to demonstrate morality by dressing and acting a certain way. Women have been depicted from the beginning of time to be like alluring objects that can be owned by men which reinforces to other women to try to fit this narrative.

Women are expected to feel shame about menstruation and other aspects of the woman’s body that men do not find pleasing instead of a natural process that should not be treated with shame and hidden at all costs.

Because of societal constructs, women are forced to live in fear, shame and without much understanding of their bodies.

Women should reject societal expectations that hold them back

Women have been thought to find violence attractive. So if women stopped thinking of violence as heroic, men would have less incentive to risk their lives or those of others to perform violent deeds with the hopes of getting women approval. Women should not play the damsel in distress waiting to be saved by the courageous and aggressive hero. Women should instead favour intellectual bravery. Women should not live their lives with the goal of finding a husband which forces them to miss out on other opportunities that may leave them dependant on their husbands. Women should not be afraid to take risks conform to the societal construct that keeps them back.

Women should know that they have far more to offer than living like Eunuchs.

Key quotes

These are some key quotes from the book:

Maybe I couldn’t make it. Maybe I don’t have a pretty smile, good teeth, nice tits, long legs, a cheeky arse, a sexy voice. Maybe I don’t know how to handle men and increase my market value, so that the rewards due to the feminine will accrue to me. Then again, maybe I’m sick of the masquerade. I’m sick of pretending eternal youth. I’m sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. I’m sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything I see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs; I’m sick of weighting my head with a dead mane, unable to move my neck freely, terrified of rain, of wind, of dancing too vigorously in case I sweat into my lacquered curls. I’m sick of the Powder Room. I’m sick of pretending that some fatuous male’s self-important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention, I’m sick of going to films and plays when someone else wants to, and sick of having no opinions of my own about either. I’m sick of being a transvestite. I refuse to be a female impersonator. I am a woman, not a castrate.

Status ought not to be measured by a woman’s ability to attract and snare a man.

The housewife is an unpaid worker in her husband’s house in return for the security of being a permanent employee: hers is the reductio ad absurdum of the employee who accepts a lower wage in return for permanence of his employment. But the lowest paid employees can be and are laid off, and so are wives. They have no savings, no skills which they can bargain with elsewhere, and they must bear the stigma of having been sacked.

It is commonplace observation that women are forever trying to straighten their hair if it is curly and curl it if it is straight, bind their breasts if they are large and pad them if they are small, darken their hair if it is light and lighten it if it is dark. Not all these measures are dictated by the fantom of fashion. They all reflect dissatisfaction with the body as it is, and an insistent desire that it be otherwise, not natural but controlled, fabricated. Many of the devices adopted by women are not cosmetic or ornamental, but disguise of the actual, arising from fear and distaste.

When abandoned women follow their fleeing males with tear-stained faces, screaming you can’t do this to me, they reveal that all that they have offered in the name of generosity and altruism has been part of an assumed transaction, in which they were entitled to a certain payoff.

If you think you are emancipated, you might consider the idea of tasting your own menstrual blood – if it makes you sick, you’ve got a long way to go, baby.

Adultery and fornication are still more exciting than marriage, but our culture is committed to maintaining the contrary.

 

Conclusion

Societal expectation forces women to look, dress and act a certain way even when this acts against their desires or personal freedom. Women should reject this societal constructs to enjoy liberation.

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Giovanni Olakunori

Giovanni is the founder of LarnEdu, a community aimed at inspiring knowledge and development by creating a safe-space for freethought and learning. He was responsible for growing LarnEdu’s traffic from about 25.000 visitors per month in 2014 to over 50,000 unique visitors per month in 2016 without spending a dime on ads. He usually starts his day by making his bed, lifting heavy weights, swimming and meditating in a sauna. You can read more about him or connect with him on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter.

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