...the consequences of militancy do not disappear when the need for militancy is over. Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.
Gillard is as likeable as Rudd is charmless. She is self-deprecating, he is ludicrously vainglorious. She is a mistress of understatement, he is a ranter.
The most cursory examination of even the most progressive organs of information reveals a curious inability to recognize women as newsmakers, unless they are young or married to a head of state or naked or pregnant by some triumph of technology or perpetrators or victims of some hideous crime or any combiniation of the above. Women's issues are often disguised as people issues, unless they are relegated to the women's pages which amazingly still suvive. Senior figures are all male; even the few women who are deemed worthy of obituaries are shown in images from their youth, as if the last fourty years of their lives have been without achievement of any kind. If you analyse the by-lines in your morning paper, you will see that the senior editorial staff are all older men, supported by a rabble of junior females, the infinitely replacesable 'hackettes'.
Thirty years on, femininity is still compulsory for women—and has become an option for men—while genuine femaleness remains grotesque to the point of obscenity. Meanwhile, the price of the small advances we have made towards sexual equality has been the denial of femaleness as any kind of a distinguishing character.
Until our own time, history focussed on man the achiever; the higher the achiever the more likely it was that the woman who slept in his bed would be judged unworthy of his company. Her husband's fans recoiled from the notion that she might have made a significant contribution towards his achievement of greatness. The possibility that a wife might have been closer to their idol than they could ever be, understood him better than they ever could, could not be entertained.
Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful.
Half the point in reading novels and seeing plays and films is to exercise the faculty of sympathy with our own kind, so often obliterated in the multifarious controls and compulsions of actual social existence.
The woman who realizes that she is bound by a million Lilliputian threads in an attitude of impotence and hatred masquerading as tranquility and love has no option but to run away, if she is not to be corrupted and extinguished utterly.
Women's work, married or unmarried, is menial and low paid. Women's right to possess property is curtailed, more if they are married. How can marriage provide security? In any case a husband is a possession which can be lost or stolen and the abandoned wife of thirty odd with a couple of children is far more desolate and insecure in her responsibility than an unmarried woman with or without children ever could be.
The second class status of marriage became one of the principal issues in the Reformation. Martin Luther, the Augustinian friar, had barely posted his ninety-five theses on the door of the church in Wittenberg when he took himself a wife.
Women's magazines sadly remark that children can have a disruptive effect on the conjugal relationship, that the young wife's involvement with her children and her exhaustion can interfere with her husband's claims on her. What a notion- a family that is threatened by its children! Contraception has increased the egotism of the couple: planned children have a pattern to fit into; at least unplanned children had some of the advantages of contingency. First and foremost they were whether their parents liked it or not. In the limited nuclear family the parents are the principals and children are theirs to manipulate in a newly purposive way. The generation gap is being intensified in these families where children must not inconvenience their parents, where they are disposed of in special living quarters at special times of day, their own rooms and so forth. Anything less than this is squalor. Mother must not have more children than she can control: control means full attention for much of the day, then isolation.
English children have lost their innocence, for their first lessons have been in the exploitation of their adult slave. A sterilized parent is a eunuch in his children's haremm. to be sure, I recognize that efficient contraception is necessary for sexual pleasure, and that sexual pleasure is necessary, but contraception for economic reasons is another matter. 'We can only afford two children' is a squalid argument, but more acceptable in our society than 'we don't like children'. A sterilized parent is forever bound to those children he has, more than ever immobile and predictable, and those children are more securely bound to him. 'We can only afford two children' really means, 'We only like clean, well-discipline middle-class children who grow up to be professionals', for children manage to use up all the capital that is made available for that purpose, whatever proportion it may be of the family's whole income, just as housework expands to fill the time available. The sterilized parent is the ultimate domestic animal.
If women could regard childbearing not as a duty or an inescapable destiny but as a privilege to be worked for, the ay a man might work for the right to have a family, children might grow up without the burden of gratitude for the gift of life which they never asked for.
We could see that our mothers blackmailed us with self-sacrifice, even if we did not know whether or not they might have been great opera stars or toasts of the town if they had not borne us. In our intractable moments we pointed out that we had not asked to be born, or even to go to an expensive school. We knew that they must have had motives of their own for what they did with us and to us. The notion of our parents' self-sacrifice filled us not with gratitude but with confusion and guilt. We wanted them to be happy yet they were sad and deprived and it was our fault.
Now as before, women must refuse to be meek and guileful, for truth cannot be served by dissimulation. Women who fancy that they manipulate the world by pussy power and gentle cajolery are fools. It is slavery to have to adopt such tactics.
In the struggle to remain a complete person and to love from her fullness instead of her inadequacy a woman may appear hard. She may feel her early conditioning tugging her in the direction of surrender, but she ought to remember that she was originally loved for herself; she ought to hang on to herself and not find herself nagging, helpless, irritable and trapped. Perhaps I am not old enough yet to promise that the self-reliant woman is always loved, but she cannot be lonely as long as there are people in the world who need her joy and her strength, but certainly in my experience it has always been so. Lovers who are free to go when they are restless always come back; lovers who are free to change remain interesting. The bitter animosity and obscenity of divorce is unknown where individuals have not become Siamese twins. A lover who comes to your bed of his own accord is more likely to sleep with his arms around you all night than a lover who has nowhere else to sleep.
The vagina is obliterated from the imagery of femininity in the same way that the signs of independence and vigor in the rest of her body are suppressed.
Women’s liberation did not see the female’s potential in terms of the male’s actual, the visionary feminists of the late sixties and early seventies knew that women could never find freedom by agreeing to live the lives of unfree men.
In some ways the operation of the feminine stereotype is so obvious and for many women entirely unattainable, that it can be easily reacted against. It takes a great deal of courage and independence to decide to design your own image instead of the one that society rewards, but it gets easier as you go along. Of course, a woman who goes her own way will find her conditioning is ineradicable, but she at least can recognize its operation and choose to counteract it, whereas a man might find that he was being more subtly deluded.
Every human body has its optimum weight and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women’s bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them and their owners. Whether the curves imposed are the ebullient arabesques of the tit-queen or the attenuated coils of art nouveau, they are deformations of the dynamic, individual body, and limitations of the possibilities of being female.
Abandonment of slavery is also the banishment of the chimera of security. The world will not change overnight, and liberation will not happen unless individual women agree to be outcasts, eccentrics, perverts, and whatever the powers-that-be choose to call them.
As far as cosmetics are used for adornment in a conscious and creative way, they are not emblems of inauthenticity: it is when they are presented as the real thing, covering unsightly blemishes, disguising a repulsive thing so that it is acceptable to the world that their function is deeply suspect. The women who dare not go out without their false eyelashes are in serious psychic trouble.
A housewife's work has no results: it simply has to be done again. Bringing up children is not a real occupation, because children come up just the same, brought up or not.
If she is efficient and capable or ambitious, it is assumed that she has failed to find satisfaction as a normal woman, even to the extent of implying a glandular abnormality or sexual perversion.
Men are the enemy in much the same way that some crazed boy in uniform was the enemy of another like him in most respects except the uniform. One possible tactic is to try to get the uniforms off.
The surest guide to the correctness of the path that women take is joy in the struggle. Revolution is the festival of the oppressed. For a long time there may be no perceptible reward for women other than their new sense of purpose and integrity. Joy does not mean riotous glee, but it does mean the purposive employment of energy in a self-chosen enterprise. It does mean pride and confidence. It does mean communication and cooperation with others based on delight in their company and your own. To be emancipated from helplessness and need and walk freely upon the earth that is your birthright. To refuse hobbles and deformity and take possession of your body and glory in its power, accepting its own laws of loveliness. To have something to desire, something to make, something to achieve, and at last something genuine to give. To be freed from guilt and shame and the tireless self-discipline of women. To stop pretending and dissembling, cajoling and manipulating, and begin to control and sympathize. To claim the masculine virtues of magnanimity and generosity and courage. It goes much further than equal pay for equal work, for it ought to revolutionise the conditions of work completely. It does not understand the phrase 'equality of opportunity', for it seems that the opportunities will have to be utterly changed and women's souls changed so that they desire opportunity instead of shrinking from it.
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.
Those miserable women who blame the men who let them down for their misery and isolation enact every day the initial mistake of sacrificing their personal responsibility for themselves.
Every human body has its optimum weight and contour, which only health and efficiency can establish. Whenever we treat women's bodies as aesthetic objects without function we deform them.
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.
Until woman as she is can drive this plastic spectre out of her own and her man's imagination she will continue to apologize and disguise herself, while accepting her male's pot-belly, wattles, bad breath, farting, stubble, baldness and other ugliness without complaint.
If women understand by emancipation the adoption of the masculine role then we are lost indeed. If women can supply no counterbalance to the blindness of male drive the aggressive society will run to its lunatic extremes at ever-escalating speed. Who will safeguard the despised animal faculties of compassion, empathy, innocence and sensuality?
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.