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FEMINIST'S WRITES

What is Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch about, when was it published and what are the best quotes?

We give you an insight into the Australian writer's book, The Female Eunuch, as she continues to court controversy

OUTSPOKEN feminist Germaine Greer is famed for fighting for women's rights and her foul-mouthed rants.

We give you an insight into the Australian writer's book, The Female Eunuch, as she continues to court controversy.

 Germaine Greer, who wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970
Rex Features
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Germaine Greer, who wrote The Female Eunuch in 1970

What is Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch about?

When Germaine Greer wrote a book in 1970, it would change her life and make her a household name.

In The Female Eunuch, Greer wrote about the oppression of women by men.

Greer's thesis is that the "traditional" suburban, consumerist, nuclear family represses women sexually, which devitalises them and makes them eunuchs.

In sections titled "Body", "Soul", "Love" and "Hate" Greer examines historical definitions of women's perception of self.

The book was published in London in October 1970.

By March 1971, it had nearly sold out its second printing.

It has been translated into eleven languages.

Since then Greer has written many more acclaimed books, more recently Shakespeare's Wife and The Whole Woman which was a sequel to The Female Eunuch.

 The Female Eunuch became an international bestseller
Amazon
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The Female Eunuch became an international bestseller

How was the book received?

During an interview in 1971, Greer said of her book: "The title is an indication of the problem. 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 vigour for delicacy and succulence, and one that's got to be changed."

In January 1972, The Age's reviewer Thelma Forshaw described the book as "the orchestrated over-the-back-fence grizzle ... based on the curious fancy ... we were all men, and then some fiend castrated half of us and gave us a ghastly internal bookie's bag called a womb".

The newspaper said the review "has stirred up a considerable controversy".

But according to journalist Keith Dunstan, reviews of the book were fairly mixed.

He cited a positive review by Sylvia Lawson of The Australian, who wrote: "It has been greeted in Australia with some fantastically myopic, complacent and resentful printed comment ... (the book) is neither dogmatic nor complacent, neither strident nor paranoic ... (it is) ranging, exploratory and questioning".

Germaine Greer questions Me Too movement claiming it's “too late now to start whingeing” for women who have made allegations

What are the best quotes from the book?

The Female Eunuch may be almost half a century old but, like its author, it's renowned for its frank quotes.

Here's a list of them:

    • “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.”
    • “Loneliness is never more cruel than when it is felt in close propinquity with someone who has ceased to communicate. Many a housewife staring at the back of her husband's newspaper, or listening to his breathing in bed is lonelier than any spinster in a rented room.”
    • “It is often falsely assumed, even by feminists, that sexuality is the enemy of the female who really wants to develop these aspects of her personality, and this is perhaps the most misleading aspect of movements like the National Organization of Women. It was not the insistence upon her sex that weakened the American woman student's desire to make something of her education, but the insistence upon a passive sexual role
    • “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.”
    • “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.”
    • “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.”
    • “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.”