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The Whole Woman

By Germaine Greer
Knopf. 373 pp. $25

  Chapter One


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This sequel to "The Female Eunuch" is the book I said I would never write. I believed that each generation should produce its own statement of problems and priorities, and that I had no special authority or vocation to speak on behalf of women of any but my own age, class, background and education.

For 30 years, I have done my best to champion all the styles of feminism that came to public attention. Though I disagreed with some of the strategies and was troubled by some of the more fundamental conflicts, it was not until feminists of my own generation began to assert with apparent seriousness that feminism had gone too far that the fire flared up in my belly.

When the lifestyle feminists chimed in that feminism had gone just far enough in giving them the right to "have it all"—i.e., money, sex and fashion—it would have been inexcusable to remain silent.

In 1970, the movement was called "women's liberation" or, contemptuously, "Women's Lib." When the name "libbers" was dropped for "feminists," we were all relieved. What none of us noticed was that the ideal of liberation was fading out with the word. We were settling for equality.

Liberation struggles are not about assimilation, but about asserting difference, endowing that difference with dignity and prestige, and insisting on it as a condition of self-definition and self-determination.

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.

Seekers after equality clamoured to be admitted to smoke-filled male haunts. Liberationists sought the world over for clues to what women's lives could be like if they were free to define their own values, order their own priorities and decide their own fate.

"The Female Eunuch" was one feminist text that did not argue for equality. At a debate in Oxford, one William J. Clinton heard me arguing that equality legislation could not give me the right to have broad hips or hairy thighs, to be at ease in my woman's body.

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.

In the last 30 years, women have come a long, long way; our lives are nobler and richer than they were, but they are also fiendishly difficult.

The career woman does not know if she is to do her job like a man, or like herself. Is she supposed to change the organisation, or knuckle under to it? Is she supposed to endure harassment, or kick ass and take names? Is motherhood a privilege or a punishment?

It is now understood that women can do anything that men can do: anyone who tries to stop them will be breaking the law. Even the President of the United States, the most powerful person in the world, can be called to account by a female nobody who accuses him of asking her to fellate him.

Power indeed! The future is female, we are told. Feminism has served its purpose and should now eff off. Feminism was long hair, dungarees and dangling earrings; post-feminism was business suits, big hair and lipstick; post-post-feminism was ostentatious sluttishness and disorderly behaviour.

We all agree that women should have equal pay for equal work, be equal before the law, do no more housework than men do, spend no more time with children than men do. Or do we? If the future is men and women dwelling as images of each other in a world unchanged, it is a nightmare.

In "The Female Eunuch", I argued that every girl child is conceived as a whole woman but, from the time of her birth to her death, she is progressively disabled. A woman's first duty to herself is to survive this process, then to recognise it, then to take measures to defend herself against it.

For years after "The Female Eunuch" was written, I travelled the earth to see if I could glimpse a surviving whole woman. She would be a woman who did not exist to embody male sexual fantasies or rely upon a man to endow her with identity and social status; a woman who did not have to be beautiful, who could be clever, who would grow in authority as she aged.

I gazed at women in segregated societies and found them in many ways stronger than women who would not go into a theatre or a restaurant without a man. Osage women in Oklahoma, and Anmatyerre and Pitjantjatara women in Central Australia, taught me about survival.

No sooner had I caught sight of the whole woman than western marketing came blaring down upon her with its vast panoply of spectacular effects, strutting and trumpeting the highly seductive gospel of salvation according to hipless, wombless, hard-titted Barbie.

My strong women thrust their muscular feet into high heels and learned to totter; they stuffed their useful breasts into brassieres and, instead of mothers' milk, fed commercial formulae made up with dirty water to their children; they spent their tiny store of cash on lipstick and nail varnish, and were made modern. While western feminists were valiantly contending for a key to the executive washroom, the feminine stereotype was completing her conquest of the world.

This insidious process was floated on the lie of the sexual revolution. Along with spurious equality and flirty femininity, we were sold sexual "freedom." One man's sexual freedom is another man's—or woman's or child's—sexual thraldom.

In February 1997, a National Opinion Poll found that "nearly seven out of 10 women feel political parties do not pay sufficient attention to issues of importance to women." These women would not answer to the description of feminist, but if feminism is the consciousness of women's oppression, they were not afraid to display it.

Even now, women may enter political institutions only after those institutions have formed them in the institutional mould; the more female politicians a parliament may boast, the less likely it is to address women's issues.

Prime Minister Blair has less trouble keeping his party under an unprecedented degree of central control because so many of the Labour MPs are inexperienced, young and female. A male Labour MP called them the Stepford Wives "with a chip inserted in their brain to keep them on message"; the media call them "Blair's babes."

Few of the silly rituals of the House have been abolished, nor has the parliamentary timetable been modified. After a year in the rowdy bear-garden that is the British House of Commons, and many weeks without seeing their families for more than a few minutes at a time, the new women MPs were reporting levels of stress approaching the unbearable.

Changes in British legislation have been slow and tentative, commitment to the economic enfranchisement of women more apparent than real. A woman is now slightly more likely to find a job than a man, entirely because of the restructuring of the job market in the employer's favour.

The workers who will accept a zero-hours contract, which means that they are only called upon if business is brisk and then paid an hourly rate, who will carry pagers and mobile phones and be at the employer's beck and call 24 hours a day, who take work home every night, who have no job protection or guarantee of safe and hygienic conditions or insurance against work-related injury, are women.

Prestige and power have seeped out of professions as women joined them. Teaching is already rock-bottom; medicine is sliding fast.

Though they are close to parity in numbers, the total earned by British women is only 60 percent of what men earn; their pay hour by hour is 79 pence for every pound earned by a man.

The differential between women's pay and men's pay has now been enshrined. A woman who brings a case before an employment tribunal will wait for years before a decision will be reached; a decision in a single case is simply that. British equal pay legislation is legislation meant to be ineffective, designed to be ineffective.

Women are discriminated against by building societies, who treat maternity leave as long-term sick leave and will not lend to couples with both partners in work if the woman is pregnant. Women pay 50 percent more for medical insurance.

Women are the stomping ground of medical technology, routinely monitored, screened and tortured, to no purpose except the enactment of control. They have been punished for their acquisition of a modicum of economic independence by being left with virtually total responsibility for the welfare of children, while gangs of professionals perpetually assess and record their inadequacies. Idealisation of the mother has been driven out by criminalisation of the mother.

Our culture is far more masculinist than it was thirty years ago. Movies deal with male obsessions. Soccer is Britain's most significant cultural activity. Computer use is spreading into every home, but more than 80 percent of Internet users are male.

Women are ignored by manufacturers of video games, which are mostly war games of one sort or another. Popular music is split as never before; the consumers of commercial pop are female; the rock music that appeals to men is deliberately, unbelievably and outrageously misogynist. While women were struggling to live as responsible dignified adults, men have retreated into extravagantly masculinist fantasies and behaviours.

Every day, terrible revenges are enacted on women who have dared to use their new privileges. Female military recruits are sexually abused and harassed, young policewomen subjected to degrading ordeals, and hideous brutality inflicted on women apparently simply because they are female.

On every side, we see women troubled, exhausted, lonely, guilty, mocked by the headlined success of the few. The reality of women's lives is work—most of it unpaid and, what is worse, unappreciated. Every day, we hear of women abused; every day, we hear of new kinds of atrocities perpetrated on the minds and bodies of women; yet every day, we are told that there is nothing left to fight for.

Even if it had been real, equality would have been a poor substitute for liberation; fake equality is leading women into double jeopardy. The rhetoric of equality is being used in the name of political correctness to mask the hammering that women are taking.

When "The Female Eunuch" was written, our daughters were not cutting or starving themselves. On every side, speechless women endure endless hardship, grief and pain, in a world system that creates billions of losers for every handful of winners.

It's time to get angry again.

Greer on Adultery

It seems there is never any shortage of women who will commit adultery with married men, and that even women who call themselves feminist are perfectly willing to marry a man who has already rendered a wife or two acutely miserable.

Women are all too ready still to accept a man's view of his relations with women, and to understand men whose wives, with much longer and closer experience, don't understand them.

When women are ready to believe that a man's saying "My wife doesn't understand me" means "I behave unreasonably towards my wife," feminism will have got to first base.

One wife is all any man deserves.

Greer on the Tyranny of Housework

By the millennium, housework should have been abolished. In a sane world, meaningless repetition of non-productive activity would be seen to be a variety of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

People who said that they enjoyed doing housework, or needed to do it, or that doing it made them feel good would be known as addicts. Once the word got out that a person was cleaning her toilet every day, therapists would come to her house and reclaim her for rationality and the pleasure principle.

Instead, we have Professor Jean-Claude Kaufman of the Sorbonne telling us that housework is a deeply sensual experience—for women, that is, not for himself. Women do menial work because it turns them on; it doesn't turn men on, therefore they should not be expected to do it.

Strange, isn't it, how much men know about sensations they have never had?

Kaufman knows a woman in whom dish-washing produces explosions of joy. According to him, rhythmic, repetitive, mindless tasks function as sexual anticipation, building up pleasurable tension until it climaxes in conjugal relations. Faking it in bed has clearly not been enough; now women are having to fake sexual arousal even when they are cleaning the toilet.

These days, housework doesn't just use people; it requires a gang of machines: vacuum cleaners, washing machines, dishwashers, driers, food processors, microwave ovens, refrigerators and freezers, immense quantities of water, power and detergent to feed into them, and an army of technicians who treat them when they malfunction—and charge more than doctors do for a home visit.

Though the houseworker doesn't now scrub and polish floors or pound clothes on a washboard or put aside an evening for ironing, she is equally busy Hoovering, spraying-and-wiping and stuffing clothes in washing machines. As more and more home appliances have appeared in more and more homes, they have brought anything but increased leisure for the houseworker (who probably also has to earn the money to pay for them).

Changing standards and notions of cleanliness have made cleaning more time-consuming than ever before. Kitchen worktops need to be constantly wiped; kitchen floors need to be mopped whenever a footprint or a pawprint appears; the bath has to be cleaned between baths; once a day is not often enough for the toilet.

Every few minutes, a television commercial illustrates the standard and shows a way of achieving it, tightening the headlock on the "housewife." A recent television commercial for Bold laundry detergent opened with a mid-shot of a slender, good-looking, but not too good-looking, woman.

A door opens behind her and a schoolboy rushes in. "Hi, Darren," she says. He does not answer. She answers herself, "Hi, Mum." Darren enters bedroom, looks surprised.

She says, "Thanks for tidying my room, Mum." He rips off his school shirt, grabs a fresh shirt from neatly folded pile (the inference being that he is immediately going out again). As the neatly ironed shirt billows out, a special effect signifies the effects of Bold.

Mum says, "Thanks for washing my shirt, Mum." No response. Then she says, "I know you appreciate me, really." Darren smirks at himself in mirror, like any snotnose git with a doormat mother.

This commercial would have been shown to a focus group of "housewives" at the story-board stage, and again before it was transmitted. They must have responded positively to this version of doting motherhood as the training of a tyrant, or the commercial would never have gone to air.

Even as feminism is trying to transform attitudes, marketing is obliterating its traces. In commercial after commercial, the performer of mindless routine tasks is an inanely smiling woman, unless some inanely smiling man pops up to demonstrate a new and better way of using even more of the product by dint of making her look a complete fool.

A mythical battle has to be waged by the houseworker against germs, depicted as intelligent beings of deviant appearance lurking under the rim of the toilet ready to infect helpless kiddies if the houseworker should be so remiss as to allow a single one to survive. There are more "germs" in her mouth and under her fingernails and in her hair than there are under the rim of the toilet, but the houseworker is not told this.

Her vocation is to rid the world of germs with the aid of a knight in shining armour, a genie in a bottle, a white tornado. This is housework as heroic exploit. The houseworker can only know that she has done her duty when she has squirted bleach-based agents into every nook and cranny of her house, even down the drains.

Houses no longer smell of cooking; they smell of cleaning. Yet kitchens are not operating theatres and antisepsis in kitchens is as undesirable as it is impossible, because it can only be achieved by huge overuse of powerful chemicals.

Millennial food preparation takes less time than the old methods; the time spent getting food on and off the table has shrunk by a third, but it must not be thought the houseworker has more leisure time as a result. Housework expands to fill the time available.

Time not spent doing one task will be taken up by another. Washing used to be done on a single day of the week, usually Monday. When washing machines became cheap enough to be owned by the majority, washing came gradually to be done on any day of the week, and then on every day of the week. Laundry is nowadays done several times a day.

Television commercials show beaming women snatching a single soiled garment from the back of husband or child, and producing it blazing clean minutes later, having been through the whole washing and drying process aided by a horde of sophisticated bio-digesters, enzymes and whitening agents as well as immense amounts of power and water, all squandered on a single garment. Kids won't wear their jeans and T-shirts for more than a few hours each before into the machine they go.

The person who does all this work is usually female. Advertisers and market researchers who tried to buck the stereotype and show men spraying Harpic under the rim of the toilet very soon realised their mistake.

Nowadays, it is always a woman who pops the meal in the microwave, whips off her apron, uncorks the wine, lights the candles and waits. There is no magazine called Man and Home. The 23 percent of men who will consent to cook when they have a woman in the house do so on special occasions with great song and dance, leaving the clearing up to be done by her.

Men who clean and wash are presumed to have a wife in hospital. The few men who do a hand's turn around the house expect gratitude and recognition, so sure are they that, though it is their dirt, it is not their job. Work around the house is as gendered as ever it was.

Men have not agreed to do a share, let alone a fair share, of domestic work, because they have never agreed on the amount of work that needs to be done. It is difficult to know how they could, because most of the work done in the home does not need to be done.

The men who leave ziggurats of dirty dishes festering in the sink are actually involved in a power play which they have no intention of losing. All they need to do is to exploit inertia, and wait it out.

Sooner or later, the woman will give in, because the squalor is not held against the menfolk but against her. A man who is slovenly and untidy is considered normal; the woman who is, either a slut or a slommack or a sloven or a slag.

The external attribute becomes a moral quality, as it does not for a man. This works both ways; a house-proud woman equates her spotless house with her virtuous self and derives her sense of self-worth from the orderliness of her cupboards, rather than qualities of her mind or soul.

The only way to escape this tyranny of housework is to abandon the house. You can live with nomads or hunter-gatherers, maybe, or become a nun with nothing but a cell to distract you from the day-long excitement of prayer. Or maybe you can make a vow that no more than an hour in any day may be spent on housework—and keep it.

This really would be the end of civilisation as we know it.

Greer on Marriage

Some of the briefest marriages are those that follow a long period of cohabitation. Nobody quite knows why this is so, but the theory is that unforced cohabitation is less oppressive than sanctioned cohabitation.

Marriage does make a difference; even when the marriage service does not contain the bride's pledge to "love, honour and obey," it acts in the interest of a husband rather than a wife.

Though the bride herself may not feel that she has left the family of her father and been taken into the family of her husband, the ancient dynamic still prevails. His friends will now be her friends, but her friends are unlikely to become his; even if her parents are not entirely displaced by his, his will take precedence.

The dynamic of mutual accommodation that propelled a couple's informal cohabitation is unnecessary once marriage has confined them. As both are bound, the power will come to be concentrated in the person best prepared to take advantage of the situation, and that person is the male partner.

Having been so lucky as to acquire a wife, he begins to take the liberties that husbands have traditionally taken, comes and goes as he pleases, spends more time outside the connubial home, spends more money on himself, leaves off the share of the housework that he may have formerly done.

She sees her job as making him happy; he feels that in marrying her, he has done all that is necessary to make her happy. The less she expected it, the more generous he feels for having done it. To her anxious question "Do you love me?" he has an easy answer. "Of course. I married you, didn't I?"

The interesting thing about this particular con is that men need marriage more than women do. A man without a wife is fragile; prisons are full of men who never married and unmarried men are more likely to die violently.

A wife, whose first duty is to stand by her man, reassure him, build up his confidence and attend to his creature comforts, is an asset to any man; performing such a role is not necessarily advantageous to the performer.

Yet marriage is represented to women rather than men as a sign of success so effectively that failure in a woman's pair-bonding will neutralise success in any other field. Success which might put pressure on her pair-bond is success too dearly bought.

Magazine after magazine offers young women advice on how to get their man to commit himself; there is nothing comparable in men's literature. Men buy literature about men's toys and pastimes; women buy magazines about men and relationships.

Though young men have searing anxieties of their own about relationships, relationships are not represented to them as the only things of value in their lives.

This fundamental asymmetry distorts all youthful male-female interaction: the girls put too much into their sexual relationships and set too much store by them, making demands that immature males cannot afford to recognise.

Greer on Sex and the Singly Woman

Out of 3.8 million British women in their thirties, almost a million are single or divorced.

Not only are many women not at present half of a couple, and not likely to become so, but they are also sexually inactive, which is a dereliction of their duty to themselves and the body politic.

There is very little they can do about this, bar spending a fortune on body, clothes, face and hair, because, though they can signal availability in a dozen ways, they cannot actually "make themselves attractive."

The power to make an object attractive lies with the beholder of the object, not the object itself. As a woman grows older, her chances of mating on any but humiliating terms grow less and less.

The constant pressure to be sexually active, which has replaced the old pressure to reproduce, actually places unmated women in jeopardy, and fills them with anxiety and the sense of failure.

It is the greater pity then that so many feminists accept and perpetuate the notion that people who are not sexually active are of no account. So let this feminist say it again: "No sex is better than bad sex."

Bad sex is bad for you. Looking for sex can be humiliating, disappointing and dangerous. Making yourself available can mean putting yourself in jeopardy.

No sex does you no harm at all. As many a sole woman out there knows, being single and free is bliss compared to the misery inflicted by an unfair partner, good though the sex may have been.

Besides, the things you want don't tend to turn up until you have given over looking for them.

Greer on Body Image

"Show me a woman who loves her body"

Every woman knows that, regardless of all her other achievements, she is a failure if she is not beautiful. She also knows that whatever beauty she has is leaving her, stealthily, day by day.

Even if she is as freakishly beautiful as the supermodels whose images she sees replicated all around her until they are more familiar than the features of her own mother, she cannot be beautiful enough. There must be bits of her that will not do: her knees, her feet, her buttocks, her breasts.

However much body hair she has, it is too much. However little and sweetly she sweats, it is too much. Left to her own devices, she is sure to smell bad. If her body is thin enough, her breasts are sad. If her breasts are full, her arse is surely too big.

What is pathological behaviour in a man is required of a woman. A bald man who wears a wig is a ridiculous figure; a bald woman who refuses to wear a wig is being stroppy and confrontational. Women with "too much" (i.e., any) body hair are expected to struggle daily with depilatories of all kinds in order to appear hairless.

Scientists call abnormal preoccupation with a perceived defect in one's appearance Body Dysmorphic Disorder, or BDD. Yet no one would say that the woman who puts herself through the agonising ordeal of hot-waxing her bikini-line must be suffering from BDD.

Such insecurity has been instilled into women over generations; we have made not the least headway in the struggle to dispel it. Every issue of every woman's magazine exploits women's anxiety about "unwanted hair."

Even if you escape hairiness, you will fall foul of cellulite. When The Female Eunuch has written, "cellulite" was a French disease. The English word should by rights be "cellulitis," but, as British pharmaceutical companies jumped on a bandwagon set off by sales campaigns for French products, they adopted the French word.

Cellulite is subcutaneous fat, pure and simple. It keeps women warm and softens the contours of their bodies and, if it builds up, it often dimples. Whether or not your fat dimples is a matter of genetic endowment; some women have tight smooth fat and some women have softer fat, which droops and dimples, even on their knees, invariably on their bottoms.

The characteristic orange-peel appearance can be seen even in the bottoms of babies who have not eaten chocolate, drunk coffee or alcohol or smoked, or committed any other of the sins that are punishable by cellulite.

Once upon a time, men and women both admired dimply fat; it took 20th-century marketing to render it disgusting. Most of what is written about "globular fat cells," "poor lymphatic drainage" and "toxins that have solidified" is cynical tosh.

Dimply fat will only disappear if it is starved off; no amount of pounding or vibrating or massaging will have any effect on it whatsoever. No cream, whether made of placenta or the brains of aborted fetuses or ground glass, will break down cellulite. Your cellulite is you, and will be with you till death or liposuction, which is expensive and extremely painful and sometimes more disfiguring than the dimply fat itself.

As fat distribution is hormonally regulated, the fat will probably build up again gradually after liposuction. As cellulite will neither kill you nor go away, it is a goldmine for doctors, nutritionists, naturopaths, aromatherapists, fitness experts and lifestyle managers.

The manufacturers of creams, exercise equipment, skin brushes and dietary supplements all make a bundle out of women's carefully cultivated disgust with their own bodies, scarfed about as they are by "unsightly fat cells." Criminalising cellulite is just another way of demonising fat, any fat, anywhere.

As a way of inducing them to buy products of no use or value, women have been deliberately infected with BDD. Conditions that practically all women "suffer from" are spoken of as unsightly and abnormal, to make women feel that parts of their bodies, perhaps their whole bodies, are defective and should be worked on, even surgically altered.

Most women think that their hair is not good enough and dye it or bleach it or perm it. Most women feel that their legs are not long enough, that their thighs are too heavy or not firm enough. Most women are unhappy about their bottoms, which are either too flat, too low-slung, too fat or too broad. Preoccupation about her appearance goes some way towards ruining some part of every women's day. Multi-million-dollar industries exploit both her need for reassurance and her need to do something about the way she looks.

Thirty years ago, it was enough to look beautiful; now a woman has to have a tight, toned body, including her buttocks and thighs, so that she is good to touch, all over. "Remember," she will be told, "beauty starts from within," so she keeps her bowels open with plenty of fibre and her kidneys flushed with lots of pure water.

Being beautiful from within takes even more time than slapping beauty on from without. Demi Moore is said to work out for four hours a day, beginning with a cardiovascular aerobic workout, then working her legs and buttocks with pliés, standing lunges and thigh lifts, her upper body with shoulder and punching exercises, and toning her abdominal muscles. She also eats only non-processed, pesticide-free, totally vegetarian foods.

The result—taut abs, a rock-hard butt and twanging musculature—was still not enough to save her marriage.

Whatever a woman does, she must not look her age. The fitness regime is lifelong, to go with the lifelong sexual activity that is nowadays obligatory.

The UK beauty industry takes ú8-9 billion a year out of women's pockets. Magazines financed by the beauty industry teach little girls that they need make-up and train them to use it, so establishing their lifelong reliance on beauty products.

Not content with showing pre-teens how to use foundations, powders, concealers, blushers, eye-shadows, eye-liners, lip-liners, lipstick and lip gloss, the magazines identify problems of dryness, flakiness, blackheads, shininess, dullness, blemishes, puffiness, oiliness, spots, greasiness, that little girls are meant to treat with moisturisers, fresheners, masks, packs, washes, lotions, cleansers, toners, scrubs, astringents—none of which will make the slightest difference and all of which would cost money the child does not have.

Pre-teen cosmetics are relatively cheap but, within a few years, more sophisticated marketing will have persuaded the most level-headed young woman to throw money away on alchemical preparations containing anything from silk to cashmere, pearls, proteins, royal jelly, placenta extracts, ceramides, biotin, collagen, "phytotensers," bisabolol, jojoba, "hydra-captors," serine, fruit hydroxy-acids, oleospheres, corneospheres, nanovectors, glycerol—anything real or phony that might fend off her imminent collapse into hideous decrepitude.

Yet consumer research regularly reports that nothing applied to the surface of the skin can affect the underlying structures or prevent aging, and still the anti-aging products sell.

Every day, hospitals put placenta into special freezers to be collected once a week by unmarked vans and sold to face-cream manufacturers. So desperate are some women to stave off aging that they are prepared to submit to injections of botulin toxin to freeze their facial muscles and prevent wrinkles.

What is truly depressing about the false dawn of feminism is that, as we have been congratulating ourselves on largely imaginary victories, BDD has become a global pandemic. Women who were unselfconscious and unmade-up 30 years ago, who walked at a natural pace and worked alongside men in the fields and the factories, are now infected.

In provincial cities in China, hanging up over shop doorways, you can see boards with padded brassieres pinned all over them, and trays of cheap lacquer and lipstick under fly-spotted glass, so that women who are naturally small-breasted can assume the "new shape." Beauty salons crimp and curl shining hair with a fall like silk into shapeless frizz.

The two billion people worldwide who regularly view Baywatch are all recognising a single, tawdry, synthetic kind of skinnied-down, pumped-up, bleached and depilated female beauty. Real girls tell me that when they run along the beach, their male companions make fun of their real breasts that bounce up and down—unlike the rigid half-tennis-ball boobs of the Baywatch babes.

Who cares that Pamela Anderson, who has been put together out of all the movable parts of male and female fetishism, has been abused by her husband? We are selling fantasy here.

Greer on Barbie

It seemed, a quarter of a century ago, that the days of the Barbie doll were numbered. Barbie was descended from a swimsuit-clad German porno-toy called Lilli—a 12-inch peroxided nymph with a sidelong glance, designed to be sold to men in tobacconists' shops.

At her American debut in the spring of 1959, Barbie was the first toy to be directly marketed to three- to 11-year-old girls on Saturday morning television. American girls now own eight Barbies apiece, British girls six.

With her non-functional body, boasting a nipple-free bosom more than twice the circumference of her minute waist, legs twice as long as her torso, and feet so tiny that she cannot stand on them, Barbie is unlikely to have been very effective in her career roles as astronaut, vet or stewardess.

Every year, Barbie gets 120 new outfits, including a range of sexy underwear, and a new career. She has 35 pets, as well as a kitchen, a bathroom and a patio.

She is put together by 11,000 Chinese peasant women in two factories in Guangdong Province; 23p of the total price of a Barbie doll is payment for their labour. Sales last year topped $1.2 billion. More than one billion Barbies have been sold since 1959; she is brand leader in every one of the 140 countries where she is sold.

In 1998, a makeover was announced; the millennial Barbie is to stand on flat feet, her bosom and hips are to be slightly reduced and her waist slightly enlarged, but she will still be a far cry from Action Woman. Even so, a U.S. columnist objected, "Why not just give her a moustache, cellulite and varicose veins too?" The further from the natural a female form, the more attractive it becomes. The further from the natural a female form, the more feminine it is.

Barbie has been instrumental in teaching broad-shouldered women, short-legged women, wide-bodied women, real women the world over, to despise their bodies as we do, so that they pay out money that could be put towards the cost of books or computers or bicycles, for cheaply produced, expensively packaged "beauty" products.

Greer in Abortion

Feminism is supposed to be pro-abortion. There are some who fancy that feminists used to march shouting, "What do we want? Abortion! When do we want it? We want it now!"

Those same people think that, for once, marching and shouting were effective. Reluctant authorities gave in to the women's screaming, and allowed a tide of feticide to sweep the world.

This is not what happened.

In the United States, the crucial factor was a decision in the Supreme Court in the case of Roe v. Wade, which upheld the principle that, as the law had no part to play in what passed between a woman and her doctor, intervention by the state to prevent an abortion was a breach of the patient's privacy.

"Jane Roe" or Norma McCorvey, a sometime carnival barker and druggie who was pregnant for the third time, was the stooge selected by a young Texas lawyer. She has subsequently been "born again" and now repudiates her part in the decision that "legalised" abortion in the U.S. The decision in Roe v. Wade did nothing to confront, let alone resolve, the deep moral conflicts surrounding the issue of abortion.

Pregnancy is unlike other patient-doctor relations in that there are two other individuals involved—the father-to-be and the child-to-be. Every time a fetus is recognised as a party to other litigation, the safety of the decision in the case of Roe v. Wade is called into question.

What women "won" was the "right" to undergo invasive procedures in order to terminate unwanted pregnancies—unwanted not just by them but by their parents, their sexual partners, the governments who would not support mothers, the employers who would not employ mothers, the landlords who would not accept tenants with children, the schools that would not accept students with children.

Historically, the only thing pro-abortion agitation achieved was to make an illiberal establishment look far more feminist than it was.

The abortionists who went to prison in the run-up to legalisation for "helping girls in trouble" were all male. All saw themselves as champions of women and defenders of women's rights. They were repaid with the love and loyalty of women, who were grateful for the right to expiate their sexual activity in pain and grief.

The goal was "every child a wanted child"; it should also have been "every abortion a wanted abortion," but the two sides of the phony debate were never to meet. Any feminist who saw abortion as an assault on women and agitated for a concomitant right to bear children without being condemned to poverty, misery and failure was suspected of being a crypto-right-to-lifer.

In 1997, Cardinal Winning [leader of Scotland's 750,000 Catholics] took the first step in the direction of providing a genuine alternative to abortion by offering support in the form of an unspecified lump sum of money to women who would otherwise have an abortion because they could not afford to have a baby. The outcry was immediate; the money was called a bribe that would lure women away from what was best for them—i.e., childlessness.

Nevertheless, donations poured into Cardinal Winning's fund until, at the time of writing, £180,000 had been donated, half of which had been paid out. Two hundred women had applied for assistance, 50 of whom had borne children, with 50 more on the way.

Cardinal Winning no doubt hopes that government will take over his responsibility and offer support to every child conceived. Feminists should share his hope, but the media has locked feminists into a position which they define as "pro-abortion."

Feminism is pro-woman rather than pro-abortion; we have always argued for freedom of reproductive choice. But a choice is only possible if there are genuine alternatives.

In Britain, the anti-abortion lobby in the House of Commons brings Private Members' Bills year after year, apparently unaware that the medical establishment has no intention of allowing any curb on its right to dispose of blastocysts, fetuses and embryos as, when and how it sees fit.

Feminists react to each successive attack on the availability of abortion with grave concern, fighting a battle on behalf of the richest and most powerful organisations in the world. The pharmaceutical multi-nationals will not allow any wholesale revision of abortion rights, in case the mode of operation of their so-called contraceptives should be called in question.

In the British elections of 1997, the "pro-Life" alliance hoped to field 50 candidates, thus qualifying for a party political broadcast in which to alert the unconscious public to the horrors of pregnancy termination—but they were fighting a rearguard action. A poll conducted by a Sunday newspaper found that, even after a series of pregnancy-related scandals, 81 percent of people still thought that a woman had the right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy.

Another poll, carried out by MORI, showed that abortion was no longer a minority issue; 45 percent of the sample knew close friends or members of the family who had had abortions, compared with 27 percent in 1980.

The people polled were asked if they thought that abortion should be available for "all who wanted it" and 64 percent answered in the affirmative; of the 11 percent of the people polled who were Catholics, half agreed with what 30 years ago would have been considered an extreme position.

People also showed the beginnings of a retreat from the notion of eugenic abortion in cases where mental or physical handicap was suspected, which was supported by 84 percent of people in 1980 and by only 66 percent in 1997. In the contest between the doctor's right to choose versus the woman's right to choose whether to deliver a handicapped baby, the woman appears to be gaining ground.

There can be no gainsaying that women cannot manage their own lives if access to abortion is to be denied, but the need for abortion is itself the consequence of oppression.

If we accept every instance of abortion as the outcome of unwanted and easily avoided pregnancy, we have to ask ourselves how it is that women are still exposing themselves to this risk. A woman who is unable to protect her cervix from exposure to male hyperfertility is certainly not calling the shots.

The man is most likely to have initiated the episode of intercourse, to have chosen the place and the time; the woman is probably still dancing backwards. If the child is unwanted, whether by her or her partner or her parents, it will be her duty to undergo an invasive procedure and an emotional trauma, and so sort the situation out.

The crowning insult is that this ordeal is represented to her as some kind of a privilege: her sad and onerous duty is garbed in the rhetoric of a civil right.

She is confronted with other people who know better than she what she ought to do. She will be required to undergo investigations of her pregnancy for which there is no treatment but termination, whether she would countenance a termination or not.

If she undergoes the tests, say for Down's Syndrome, and refuses the termination, she will be asked why she had the test in the first place. And she will probably be talked into the termination.

Her agony of mind is increased by the regular publication of results of research to establish whether and when human fetuses become aware, feel pain, can learn. In March 1998, we learned that fetuses are alert and can learn at 20 weeks gestation, before the formation of a cerebral cortex. The evidence was unconvincing, in that reaction was being construed as consciousness, but it had the desired effect—which was to worry women.

Feminists have argued that delaying abortion is immoral, but all measures to put in place speedy and non-traumatic abortion procedures, which would be embryologically identical with what passes for contraception, have been blocked by the same authorities who regularly produce evidence about the developing sensibilities of the fetus.

A woman who is granted an abortion does not get to choose between abortions: abortion is presented to her as a single entity, when there is a bewildering array of options.

Non-surgical, do-it-yourself abortion has been possible for 20 years or more, but the health establishment rations and controls access to it. In the United States, the so-called "morning-after" pill is unavailable. In Britain, it is not usually made available until the client has endured a sermon on reliable contraception. (One of the best-kept secrets in gynecology is the use of methotrexate and other cytotoxics for non-surgical abortion.)

In the United States, surgical abortion is usually a 10-minute procedure—vacuum aspiration with local anaesthetic; in Canada, a cumbersome two-stage procedure, involving the insertion of a laminaria tent, and dilatation and curette under general anaesthetic 24 hours later, is preferred; in Russia, which has the highest abortion rate in the world, no anaesthesia is used; in Britain, vacuum aspiration under general anaesthetic is usual.

Recently, the use of better pregnancy testing and smaller cannulas has made possible the surgical removal of the fertilised ovum as early as eight to 10 days after conception, when it is no bigger than a pinhead—at much the same point that it would be shed by the women using the "contraceptive" pill or an intrauterine device. At the time of writing, only about 20 of the clinics affiliated with Planned Parenthood are using the method—and only in the United States.

To be pregnant against your will is to see your life swerve out of control. To become a mother without wanting to is to live like a slave or a domestic animal. Like any other adult, a woman would wish to be infertile and fertile when appropriate: she is led to believe that contraception is her duty and that the available techniques are easy to use and completely effective.

If she were totally in control of the manner in which she is sexually active, she might insist that her male partner control his excessive fertility rather than delegating to her the responsibility for inhibiting his power to fecundate.

Though vasectomy is available, it is culturally invisible. Men don't get pregnant, therefore men don't bother about contraception. Men do get sexually transmitted diseases so they do use condoms, sometimes, but nowhere near as often as they should.

These days, contraception is abortion, because the third-generation Pills cannot be shown to prevent sperm fertilising an ovum. Yet no one feels so strongly against abortion at any stage that they picket the factories where birth control pills are produced.

IUDs are clearly abortifacient: these devices work by creating inflammation of the uterus, often accompanied by infection. Women who accept them as contraceptive devices are actually being equipped with a do-it-yourself abortionist's tool. The outcome is frequent occult abortion, heavy bleeding and pelvic inflammatory disease, with the accompanying elevated risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Whether you feel that the creation and wastage of so many embryos is an important issue or not, you must see that the cynical deception of millions of women by selling abortifacients as if they were contraceptives is incompatible with the respect due to women as human beings.

You must also see that expecting women to be grateful for the opportunity to have inserted into their bodies instruments for sucking and scraping out the products of avoidable conception shows them as much contempt.

Fake contraceptive technology manipulates women in ways that we are coming to condemn when they are practised on members of other species. What women don't know does hurt them.

If we ask ourselves whether we would have any hope of imposing upon men the duty to protect women's fertility and their health, and avoid the abortions that occur in their uncounted millions every day, we will see in a blinding light how unfree women are. Women, from the youngest to the oldest, are aware that to impose conditions on intimacy would be to be accorded even less of it than they get already.

The women who refuses to enter the gynecological abattoir, which extends into every bathroom in the country, must be prepared to do without male approval and attention.

© Copyright 1999 Germaine Greer

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