Germaine Greer’s Female Eunuch is a second wave feminist classic. A Post Freudian account which argues that the development of a ‘female libido’ is the key to social liberation.
What insights does this iconoclastic work have to shine on the present?
As the prologue lays it out, the earlier – suffragette – wave of feminists had fought hard for civil rights of participation equal to those of men, and, according to Germaine, had largely won them, opening to women a world of possibility (equal access to the ‘ulcer and coronary’). And yet, this is still a ‘man’s world’ of hierarchical order and success or failure through competition and strain. She argues, therefore that fewer women than expected have chosen to enjoy such a ‘privilege’.
This is very different starting point to the contemporary focus on “patriarchy”, which it is said, either excludes or exploits women’s participation in society; but for Germaine, the reluctance of women to participate suggests a glimmer of hope for an alternative form of existence. It was the ‘chief function’ of this book to suggest a way to the alternative.
The word hypocrisy originates from Greek compounds hypokrites, hypokrisis, which relate to an actor playing a part on the stage1(actor, pretender, dissembler) . The word we’ve received is a metaphor intermingled with a religious-moralistic hue.
The Hippocratic oath also emerges form these roots. Presumably Hippocrates’ had an ancestral connection with drama.
Even Jesus, patron saint of turning-the-other-cheek, had nothing nice to say about the Pharisees. For their entrenched cultural or racial predilection toward hypocrisy he tarred the whole group with invective. In contemporary times this would be considered scandalous. But there are no records of cries of “not all Pharisees!”.
Thus hypocrisy is considered one of the worst of human failings.
Below is a short thesis, written as a counterpoint to the view of hypocrisy, which Jesus, Mohammed, and so many more of us seem to hold (if less rigidly): the view that hypocrisy prevents moral progress in human affairs. Hypocrisy enables vice at the expense of virtue.
In its purest form this attitude is based on the lofty ideal, that acting virtuously in all our activities, even in private doing what was right, would make the world a better place.
But what about the possibility that hypocrisy serves a positive function for civilisation?
A confluence of factors has led ‘domestic violence’ and ‘violence against women’ to be placed high on the public and governmental agenda. The critique of “patriarchy” and the assertion of an almost metaphysical connection between deep culture and violence provides the theoretical backbone of this agenda. It is in this context that Charlotte Wood’s The Natural Way of Things received the Stella prize earlier this year (the title of the book refers to the media’s portrayal of violence against women).
This is a book of exquisite earthy prose which chronicles the experience of two women (Verla and Yolanda) amongst half a dozen or so other women, who, having been swindled and drugged, are plunged into a nightmarish boot-camp, a remote and expansive bowl of earth surrounded by a 6 metre high electrified fence. The reason for internment is that each has been involved in behaviours deemed inappropriate by the lights of ‘society’; sexual behaviours, ranging from affairs with politicians, to sleeping with a talent show host, a football team. Continue reading