There is a prodigious amount of scholarship in Elizabeth Fisher's feminist account of evolution and history, and the...


WOMAN'S CREATION: Sexual Evolution and the Shaping of Society

There is a prodigious amount of scholarship in Elizabeth Fisher's feminist account of evolution and history, and the exposition is lucid, as befits the editor of the first feminist literary magazine, Aphra. It is scholarship with a vengeance, however, a need to prove a point or even the score. This is fine when Fisher marshals the facts to put down the Ardrey-Morris-Dart hunter/carnivore hypotheses. She can also wax eloquent on the importance of the mother-infant bond or on the sexual pleasures available to women in primal tribes or among hunter/gatherer groups today. But she oversteps the mark when she speculates that women may be the primary culture-bearers as inventors of carrying bags and pots, or as discoverers of fire--to say nothing of her hypotheses that women's lower weight and height may have resulted from preferential feeding of males. There is also too much celebration of pre-""civilized"" days; a sense that everything was coming up roses for women before agriculture, animal husbandry, and the eventual rise of male-dominated society. This recurrent theme is developed through elaborations of myths and intimations for an early Earth Goddess or Great Mother religion. Later, as a result of male anxiety/womb envy, coequal female-male sexuality is turned into maternal sexuality, and women become chattel. Male sexual energies meanwhile are transferred ""directly into the perverse expression of violence which is necessary to wage war and to establish dominion over others."" The message of suppression and rape dominates the last 5,000 years, aided and abetted by the monotheistic religions which perpetuate themes of woman as seductress. Fisher offers only tentative hope that in the light of recent changes humanity will see the folly of its ways and adapt appropriately. The problem with Fisher's thesis is that it is too black and white; too early glory and later doom. While there is much bandying of words about female sexuality, joy and pleasure, there is scarcely a mention of love. In spite of women's suppression and rejection, Western culture has been the bearer of concepts of romantic and courtly love, of love profane as well as sacred. For all the violent pendulum swings Fisher sees as women's fate in the evolution of culture, it is probable that smaller oscillations change, and ambivalence more accurately characterize women's position in society.

Pub Date: May 25, 1979


Page Count: -

Publisher: Anchor/Doubleday

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1979