EROS AND POWER: The Promise of Feminist Theory by Haunani-Kay Trask

EROS AND POWER: The Promise of Feminist Theory

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A radical feminist view of the causes and effects of male supremacy in Western civilization and alternatives for today's women. Trask paints a grim picture of Western culture, which, until only recently, made women the property of men and, even today (says Trask), mitigates against the instinctual and nurturing capacities of women. It all supposedly started when early man discovered he had something to do with procreation, which prompted him to preempt women as chattel. Under Judeo-Christianity, women were perceived as unclean, useful only for procreation or for reverence as immaculate virgins. Capitalism later stripped women of their economic function, relegating them to the role of unpaid child-tenders and homemakers--while the men made money in the ""real"" world. According to Trask and the feminists she cites, many of today's ills spring from male power: war, environmental destruction, sexual abuse of women and children, pornography and so on. In the book's second half we learn what some radical feminists would do about it. Curiously, the thrust is not the use of untapped female mental powers and creative talents, but rather a semi-mystical enhancement of the instinctual nurturing, emotional-bonding and sexual capacities of women, coupled somehow with the power and mystique of the ""Great Mother."" In this schema, males seem to be left holding the reins of economic and political power while women turn to each other or draw strength from their own mothers. Poet Adrienne Rich, for instance, evocatively celebrates the bonding of lesbian sex as On Trask's words) the ""accepting, primal, enveloping love we experienced with the mother."" Jill Johnston calls for a ""lesbian nation."" Trask, however, thinks this line ""too simple,"" and cites Dorothy Dinnerstein and Nancy Chodorow, who advocate shared parenting (a 1980's panacea) to free women ""for other public tasks while allowing men to develop their own relational subjectivity through intimate child care."" The above, of necessity, oversimplifies what is an earnestly documented, albeit idealistic, attempt to grapple with many of today's problems. In sum: there's a real world out there with real problems, but Trask and her radical feminist sources seem to be casting runes while the problems multiply.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1986
Publisher: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press