MISOGYNIES by Joan Smith


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In sharp and shocking essays, British journalist and mystery writer Smith (A Masculine Ending, 1988; Why Aren't They Screaming?, 1989) unmasks evidence of contemporary culture's rampant misogyny. Covering the Yorkshire Ripper case ten years ago brought Smith to the realization that her society was not simply ""sexist but occasionally lethal for women."" This book, she writes, ""is about men who believe that women are dangerous, dishonest, provocative, and disgusting."" Despite an extreme, arguably paranoid, viewpoint, Smith builds her frightening thesis--that ""a woman who oversteps certain narrowly drawn boundaries is asking for whatever she gets""--upon logical, vivid argument and widely drawn evidence, including recent judicial opinions partially exonerating rapists and Brian de Palma movies that market ""female fear."" Smith analyzes misogyny in the Church of England, which allows no women priests; in historians who have slandered the women of ancient Rome; and in Mrs. Thatcher, who ""has disguised herself as a man"" but whose career was bankrolled by her husband. Certain celebrated women--Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, the Virgin Mary--Smith sees as ""imprisoned in male fantasies that allot them the status of eternal children."" Perhaps most disturbing are her observations on the linking of sex and death in pop-culture hits like Fatal Attraction and Presumed Innocent, where the ""culprit"" of the story of sex, corruption, and murder ""is the dead woman herself."" Women collude in this disastrous situation: ""the last thing that is expected of the feminine woman is that she should actually achieve something."" An arresting, precisely drawn diatribe on a dark, destructive current of women-hating.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1990
Publisher: Ballantine