WOMAN'S ESTATE by Juliet Mitchell


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Women's Lib. in Marxist fetters. Mitchell's determination to trap an inchoate but lively movement encompassing a multitude of conflicting political and sexual discontents in a custom-tailored Marxist-Leninist zoot suit succeeds only in cramping and stultifying open-ended dialogue. It leads for example to a supercilious dismissal of Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch (p. 212), ""written from the anarchist, individualist stance"" because, ostensibly, ""it elects to be alone when people are coming together in a social and political movement."" She examines this coming together in Europe -- France, Sweden, Holland and England -- as well as in the U.S. and the generalizations on America (e.g., ""working-class women are joining in ever increasing numbers as the movement spreads into the factories"") make her European tableau very suspect indeed. Belaboring the dubious analogy between the evolution of black consciousness, from Civil Rights to Black Muslim to the Panthers, and the evolution of women's consciousness from the reformism of NOW to the revolutionary posturing of Radical Feminism, she imposes a distorting linear progression on overlapping and competing tendencies and even asserts that the blacks became a model for American women! More usefully, she sketches socialist attitudes on ""the women's question"" from Fourier to Engels and the German SDP, roundly castigating the comrades for their myopic neglect of the largest of oppressed classes. Judging by this tortured rendition, perhaps the greatest service the ideologues could perform would be to neglect Women's Lib. just a bit longer. Cluttered with abstractions and spurious distinctions, seasoned with statistics -- drawn mostly from England this makes you long for the uncommon commonsense of Betty Friedan.

Pub Date: Jan. 10th, 1971
Publisher: Pantheon