SEXISM: The Male Monopoly on History and Thought by Marielouise Janssen-Jurreit

SEXISM: The Male Monopoly on History and Thought

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Janssen-Jurreit considers feminist theory to be in its infancy but does little beyond what others (de Beauvoir, Firestone, Millett) have already accomplished to push it toward maturity. Instead, much of this volume represents a compendium of oppressive ideologies and practices with emphasis on the failure of socialist theory, in particular, to account for sexual domination. Thus from Bachofen and Engels (the matriarchy as red herring for feminists) to the collapse, by 1930, of the first women's movement in Germany (the women's vote turned out to be conservative and Christian), socialism has not stemmed the patriarchal tide of history, but flowed with it. Marx comes in for much of the blame--on the basis of his own sexual politics (""My wife was delivered of a girl, unfortunately, and not a garcon"") and of his failure to see the surplus being creamed off women's services to family and community. ""Gathering firewood, carrying water, hauling loads, caring for small children. . . these were women's wearisome, monotonous, continuing services. . . ."" Freud and successors also figure as part of the male monopoly, broadly accused of finding babies interesting objects for research but not for paternal care. Surprisingly, perhaps, Janssen-Jurreit accepts Hegel's idea of a male/female dialectic for she sees the problem not in the duality as such but in the hierarchization of the two forces, locking women in ""the conceptuality of the negative."" This monopoly on thought is reflected in practice: Janssen-Jurreit includes language, sexual violence, myth, and religion in her discussion of the structures of sexism. Criticizing Firestone for being too optimistic in looking forward to a technological revolution through reproduction, Janssen-Jurreit calls instead for women's exploiting the political potential of reproduction through birth strikes, sexual denial, and homosexual relations. ""If large feminist organizations can successfully be formed. . . to coordinate the varieties of refusal and generate focused strikes in women's services and consumption, this will result. . . in opportunities to carry out a social transformation."" A revolutionary idea, but an old one. *Originally, this book was scheduled for publication in July 1980; a Kirkus review appeared in the May 15, issue (p. 690). Re-editing has resulted in substantially cleaner prose. By and large, however, the reviewer's judgment stands--so we are reprinting the original review with only minor alterations.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux