The political nature of woman's condition has only rarely been recognized and never fully understood. Woman has lived, almost always, as the subordinate member of the species, defined as biologically and physically limited—to be given, at best, a place of protection or of benign neglect. This relationship of women to men has been readily accepted by civilization after civilization as one whose inherent justice has been decreed, not by the rough approximations of the laws of man, but rather by the profounder exactitude of the laws of nature; a relationship having nothing, really, to do with the evolutionary dictates of political or cultural decisions, but rather to do with the fulfillment of a logic determined by the cosmological order of things.
The perception of the categorical inferiority of one group of humans by another group of humans is as old as recorded time, and in each instance of its occurrence it is described as »natural,« as being in accordance with the cosmic will of things. The ancients said it was »natural« for slaves to be slaves and for free citizens to be free citizens. The nobility of the middle ages claimed »natural« or divine right for the rule of royalty and the subsequently subhuman status of serfs. In modern times white men have claimed that the subjugation of blacks is merely proof that whites rule by virtue of their »natural« superiority. And, unfailingly, in each and every instance, when those who occupy the inferior space on the board begin the long push upward toward the announcement of their full humanity, the hue and cry ensuing from those in the position of thoughtless and essentially unearned superiority is that the »natural« order of things is being challenged - and surely the earth must open and the heavens will fall if things are permitted to go on much longer like this.
Woman is just about the last category of human on earth to challenge civilized life for her humanity. Perhaps this is only »natural.« Certainly she has been more totally invisible in the history of human life than any other category of person; therefore, why should she not be the last to surface in the centuries' long move toward full egalitarianism? Why should she not be the last to stand up and say: »You who rule the earth and everything that is on it, I am as human as you are. I need exactly what you need. I suffer from the deprivation of that initial recognition even as you would suffer from it should you find yourself where I am now.« It is very understandable that she should have taken so very long to come center-front and make her little speech. Certainly there is good reason why she herself, as well as man, her master, should have had serious doubts about the actual nature of her being. Certainly there is nothing in the great structural myth of our common life to indicate that woman is indeed fully human. For in the tale of the creation it is stated clearly that God made the earth, the elements, the animals, the vegetables, and then—as the final, fulfilling justification for the entire creation—he made man. It was only after he made man that he realized he had given him nothing to reproduce himself with—and then he made woman.
In every real, as well as metaphorical, sense, woman was absent at the creation. The great biblical tale recording man's growing consciousness was created by men, to tell the story of men, to other men, about the world in which men grow and discover themselves and come to power by virtue of their particular perceptions of reality. Nowhere in all this tale is woman present. Nowhere in the subsequent structures of law, morality, and religion, in the systems of science, philosophy, and aesthetics, in the developing expressiveness of the arts that mark man's struggle to identify himself is woman's presence or being or perception of reality fully felt. As man lives his life, observing it as he goes, he is substantially creating it; at this creation woman is consistently absent.
The powerful inequities inherent in this state of affairs have never gone completely unacknowledged by those in authority. That women—like blacks and other deprived categories of humans—existed and were growing more and more restive as modern civilization progressed was certainly duly noted within a specific context. It was always The Woman Question—just as it was always The Negro Problem and, before that, The Labor Problem. The implications of that euphemism being: »Yes, no doubt about it. There's a little problem there. We simply must get around to it one of these days. Throw them a bone or we may have a bit of a mess on our hands. But don't worry. The company's in no real danger.« That mistake was a fatal one. The company way in danger: the bones were thrown too late and too small, and indeed they had a mess on their hands. In the exemplary case of labor, for instance: one day the workers not only struck, they organized. In a flash, they became the Labor Movement, and suddenly they themselves constituted Labor Power. Then all was out of the dark, and a significant truth beneath the relations, one to another, of labor and capital was visible; the true politicalness of their odd marriage came to the surface, and they were openly locked in the struggle for power that had lain so long beneath the naive surface of their common life.
In the 1960s The Negro Problem became racism; from there to Black Power was only a very short distance to travel. In 1970 The Woman Question became sexism, and the distance to travel to the open realization of the political nature of woman's condition in society is but very brief, indeed. For as it is in psychoanalysis, so it is in social-political life: to name the thing by its rightful name is instantly to begin to alter its power. To recognize the political nature of woman's condition, to see that it constitutes one-half of a binding relation of power to powerlessness, to see further that the power conceives of itself as predicated on the continuing life of the powerlessness, is vital to any understanding of women's liberation and of the women's liberation movement.
This movement, like the civil rights movement, began with libertarian, »educational« efforts aimed at overcoming inequities assumed to be at least partially the result of ignorance. Both movements began in an atmosphere of »freedom,« but very quickly the participants began to understand a peculiar mechanism. 0f their economic and political isolation. Not only were the white male keepers of the culture prepared to defend their privilege, they believed it was theirs by right. They had won it, and blacks and women had not. Evidently blacks were »culturally deprived« or even genetically inferior, and women were naturally unsuited for power or responsibility. These groups found that the »freedom« of the individualist ethic, while it, on the one hand, served them very little in breaching the wall of prejudice that prevented their sharing the society's rewards, on the other hand, left them foundering in guilt and self-reproach generated by the assumption that not only one's achievements and one's rewards but even one's happiness were the fruits of one's own effort.
Here Freudianism, though it promised freedom and seemed to challenge Puritanism, had been subverted to a privatism that served the status quo only too well. Unhappiness—whatever it's source—was hygienically quarantined as a form of sickness. »Misery is pathology« had taken its place beside the only slightly less vicious »anatomy is destiny."
As blacks and women explored their own weaknesses and failures, they found that their misery was not individual but common to their class. They began to see that beyond electoral politics, beyond even the politics of money, prestige, and real power, there were the politics of role and relationship, and more subtle, and perhaps more final, the politics of personality.
Women were last to reach this realization largely because women were so thoroughly isolated—cut off from society within the confines of the family, each dependent for security upon her own male, in aggressive competition with one another, and prevented from articulating many of her grievances by the tacit understanding that there is nothing more unpleasant, unworthy, and unattractive than an unhappy woman.
Nevertheless, the facts of her political disadvantage were clear. Without the protection of a man, she could only with difficulty achieve either the freedom or the security necessary for simple comfort. Income statistics revealed a strong order of priorities. Among full-time workers in 1966, white males were paid an average of $7,396, black males $4,777, white females $4,279 and black females $3,194. The black woman college graduate earned less than her white woman counterpart, who earned less than a black male high school graduate, who in turn earned less than a white male high school dropout. The average female head of family in 1966—when the U.S. Department of Labor defined $7,000 per year as a family income of »modest adequacy«—supported her family on a total yearly income of $4,010. The individual woman, struggling against her poverty, her failure, her helplessness, may have felt her situation as personal, but it was not.
Although there are thirty million women in the labor force and these women have exactly the same average education—12.2 years—as men, only 4 percent of federal employees in the highest grades and 2 percent of all business executives listed in Standard and Poor's Directory are women. Women comprise only 22 percent of faculty and professional staff of colleges and universities; 1 percent of federal judges; 1 percent of the U. S. Senate.
Because women are not represented in decision-making positions, law and public policy have never reflected their needs—nor, often, the needs of their children. Although some six million preschool children have working mothers, the total number of places for these children in day-care homes and centers, both public and private, is 640,000. Mothers who are the sole support of their children in many cases have to leave their children at home with no care at all. Even if places are available, their cost is not tax-deductible as a legitimate business expense. Abortion law as well has borne very little relation to the Teal situation of women. Five years ago, when one out of five women was reported to have undergone an abortion at some time during her life, abortion was virtually illegal in every state of the Union.
This book is a collection of essays gathered together for the purpose of demonstrating that woman's condition, here and now, is the result of a slowly formed, deeply entrenched, extraordinarily pervasive cultural (and therefore political) decision that—even in a generation when man has landed on the moon—woman shall remain a person defined not by the struggling development of her brain or her will or her spirit, but rather by her childbearing properties and her status as companion to men who make, and do, and rule the earth. Though she is a cherished object in her society, she shall remain as an object rather than becoming a subject; though she is exposed to education, wealth, and independence, apparently exactly as though she were an autonomous being and the equal of men, every genuine influence in her life is actually teaching her that she may educate herself only in order to be a more fit companion to her husband. She may use wealth but not make it; she may learn about independence only so that she can instill it in her male children, urge it forward in her husband, or admire its presence or despise its absence in her father. Her sense of these characteristics of adult life is sharply and distinctly once removed: it never really occurs to her that these necessities are there for her, as well as for those to whom she is attached. Everything in her existence, from early childhood on, is bent on convincing her that the reality of her being lies in bearing children and creating an atmosphere of support and nurturance for those who aggress upon the world with the intent of asserting the self, grasping power, taking responsibility—in other words, those who are living life as it has always been defined by human principle. Woman shall never be allowed to forget that her ego is passive and her will to independence lies fallow; that the urgent desire for self-assertion that spurs the development of intellect, genius, and complex capacities is, in her, a weak and flickering mechanism; that, in reality, woman is a differently made creature, one whose proportions are more childlike, if you will, less given to maturity than are the proportions of men.
This is the substance of sexism. This is the creation of thousands of years of thought and reinforced patterns 01 behavior so deeply imprinted, so utterly subscribed to by the great body of Western conviction that they are taken for »natural« or »instinctive.« Sexism has made of women a race of children, a class of human beings utterly deprived of self-hood, of autonomy, of confidence—worst of all, it has made the false come true. Women have so long shared acquiescently in society's patriarchal definition of them as beings composed of warmth, passivity, nurturance, inert egos, and developed intuition, that they have become the very thing itself and can no more see themselves in that mirror of life that declares independence, aggression, intellectual abstraction, and primary responsibility to be the silhouette of human development than can men. As a result, women have long suffered from an image of the self that paralyzes the will and short circuits the brain, that makes them deny the evidence of their senses and internalize self-doubt to a fearful degree. They have been raised to be the bearers of children by other bearers or children. They have been treated primarily as bearers of children by everyone they have ever known: parents, teachers, friends, lovers, bus drivers, landlords, employers, policemen, culture heroes... Should they reveal strong wishes that their lives form themselves around an altogether other definition, they are branded unnatural.
Sexism, like any other cultural characteristic, lives through institutions—those that blindly perpetuate it and those that depend upon it for their very life. Altogether, the essays in this book form a detailed examination of these institutions—these attitudes, these responses, these ignorant convictions about woman's nature, and these religiously blind observations about her need—that, petrified by custom, have determined woman's unchanging position throughout the patriarchal centuries.
And the greatest of these is marriage. Woman's situation is harshest when she is alone. When she is safely under the protection of a male, her position is secondary, but it is secure. If she is fortunate, she is indulged, pampered, and happily relieved of the responsibilities (read powers) of their joint life. But even though marriage is her natural demesne and the model for all her other relationships, it does not appear to serve her as well as it does her husband. As Jessie Bernard's »The Paradox of the Happy Marriage« shows, despite the fact that marriage is more important to women than to men, despite the fact that women are willing to make more adjustments and sacrifices for it, they are less happy within it than their husbands. Furthermore, despite the advantages of relative security, married women are more likely to be depressed, phobic, and passive than single women; in fact, at least one-half of all married women were one of the three.
More astonishing than these findings themselves is the attitude of those who have made the findings. The mental ill-health of married women is considered normal and is actually encouraged by counsellors and analysts. A survey of clinicians reported by Bernard showed that they judged characteristics that would be considered pathological in the male normal in the female.
In marriage, as in the economy, woman's position is essentially subservient and supportive. Within the home and without, she performs the services of the society without sharing in its decisions or in the freedoms it grants other adults. Women perform the day-to-day tasks of maintaining humanity—preparing food, keeping up the home, caring for children, and giving emotional support. These functions to a large degree determine the social definition of femininity. »Feminine« women are supportive, nurturative, kind, gentle, selfless, and giving and—in the bargain—pliant and stupid enough never to resent their subservient position. In short, they have variously all the virtues of an ideal servant or an ideal companion. The qualities one might well wish for oneself—intelligence, bravery, ingenuity, creativity, or mastery—are neither necessary nor desirable.
Within marriage the relationship that is most clearly understood and assumed by society is the disposition of money, power, and services. Here the duties of both partners are clear. The superposition of the sentimental-the notion that the arrangement is primarily a mutual exchange of affection and sexuality—is very often confusing and frustrating to the participants since it beclouds the underpinnings of the relationship.
When sexual relationships conform to the disposition of power, as they do in patriarchal culture, then power rules sexuality. Eroticism is cathected to conquest and surrender. Confined to powerlessness and dependence, the woman glories in subservience, manipulates from beneath, and calculates a dominion of submission, sacrifice, and acceptance.
Myrna Lamb's »Two Plays on Love and Marriage« are paradigms of this sexual realpolitik. Her lady and maid servant are ruled by a lust beyond love. Though her male characters are often puzzled, even frightened, when the workings of the struggle for sexual mastery are made clear, her women—who engage in the struggle not for pleasure, but for survival—understand the exchange so well that they can move from one sexual role to the other with perfect virtuosity. They can adopt the submissiveness that draws and holds power or the dominance that power confers. Since she shares her husband's wealth, the lady, like her husband, can exact surrender, can elicit from the servant girl those sexual cries, »Anything, anything you want, anything to make you happy.«
Playing counterpoint to Lamb's visionary view of me economics of sexuality is the deadly force of taped reality in Kate Millett's »Prostitution: A Quartet for Female Voices.« Four women are speaking. Two are prostitute (one black, one white) and two are movement woman (both middle class and white) The subject here is the overt purchase of female flesh—and the revelations of anxiety, spiritual numbness, detached observation of the disintegrating self, the humanist preoccupation with surrogate selves are amazing in that they produce a series of unexpected and startling confusions of identity among the four women that reveal clearly the deep emotional solidarity between the prostitutes and the movement women.
What is perhaps sadder and more frightening than any other single aspect of woman's condition is the spectacle of the women who have done exactly as they were told to do: those who ardently believed in marriage and in motherhood as legitimate vessels in which to pour the substance of their lives and became dutiful wives and passionately attentive mothers. In »Depression in Middle-Aged Women« sociologist Pauline Bart describes interviews with twenty women interned in a Los Angeles hospital for depression, suffering from what is known as the »empty-nest« syndrome. These are all middle-aged women whose children have grown up, married, left home, whatever; they are gone, that is all that counts, the children are gone. And now what? Now, nothing. Now, a hospital full of »depression.«
How do women become like that? How is it that so shortsighted a view, so ignorant a sense of ................
After puberty certain kinds of behavior—such as strong academic competitiveness—are forbidden the female, for any qualities that might threaten the success of the heterosexual relationships that are to be prime in her life must be abandoned. Girls then enter a period of unhappy ambivalence in which they fear both failure and success. The net result is that although girls are not forbidden to enter masculine fields of competition, they are psychologically ill-equipped to succeed in them.
Furthermore, it is abundantly apparent to them that the society values those qualities it encourages in males, and derogates those qualities it instills in females. Thus, women are made to feel forever inferior. What else on this earth are they fitted for—nay, happy and grateful to nestle into—than marriage, that very same marriage their forty-eight-year-old mothers are urging them anxiously, but confusedly, not to rush into.
Cross-cultural studies suggest further that societies that distinguish strongly between »male« and »female« characteristics and value the latter highly perpetuate an unfortunate cycle in which the attainment of sexual identity is made equally difficult for males and females. As Nancy Chodorow points out in »Being and Doing,« those cultures—chiefly the developed Western societies—where »assertive,« »egoistic,« male behavior is most strongly encouraged are also those where the change from childhood to male adulthood is most difficult because there are so few opportunities for male children to perform useful work. In these societies, child-rearing is directed toward »forming character« rather than teaching roles. The precise nature of the male child's eventual masculine role is unclear to him—although the overriding importance of his assuming a masculine role and stance is not. Since he is socialized almost entirely by the mother in her socially position.... .................
When the proper socialization of the female does not »take,« women may become lesbians. The question of the relation between lesbianism and feminism is of paramount importance, for it touches on one of the most complicated strands in the entire tapestry of sexism and the sex-role system: the question of full and open self-possession; the question of how and when and if women will be able to define themselves in whatever terms they themselves choose without suffering the consequences of being told they are not women if their sexual-emotional choices seem unorthodox, without feeling the need for self-denial in order to »pass for white«—which is how the lesbian actually lives, and how all women fundamentally live. In »Women's Liberation a Lesbian Plot?« Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love explore the connection between the woman's movement and homosexual liberation.
The power of mere experience to triumph over the stubborn determination of cultural stereotypes to flourish and reinforce themselves is as nothing. The truth of woman's life and of her actual experience is engulfed again and again by those institutions of our society, owned and operated by men, that act as a kind of policing force to keep her in line, to keep her believing that she is what men say she is, that she wants what men say she wants, that she knows only what men say she knows.
If feminist analysis is often flawed, ragged, or naive, this is precisely because it is so necessary. There is a whole universe of meaning to be rescued and redefined. The sexist cliches are so well-worn, so familiar—the unacknowledged cornerstone of so many articles of faith that it takes more than simple evidence of error to demystify them. As Ethel Strainchamps shows in »Our Sexist Language,« even our language, praised by philologists for its »masculinity,« complicates any efforts at redefinition of woman's place by its implicit bias. It characterizes things feminine as diminished and diminutive, childish or childlike, and even at its clearest and most idealistic, reinforces the view of man and his activities as central and women and hers as peripheral and secondary. Even the scholarly disciplines are infected with sexism, which Jessie Bernard, so aptly defines as
»the unconscious, taken-for-granted, assumed, unquestioned, unexamined, unchallenged acceptance of the belief that the world as it looks to men is the only world, that the way of dealing with it which men have created is the only way, that the values which men have evolved are the only ones, that the way sex looks to men is the only way it can look to anyone, that what men think about what women are like is the only way to think about what women are like.
In nearly every discipline, the assumptions and explanations that are made about women are mechanical and unempirical. When attention is turned to them, they are usually found to be flimsy and unworkable models. Unfortunately, attention is rarely turned to them. In general, our social scientists have happily enshrined the most simplistic of old husband's tales without ever a second glance. »The world as it looks to men« quite naturally has men at its center, and women and other foreigners at its periphery-Once women are viewed as separate, distinct, and »other«, they are liable to redefinition at will, whim, or need.
In »Psychology Constructs the Female,« psychologist Naomi Weisstein demonstrates that psychologists—like many other scientists—find what they want to find, what they expect to find. Dr. Weisstein describes in detail the faulty methods of research upon which so many of psychology's absolute dicta rest and shows that psychologists accept almost wholesale Freud's unempirical, socially determined notions about woman's nature as their starting point—and from there proceed to speculate as »experts« on woman's needs, conflicts, and inabilities to resolve the fundamental neurosis of her existence, that is, that she is not a man.
In »Patient and Patriarch,« another psychologist, Phyllis Chester, denounces the practice of psychotherapy as one of the major institutions—the prime one being marriage whereby women are kept as children throughout their adult lives. The relationship between female patient and male analyst mirrors the stereotypical relationship of woman to man in patriarchal society—that of wife to husband or girl child to father. The patient's position is passive, subsidiary, and dependent, whereas her analyst's role is actively authoritative, expert, and protective. Not unexpectedly, the very psychology of the women patients studied conformed to the classic pattern of the psychology of subjugated or slave classes. Her psychiatrist treats her plight, however, as individual, discouraging action to change it, enforcing conformity to prevailing social expectations, and promoting adjustment and »understanding« rather than self-fulfillment.
Since woman is the sexual partner of the dominant class, she is expected to be beautiful, sexy and above all, young. Una Stannard, in »The Mask of' Beauty,« argues that »woman's beauty is largely a sham, and women know it. That is why they obediently conform every time the fashion masters crack the whip. A woman conforms to all the whims of the cosmetic and fashion industries so that she will not be singled out from the mass of women, so that she will look like every other woman, and thus manage to pass as one of the fair sex.« The inordinate emphasis on her physical beauty ends by making her a narcissist, a state which men from the ancients to Freud have accepted as natural—for women.
Higher status for women is not, as is so often asserted, dependent upon the economic or technological development of the culture. Many simpler and less developed cultures than ours have granted women higher status than Western society has and have, in fact, been generally more egalitarian. As Ruby R. Leavitt's »Women in Other Cultures« shows, Western colonialization introduced repressive patriarchal prejudices as it brought economic progress to Burma and parts of Malaysia and Africa. In imposing technological values, it also promulgated and often enforced Puritanical sexual taboos and the exclusion women from their traditional economic and civil status. Leavitt's account of the gradual subjugation of Africans and Burmese women under Western rule leaves little doubt that any cultural force but virulent prejudice is at work.
Where skills and training cannot be denied women, male privilege is often guarded by rigid enforcement or a double standard. In nineteenth-century England, as Elaine Showalter documents in »Women Writers and the Double Standard,« literary critics chose to consider even the greatest women writers as women first and writers second. They stigmatized what in a man might have been considered »sensitivity« as feminine weakness, and at the same time, attacked as unwomanly and immoral the »ma,s2J« line« vigor of any woman writer who ventured beyond The spiritual confines of home and family. They refused women participation in the larger world of masculine affairs and then claimed that woman's scope as a writer was forever bounded by her lack of experience. When a woman s accomplishment was beyond question, as George Eliot s was, they attacked her on personal grounds as unwomanly and unnatural. This »Ovarian Theory of Literature still pertains today, as Cynthia Ozick shows in »Women and Creativity: The Demise of the Dancing Dog.« In a year spent teaching undergraduates in a prominent university, Miss Ozick found her male and female students alike in their »illiteracy, under education, ignorance and prejudice«—and in their unshakable conviction that the writing, and even the minds, »of men and women are entirely unlike.«
Women painters, like women writers, have been more harshly judged and more quickly consigned to the storage rooms of history than their male counterparts. In »Why Are There No Great Women Artists?« Linda Nochlin shows that women artists have not only been given less serious attention, but have been faced with serious handicaps that have been largely disregarded by critics and scholars. Denied special education, unable to avail then-selves of such necessary conventions as nude models, women were isolated from the mainstream of artistic production and then criticized for the »triviality« of the work they produced in effective exile.
Women professionals in the modern working world are similarly judged by a harsh double standard. If they are not entirely ignored, Roslyn Willett's »Working in >A Man's World<» shows, they are subject to closer scrutiny and harsher criticism than their male colleagues. They must prove that they are different from and better than the »average« female, but must never threaten their male coworkers by surpassing them. They must be feminine in appearance and passive, submissive, and sympathetic situations that require aggressiveness and cunning. They must demonstrate their femininity, but never use it. They are excluded from business clubs and inner councils and then excluded from responsibility because they cannot be privy to these councils. Amid the general assumption that they are the more emotional and weaker sex, they are expected to endure continual belittlement and unthinking insult with objectivity and restraint beyond the reach of the ordinary mortal.
Popular literature, advertising, children's literature, and even textbooks reinforce bias against women. When Marjorie U'Ren surveyed »The Image of Woman in Textbooks« used by the California school system, she found that 75 percent of the main characters in the stories were male. In all, only 20 percent of the space was devoted to females. Male and female children were presented very differently. Boys were shown as indepenand adventurous, seeking and gaining real rewards in real world. Little girls, on the other hand, were confined by their creators to the close keep of home and family; their rewards were intangible.
In advertising, where popular fantasy reigns most freely, the picture of women is even more fanciful. Adorable in her not-very-bright submissiveness, charming in her childlike delight in shiny floors, even forgivable in her spiteful competition for the whitest, brightest wash, Madison Avenue's girl-next-door is all the American male could wish for—unless, by some miscarriage, he should fancy human companionship. In »The Image of Woman in Advertising,« Lucy Komisar takes on the image-makers, lays many a White Knight to rest, and concludes in the process that advertising's blatant distortions can serve to raise rather than obscure woman's consciousness of her low status.
In our literature as well, women's predicament conforms to masculine fantasy. Throughout the American novel, as Wendy Martin shows in »Seduced and Abandoned in the New World,« women of independent thought and action are severely punished they either die or are cast out or go mad—while women who submit are rewarded as the safeguarded objects of matrimonial protection.
Even in those special professions where they dominate, social prejudice against women has its effect. For whatever women touch is instantly considered »feminine« and is kept trivial by social pressure and the denigration of its being »woman's work.« Thus, when these professions are ineffective by virtue of being held in check by male hands and by general social neglect, the stereotypes of female ineptness are further reinforced. In »The Compassion Trap,« Margaret Adams discusses the frustrations and limitations that are imposed upon social work by virtue of its being considered woman's work. As Doris Golds »Women and Voluntarism« shows, voluntarism is the very model of women's work. Volunteers are almost without exception women; they work without pay or status and very often become volunteers rather than paid workers in order to avoid competing with their husbands or casting any shadow on their husband's status. The work they do is an important social subsidy that does not appear on the balance sheets and provides for a part of the economy that is probably, of all sectors, worst provided for by free enterprise. They serve the young, the poor, the aged, and the sick. Unfortunately, in serving them without pay, they may serve them ill. Volunteer work gets very little respect, and volunteers are unable to effect even the most unimportant changes in policy. Then, too, as Margaret Adams argues, women are often reluctant to take up the cudgels on behalf of their clients because they accept the notion that aggressiveness is unfeminine and improper.
It is difficult to look upon this recital of female subjugation and not feel that clearly this cannot be some accidental societal formation; clearly, there is some grand patriarchal scheme here; clearly, woman in modern times fulfills the same purpose as the slave in ancient Greece: to perform all those odious and necessary tasks and services so that Greek male democrats could pursue the active and reflective life that was their unparalleled civilization; clearly, the ritualized sexual roles into which men and women are guided from birth serve to sacrifice women's lives to a notion of civilization that men decide upon and profit by.
The accomplishment of women's liberation represents in some sense the end point of the individualist ethic—freedom and self-determination for the last group of adults to whom it has been denied. This is a frightening prospect for many. To them it represents the disappearance of the last ascribed rather than earned position, the demise of the family, and the destruction of the last haven from competitiveness—indeed, the last reservoir of amity—in the society. When women are free, what will become of the special virtues with which they have been entrusted? Where will we find gentleness, motherliness, supportiveness, the nurturative arts, womanly selflessness? The answer is simply, »We must each find them in ourselves.« These virtues are too important to our happiness and our survival to be the sole responsibility of a powerless underclass.
Women in this country do not want to be free for ruthless competition. They want to be freed from private curatorship of the happiness of individuals—too often victims themselves—to joint trusteeship of the common good. They want a place in public life for the values they have been forced to cherish in private for too long. They want an end to the political distribution of character traits. They want an end to the perverted morality that says one sex must be weak and good and the other strong, selfish, and violent.
Women must yet fight a bitter fight for justice, as those in power never relinquish power willingly, the specter or powerlessness is a real and vivid terror for those who have never known the condition. And yet it is true that men suffer from the oppression of Women nearly every bit as much as women do, for not only the death of another, but also the denial of his humanity, diminishes us. If one is suppressed and the other suppressing, the behavior of both is circumscribed (it was Abraham Lincoln who said: »If you want to keep a man down in the dirt, you've got to get right down there with him«). In order to oppress women, men must act as oppressors. To act as an oppressor is to have only certain forms of behavior open to you. To have only certain forms of behavior open to you, it is necessary to suppress or destroy any impulses that cannot be expressed within those prescribed forms of behavior. To have certain parts of the self, therefore, cut off from the release and growth of full expression is, a sense, to be wounded, to be deprived of the use of ones own properties.
Two of the most moving essays in this collection are Shulamith Firestone's »On American Feminism« and Catharine Stimpson's »Thy Neighbor's Wife, Thy Neighbor's Servants.« Coming at it from two very different angles—one concentrating on the relation between black civil rights and the women's movement the other analyzing the hundred-year-old elements of American feminism, then and now—both writers evoke with splendid feeling the life and times of the great nineteenth-century feminists, and there on the page before us are the living voices of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. The thrill of recognition is profound—as they speak in exactly our accents—but the internal excitement that mounts, following in its wake, is tinged with fear and sickness. For here we are in 1971 saying exactly what they were saying (for their radicalism Was right down to the bone: with no equivocation they knew the heart of the matter was marriage and the family and woman's fixed and central role in those institutions) and saying it as though for the very first time; saying it as though those women had never lived and fought and died, having given their youth, their age, their spiritual entirety to the cause of justice for women; saying it because their long struggle has been erased from the living record of this country s history so that sixty-year-old women as well as eighteen-year-old girls have to be told who the Grimke sisters were. One could weep with the shame and frustration or it, with the history of ourselves that we have lost, with the cumulative power that might have been ours. But we can also hear the reassuring voices of those great ladies who showed such extraordinary grace under pressure, telling us not to regret the lost years: We are here now, and the future is surely ours.