Saturday, 13 September 2008

Female of the Species by Joanna Murray-Smith

A review of it can be found at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2008/07/17/btfemale117.xml of this funny, sharp, relevant and wise satire on feminism as an ideology. Echoing the life voyages of the likes of Germaine Greer and Fay Weldon, the stages of feminist thought can be summarised as follows:

Women must free themselves from the yoke of man-made restrictions - Phase 1

Women must become like men to free themselves, ie have careers and sexual freedom, earn money, and no longer be in the home - Phase 2

Women should therefore abandon their traditional path of fulfilment and empowerment, ie marriage and motherhood - Phase 3

Women must acknowledge their failure to become happier after abandoning marriage and motherhood, or acknowledge that marriage, motherhood and career is the privilege of that rare being, the highly motivated and talented time-manageress - Phase 4

Women should re-embrace their traditional roles and once again become happy and fulfilled feminine beings - Phase 5

Men, those who are protectors and providers, should be treated with respect and tenderness because they too are vulnerable creatures saddled with the additional burden of not being allowed to show their vulnerability - Phase 6

The feminist and post-feminist journey is analogous to going right round the earth and finding the very thing you sought, in your own backyard. It was nevertheless a journey that had to be made.

The moral to be extracted from all this?

Pleasing oneself is an exercise that always remains tantalisingly unfinished. Therefore pleasing others and fulfilling the roles that we naturally find ourselves in is the path most likely to lead to lasting happiness.

The love of others obtained through the sacrifice of our selfish pleasures is a greater measure of our worth than our ability to continue enjoying selfish pleasures.

Duty, though dull, is therefore in our long-term self-interest and most likely to result in self-fulfilment and long-term happiness - a happy paradox!

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