Form and Content

(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

The Female Eunuch, by Germaine Greer, is remarkable both for its style and for its substance. Stylistically, it presents a nonstop journey of blistering eloquence, as Greer scores point after point against what she sees as the wrongheaded ways that people think about sexuality, love, the family, politics, and society in general. The relatively loose organization of the book gives Greer free rein to search out and destroy myths which promote oppression and unhappiness for women and men alike. Interspersed with Greer’s own prose are boxed quotes from numerous authors, past and present, who—sometimes foolishly, sometimes wisely—have approached the book’s subject matter (sex and gender) in a revealing way. These quotes are not always clearly related to the main text, but they are always provocative and entertaining, which is also true for the book as a whole. Substantively, the book addresses the issues of female sexuality and gender equality in an original and profound way, one which, joined with its provocative style, struck a chord with many women and more than a few men. The book also aroused stern opposition from inside and outside the women’s liberation movement.

As the book’s title indicates, Greer’s central thesis is that, in numerous ways, western culture castrates women (this castration is literal in the case of clitorectomies, formerly a way of controlling female masturbation), thoroughly repressing their natural sexuality and replacing it with the myth of passivity. Women are reduced either to idealized eunuchs—morally pure, odorless, pert, and attractive—or, if they reject their asexual designation, witches and whores. Either way, women’s lives, liberty, and pursuit of happiness are seriously proscribed. Moreover, this oppression of women does not profit men, at least not in the long...

(The entire section is 749 words.)