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Date: 2009-06-25 05:03 am (UTC)
lauredhel: two cats sleeping nose to tail, making a perfect circle. (Default)
From: [personal profile] lauredhel
I have lots to say about this, but just for a start: I was struck by the way in which some bits seemed rather dated, but some bits have remained (unfortunately) utterly fresh and current. I've mentioned the party scene, but there's also the wonderful Bingo section in the middle of the book, where Russ anticipates all of the antifeminist responses to the book itself, and strings them together.

We would gladly have listened to her (they said) if only she had spoken like a lady. But they are liars and the truth is not in them.

Shrill… vituperative… no concern for the future of society… maunderings of antiquated feminism… selfish femlib… needs a good lay… this shapeless book… of course a calm and objective discussion is beyond… twisted, neurotic… some truth buried in a largely hysterical… of very limited interest, I should… another tract for the trash-can… burned her bra and thought that… no characterization, no plot… really important issues are neglected while… hermetically sealed… women's limited experience… another of the screaming sisterhood… a not very appealing aggressiveness… could have been done with wit if the author had… deflowering the pretentious male… a man would have given his right arm to… hardly girlish… a woman's book… another shrill polemic which the… a mere male like myself can hardly… a brilliant but basically confused study of feminine hysteria which… feminine lack of objectivity… this pretense at a novel… trying to shock… the tired tricks of the anti-novelists… how often must a poor critic have to… the usual boring obligatory references to Lesbianism… denial of the profound sexual polarity which… an all too womanly refusal to face facts… pseudo-masculine brusqueness… the ladies'-magazine level… trivial topics like housework and the predictable screams of… those who cuddled up to ball-breaker Kate will… unfortunately sexless in its outlook… drivel… a warped clinical protest against… violently waspish attack… formidable self-pity which erodes any chance of… formless… the inability to accept the female role which… the predictable fury at anatomy displaced to… without the grace and compassion which we have the right to expect… anatomy is destiny… destiny is anatomy… sharp and funny but without real weight or anything beyond a topical… just plain bad… we "dear ladies," whom Russ would do away with, unfortunately just don't feel… ephemeral trash, missiles of the sex war… a female lack of experience which…

Q.E.D. Quod erat demonstrandum. It has been proved.

I'll need to read the book again to pick out the trans issues; my first read I was mostly struggling to get a handle on POV and the general story.

A couple of things which stood out as a bit dated to me, very much products of their time, was the idea of parent/child separation as an ideal (one could very much argue about whether that part was supposed to be Utopian or not, but I got the impression it was). I see this in other feminists today who subscribe to certain 70s schools, Firestone etc, who have this idea of an ideal society being one in which not just all adults help pitch in to care for kids, but kids rapidly shed any attachment to their family of origin at all.

The other thing that I think is a bit dated, but still fascinating to turn over, is what you've talked about in your post - the idea of extreme human plasticity. Again this idea reached its peak in circa 1970 gender discourse, leading to disasters like the John/Joan issue where a boy whose penis was destroyed in circumcision complications was raised as a girl, with tragic results.
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