Monday, October 27, 2008

The Essence of Feminism

If you've enjoyed thinking about feminism this month, or even if you haven't had a chance to read this month's book, you might be interested in reading The Essence of Feminism by Kirsten Birkett.

The focus and argument of the book is that instead of feminism making life better for women (as promised), feminism has actually made it worse. She argues that the attack on the institution of marriage has been a disaster for women. Not only that but the possibility (and expectation) of paid employment outside the home has forced many women into a role they don't want:

In the collapse of marriage and in work, conditions are such that many women are unhappy, lacking support, even abused and traumatized. In the public media, we tend to hear the anecdotes of the unusual women who manage to juggle career and family, and cope happily with the strain; we do not hear the stories of the majority who do not. Women are bearing the brunt of social forces which often leave them confused and frustrated. A woman's life is full of unpleasant choices and hard realities.

I thought the chapter on the morality of feminism alone, with its case study of abortion, makes the book worth reading. Surely this is the area in which feminism has hurt women the most. It's a powerful chapter.

There are similarities with The Feminist Mistake in that it is a book that examines the philosophy and development of feminism in western society. But it's simpler and more concise (about 125 pages) and because it is written by an Australian, it covers a bit more Australian history, and has the added advantage of including statistics and information from our current-day Australian context.

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