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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant: most readable book on the subject, 11 Jun 2002
By A Customer
This review is from: Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility (Hardcover)
This is the best writing by Germaine Greer that I've ever read. It is clearly a cut above 'The Female Eunuch'. It is scientifically and historically accurate, and written with a great deal of wit and much-needed scepticism. Few other writers could pull off such a performance and make the case she is making, which is that western policies of population control in the developing world are highly questionable, if possibly culturally imperialist. Greer is the only high-profile feminist to have made this case; the rest have unequivocally embraced the cause of free contraception and abortion for all without caring what other cultures, or even our own, might think of these things. The Catholic Church also takes this stance, but Greer displays greater intelligence, less bigotry and more understanding of ordinary women in their attitudes towards birth control methods. She exposes western eugenics for what it is: a racist movement dedicated to weeding out the 'unfit' and destroy the social base of the lower classes so that they can never advance themselves in modern supposedly meritocratic society. Greer doesn't take a simplistic back-to-nature stance. She supports the right to make informed choices about birth control. She has a keen understanding of the role and consciousness of women in different cultures. Her chapter 'Chastity is a form of birth control' is a rare gem; how many feminists since the 1970s have seriously held this notion ? None. They've all turned against chastity and sniggered at it.
Greer's investigation of non-western cultures, and of British working-class culture before the Pill, demonstrates how more rudimentary birth control methods could in fact work tolerably well given spousal co-operation. The Total Fertility Rate for Britain lowered to replacement level, an average of 2 children per woman, through these methods from 1900 onwards, and not because of the Pill, which didn't exist then. Greer also cites evidence from Eastern European countries after the Second World War, which had very low birth-rates, to support this thesis, which is backed up today by family planning experts. The reason rudimentary methods (which have to include the 'safe period') were disparaged by Marie Stopes, etc. was in order to promote newer methods, and Greer doesn't hesitate to say this plainly. Lastly Greer exposes the myth of global overpopulation, which was propounded by the US environmentalist Paul Ehrlich in the 1960s. As Greer's book was written in 1984, it has taken a very long time for bodies like the United Nations to admit that overpopulation is a myth. The fertility rates of all westernised countries are now below replacement level, Britain dropped below it in 1974. The only thing missing in this book is the role of legislation concerning marriage, divorce and women in the labour market in bringing down the birth-rate. That is a very sensitive issue and could easily fill another book.
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Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility
Sex and Destiny: The Politics of Human Fertility by Germaine Greer (Hardcover - Mar 1984)
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