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Customer Review

VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 29 November 2009
The author's whole premise is women have never been downtrodden, have always been privileged as a sex and have been protected from harm by men. If you accept this premise then you will agree with all that follows. While I don't dispute the scientific findings quoted such as women's intelligence tends to cluster around the middle of the spectrum whereas men are more represented at the highest and lowest points, I cannot agree with the conclusion that on this basis men are badly treated. I would say individuals are badly treated if they aren't recognisably normal and this applies just as much to women as to men.

I understand what the author is saying by keeping women confined to the home men were keeping them out of harm's way though this is - and always has been - a purely middle class issue. Working class women have worked outside the home since the Industrial and Agrarian revolutions deprived them of the ability to add to the family finances by selling their surplus produce once their own families had been fed and clothed. He denigrates the campaign for female suffrage as being misplaced and mistimed and suggests women had always been able to vote. He does not make it clear what elections he is talking about and I can only assume he means bodies such as Parochial Church Councils since Local Government, as we know it now, did not exist until late in the 19th century.

The author states no inventions have been made by women and there have been no great works in art or music or even literature by women because, he seems to be suggesting, women have always had a great deal of leisure time and have not chosen to use it wisely. He seems to forget women were not allowed to be educated in the same way as men. Their reading was in many cases censored by their husbands or fathers and learning was considered dangerous to women's brains. When you take it in context it is surprising women managed to achieve anything. Oxford and Cambridge did not award degrees to women until the 20th century. The author by omitting this background information seriously distorts the picture.

I don't agree the laws on sexual harassment have rendered all human interaction at work potentially illegal or that such legislation gives women an unfair advantage. The legislation applies equally to both sexes; it is peer pressure which stops men using it. I do agree positive discrimination and quotas are ridiculous and likely to cause more problems than they solve. Susan Pinker's book `The Sexual Paradox' deals with issues of gender at work in a much more objective and rational fashion in my opinion.

Where I seriously part company with the author is in the chapter on rape - welcome to women on the basis of rape fantasies and biology - Mills & Boon romances are all based on the rape fantasy proving that rape is welcome to women. He appears not to be aware that for many women a fantasy is just that - a fantasy. Women in general do not wish to experience their fantasies whereas men do. Romances are read as an escape from real life in the same way men read Westerns or books such as those written by Andy McNab. The author casts doubt on the authenticity of all rape claims suggesting even stranger rape may be unconsciously welcomed by the victim. He does not however seem to be saying the same thing about men where they become victims.

When writing about pornography he suggests men should not be punished for having in their possession extreme images involving children because this is punishing 'thought crime'. I find this suggestion totally abhorrent as is his comparison with reading crime novels or watching films depicting crimes. He seems to forget the moral condemnation which is usually present in such work and which is totally lacking from the extreme end of pornography.

I found his descent into name calling against certain women in the later chapters undermined his whole thesis which is a pity. If he had maintained the objective tone of the first few chapters his argument would have been more persuasive. He quotes far fewer sources in the later chapters, which appear to be largely his own personal opinions, and he fails to quote from some of the great classics of feminist writing such as Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan and Germaine Greer. His sources, listed in the lengthy bibliography, seem to represent disproportionately male writers and researchers and he appears to regard the word feminism as denoting a man hating virago. He forgets that the term patriarchy is not a term of abuse but a description of the society in which we still find ourselves.

Overall this is a very interesting and thought provoking book which I would urge all men and women to read if they are at all interested in the issues covered.
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