How The Women's Movement Taught Women to Hate Men
By Erin Pizzey, founder of the modern women's shelter movement
e-published with permission
We were sitting around a coffee table in my house, in Goldhawk Road, Hammersmith in London listening to a bossy woman wearing National Health round glasses and a long Indian skirt. She smelled of incense and too few baths. We were all nursing large gin and tonics which was the staple drink in the Women's Lib. Goldhawk Road weekly meetings.
We were trying to follow her convoluted explanations about our 'role in society.' As far as I knew, I had a very simple role in society. I had always wanted to have lots of children, be happily married, and free to tend my house and garden and cook three course meals for my husband. 'What could possibly be wrong with that I asked?' 'Why,' she said angrily, 'are so many married women deprived of the status of independent human beings?' The answer was; because marriage is based on the property concept, therefore it must be abolished. I looked at the other women in the group, Angela, a teacher, had more of an idea of what was going on. She had trained as a teacher and was used to this confusing amount of jargon. 'What is wrong with owning a house?' I asked. I was obviously a hopeless brain drain. 'You,' she said turning on me, 'live in a mink-lined trap,' her face was frozen with rage. I decided I'd better shut up and see what else I was getting wrong. 'Why are the mores of our society unfair to women?' was her next question. The answer to that was 'Because men are natural oppressors.'
This was not the time to confess to the fact that I had not only a son but seven adopted sons. Certainly, my daughter Cleo and I waged war in a family where two women were pitted against nine males. The most oppressive thing the boys ever did was to leave hair in the wash-basin and they could all cook, iron, sew and clean. The final question was even more confusing. 'Why is the love of a woman for a man, which involves her being the servant to his needs, lauded as 'her' greatest fulfillment?' The answer reduced the room to a puzzled silence. 'Er,' I asked 'are we talking about lesbians?' We were. 'We,' they always use the royal We ............... 'don't like men nor do we like hetero-sexual women. If there is ever to be any equality, marriage and the family must be abolished.' We sat there gawking like fish and she smiled a very satisfied smile and glared at me.
I had followed the career of a journalist called Nancy Spain. She worked on 'SHE' magazine. Her radical lesbian ideas interested me and she was writing for the Guardian long before the Guardian Mafia of feminist journalists got going. She died in an aeroplane crash but left behind many of her acolytes. These were the faces I saw in those early days of the feminist collectives. I went to work in the Women's Liberation Work Shop in Newport Street, off Shaftesbury Avenue. I also attended the first women's conferences and I was struck by the hundreds and hundreds of women claiming to be radical militant lesbians. The first women's conferences were destroyed by violent fisticuffs between these women and most of us were very afraid of them. As far as I was concerned these women did not speak for my gay friends anymore than the radical feminists spoke for all women in our country who were very happy at home with their husbands and their children. In reality, this was a very minor group of women who were only able to hurl abuse at heterosexual women and their families because they were white, middle class and had media jobs. Before very long they were employing each other and 'marginalizing' the men who tried to work alongside them. Men, intimidated by their brutal, violent behavior, moved on and out of many jobs. According to these women all women were victims of men's violent behavior, any attempt for men to fight back met with behind-scenes maneuvering and men LET IT HAPPEN.
Fed up with the war, I decided to stay away from the in-fighting that dominated the women's liberation movement and turn my attention to helping in my own local community. I got a letter from the women's liberation office, throwing me out and banning me from attending any of the collectives. The so-called women's liberation' movement spread like a cancer across the English chattering classes. I visited the houses of feminist women with my son who carried his action-man toys. In their houses there was no vestige of anything 'boyish' at all. No Tonka trucks, no boys toys nothing that could encourage a boy to think of himself as masculine. The whole idea of men and masculinity in those houses, we considered disgusting. We, the mothers, sat around the kitchen tables rearranging the world according to Marx. I, who had enjoyed men's company enormously, for the feeling that these women underneath all the political chatter, really disliked men. There was nothing sensual about their houses. They disliked cooking and if they had to cook for guests, it was not producing good food and wine that delighted their guests, but a rather rapid need to compete with each other. Was it, I wondered, an English middle class phenomenon? This dislike and need to sneer at men? Certainly their boys were confused and crying. There was no way I could interest my sons in dolls, not that I would want to try. Useless to tell these women that Marx never did anything to women,
was unkind to his family and refused to have women in the Politburo. The feminist gurus had done their job well and most of the women I knew complained about their awful lives. I couldn't see what was awful about having the freedom to do exactly what I pleased and when I pleased. Not for me the daily office rush. I pushed my pram around Shepherd's Bush Market loaded with other people's children and my own. I dreamed of finding a house where I could build a useful community centre in our midst.
The dream materialized but with it, the awful certainty that if I attracted funds and publicity. I would hear the tramp of the man-hating feminists trying to oust me and take over. That is what happened, and the first little get together I ran to encourage other groups to open refuges was dominated by the lesbians and feminists who crowded into our little church hall and voted themselves into a national movement. We, horrified and unused to political maneuvering, abstained. 'There isn't a working-class women among you,' one of my mothers yelled. This has always been the truth of this disastrous movement. Born in ivory tower academia, it had no relevance to women on the street. 'If only you were all lesbians, you would have no problems of violence,' we were told. We often had women beaten up by their female partners in our refuge. The worst beating I ever saw was between a vicar's daughter and her lover.
All through my career, as a journalist, a writer and a social reformer, I have been hounded and bullied by feminist women and their coat-trailing 'new men.' Any of us who have gone to all girl schools, particularly boarding schools, will verify the awful bullying and violence that goes on amongst the girls. For so many years women were tyrants behind their front doors. They were able to sexually abuse, batter and intimidate their children and their husbands now, with the advent of the women's movement, they moved out into the world. They took their aggressive, bullying and intimidating behavior with them. Talking with the men who were accused of abusing their women, I was aware of this movement with its wild and extravagant claims against men had fueled the flames of insecurity and anger in men. I watched horror-stricken, as in home after home, I saw boys denied not only their access to their fathers, but also access to all that was normal and masculine in their lives.
Our universities rushed into grasping funding for 'Women's Studies.' ' Gender politics,' became the new way to brain-wash women with very little education. By now the Politically Correct movement was beginning to hatch and a new form of 'mind control' was devised. Feminists became the new 'thought police.'
The sudden promiscuity of women came as a shock to me. The atmosphere of intense dislike for men and anything male lay like a miasma in so many English middle class houses. Overnight in the late sixties in England, confusion reigned. If feminists hated men so much why were so many of them sleeping with the enemy? I am the daughter of a diplomat born in China and it was my Amah who was the one to insist that my twin sister and I be put out on the hill side. Failing to achieve that, she wanted our feet bound. It was women in Africa who practised ritual circumcisions on their daughters. I knew that because I worked with missionaries in Africa. I was fighting a lost cause and what bothered me then and bothered me now, is that men made no attempt to defend themselves.
By now the 'new man' was beginning to emerge and he was not a pretty sight. Parroting everything in the woman in his life was teaching, he could usually be found in woman's conferences running the crèches and trying to look 'caring.' Mostly he was stoned, confused and angry. Maybe because as far as I could see, the new feminists made no effort to share an equal relationship with their male partners. They saw themselves as 'superior beings.' The new men were expected to take their places a few steps behind their women and to do as they were told. Mostly, they had to accept the dictates of the dictators and quietly get on with the household chores and take care of the children. But what ever a new man did, he could never atone for the sins of other men. Any man who disobeyed his partner, was subjected to expulsion from the matrimonial home and in many cases, from a relationship with his children. Now, there were a legion of feminist lawyers and therapists to make their 'sisters' were fully supported in the battle to destroy men.
Why did the relationship between men and women go so badly wrong? I think it goes back to my pooing about the choices men and women made in the sixties. Men were tired of their roles as 'macho men.' They were strangled in their uniforms of ties and suits. They
had no choices in the late fifties but to take on a wife and children and the cost of a mortgage dangled around their necks. In the sixties they rebelled and wanted to take a less violent and domineering role in their lives. They turned to this romantic image of women as soft and gentle. They saw this image as an emotional life style denied to men. Women, however, rebelled against this image of themselves, indeed in so many cases it was a false image, and doomed the masculine concepts of authoritarian rule and aggression and even to wearing the hated suits and ties that men had discarded. Men, for so long, subjected themselves emotionally to women and hated women for their dependence. Women adopting male bullying and aggressive roles and still hating the fact that they need and want men in their lives.
What needs to happen? First of all there has to be a carefully worked out and civilized dialogue that cannot be invaded by the extremes of the right or the left. Both men and women have been guilty of politicizing human relationships. Human relationships are not a matter of political solutions. Any country that has tried to create a political solution to human problems has ended up with concentration camps and gulags. The deep wounds between men and women will take time to heal. It is imperative that women who do not hate men and wish to live in peace with them, should be given space in newspapers and magazines to have their say. Films should be made about women who have made a success of their homes and their families. Bringing up a family requires a large degree of maturity. An ability to sublimate the personal needs and wishes until such time as the children are grown and have left the home. Later, those years of sacrifice will bring the parents such joy. Of course, there will be women who want to work and not have a family. As long as the women have clearly thought out
their priorities, there is no harm. Just lately my life is too full of nearly forty something women, who have had fulfilling careers but the biological clock is ticking and they are afraid. Now they decide they do want children and a father for their children for many it is too late and the future, for them, is not bright. Some women will be able to balance a home and a career. These women tend to be wealthy and can afford the help needed to bring up the children. Many women will be forced to go out to work against their will. This is because we live in a Western world where caring for children has become devalued and only work outside the house carries with it monetary compensation. I believe that love between men and women is the strongest relationship on this earth. For now, we have to fight to protect family life. Hopefully, as we move, into a new century, men and women can meet each other not only as equals, partners and friends but also as lovers.
(About Erin Pizzey)
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