Outrageous Acts and Insidious Critical Notes

Posted by Cila Warncke

The irony of it needles me every time I pick up my 1983 paperback edition of Outrageous Acts And Everyday Rebellions. Inside, Gloria Steinem writes about the wastefulness of ‘valuing myself and other women according to the degree of our acceptance by men.’ Outside, the back cover leads with the critical approval of… Alan Alda. I will forever wonder if Steinem herself was insensible to this off-message inclusion (Jane Fonda’s praise is printed in smaller letters on the lower half) or whether — despite it being a book about feminism by a leading feminist thinker the publishers just couldn’t risk sending it out into the world without the seal of paternal(istic) approval.

Fellow second-waver Germaine Greer suffered the same slings and arrows as late as the 1993 edition of The Female Eunuch. Only one critic is identified by name in its half-dozen critical blurbs: Kenneth Tynan (who writes he is ‘coverted to Women’s Lib, as much by her bawdy sense of humour as by the bite of her polemic’ — did anyone still call it ‘Women’s Lib’?)

Perhaps my ‘favourite’ is the comment appended to Joanna Russ’ wonderful How To Suppress Women’s Writing (also originally published in 1983). From a Washington Post review: ‘Her polemic has all the cunning merciless clarity of fine art.’ They couldn’t have picked a finer way of illustrating Russ’ argument that once ‘informal prohibitions’ have failed to stop women creating art the patriarchy looks around frantically to see ‘what can be done to bury the art, to explain it away, ignore it, downgrade it?’

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1 thought on “Outrageous Acts and Insidious Critical Notes

  1. I’m leery of Gloria Steinem ever since I read her declaration that a woman must identify herself as a lesbian to be truly emancipated. Errr… thanks, but I’ll pass.

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