Especially For Young Women



An Essay by Erin Pizzey

[Back in the sixties] 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, 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, she told me, was because marriage is based on the property concept, and therefore it must be abolished. 

I looked at the other women in the group. Angela, a teacher, had more 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 heterosexual 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 Shaftsbury Avenue. I also attended the first women's conferences and 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 an 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 were considered disgusting. 

We, the mothers, sat around the kitchen tables rearranging the world according to Marx. I had 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, and it was useless to tell these women that Marx never did anything bad to women. Was he unkind to his family and did he refuse to have women in the Politburo? 

The feminist gurus had done their jobs wel,l 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 exactly what happened, and the first little get-together that 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 manoeuvring, 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. Yet, 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 that 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' and 'Gender politics'. It became the new way to brainwash 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 the woman in his life was teaching, he could usually be found in woman's conferences running the creches and trying to looking '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. And now there were legions of feminist lawyers and therapists to make sure that their 'sisters' were fully supported in the battle to destroy men.

Why did the relationship between men and women go so badly wrong?

Erin Pizzey 



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