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,
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
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
'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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Feminists became the new
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?