BROWNMILLER FEMININITY PDF

By Susan Brownmiller. Or maybe one is put on one's guard by such observations as the following made by the author, Susan Brownmiller, in the prologue to her study. For although she doesn't identify who precisely it is that she thinks has been doing the imposing of these ''limitations,'' one has a powerful sense - not least from having read her earlier book on rape, ''Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape'' - that she doesn't have in mind History or God or the Spirit that moved upon the waters. Whatever the cause, I found myself reading ''Femininity'' at first in a mood of extreme irritability. This inclined me to what could be described as hostile petulance over the author's proclivity for splitting infinitives, and over her perpetration of such monstrosities of diction as ''a linear continuum does not illuminate the problem'' or ''The containerizing of breasts is a significant question, and not one that can be written off strictly as a matter of decoration. I was inclined to disdain her for asking pixyishly - albeit as an aside - how Freudians ''will cope with'' the arrival of a day ''when the pocketbook ceases to be a feminine symbol,'' as if those who believe in the human unconscious have nothing better to do than play the game of symbol-mongering.

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By Susan Brownmiller. Or maybe one is put on one's guard by such observations as the following made by the author, Susan Brownmiller, in the prologue to her study. For although she doesn't identify who precisely it is that she thinks has been doing the imposing of these ''limitations,'' one has a powerful sense - not least from having read her earlier book on rape, ''Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape'' - that she doesn't have in mind History or God or the Spirit that moved upon the waters.

Whatever the cause, I found myself reading ''Femininity'' at first in a mood of extreme irritability. This inclined me to what could be described as hostile petulance over the author's proclivity for splitting infinitives, and over her perpetration of such monstrosities of diction as ''a linear continuum does not illuminate the problem'' or ''The containerizing of breasts is a significant question, and not one that can be written off strictly as a matter of decoration.

I was inclined to disdain her for asking pixyishly - albeit as an aside - how Freudians ''will cope with'' the arrival of a day ''when the pocketbook ceases to be a feminine symbol,'' as if those who believe in the human unconscious have nothing better to do than play the game of symbol-mongering.

Most of all, my irritability made me impatient with Miss Brownmiller's vagueness. I wanted to know what evidence she has for her broad- gauged assertion that ''we are currently witnessing a renewed interest in femininity and an unabashed indulgence in feminine pursuits,'' such as growing longer fingernails. I found myself suspicious that she might be erecting a straw woman to blow away. But by degrees my hostility to ''Femininity'' subsided.

For one thing, Miss Brownmiller's prose improves when she gets away from generalizations and down to the specifics of her individual chapters, which she calls ''Body,'' ''Hair,'' ''Clothes,'' ''Voice,'' ''Skin'' and so forth. For another, it turns out that ''Femininity'' is not an outright attack on whomever she believes ''imposed'' its ''tradition'' on women. Instead it is an informal history and anatomy of femininity, whose principal thesis, if it can be said to have one, is that there is a distinction between the biological and cultural bases for what civilization over the centuries has defined as proper feminine behavior.

Moreover, while the biological basis explains something of that behavior, it hasn't contributed nearly as much as have cultural considerations, not least among these being the assertion of power by males and the female accommodation to that brutal fact of life. Still, I can't say that I was moved to admiration by ''Femininity,'' as I eventually was after initial defensiveness by the author's earlier study of rape.

If anything, the new book ended up puzzling me. As a historical survey of the treatment of women, it doesn't offer much we haven't heard before, particularly on such subjects as footbinding, makeup, clothes, hormones, breasts and body odors. True, it's of some minor curiosity to hear it argued that the Shantywoman was wrong in telling Huckleberry Finn that ''when a girl tries to catch anything in her lap she throws her knees apart; she don't clap them together, the way you did when you catched the lump of lead.

Nor does the author have much to say about the deeper causes of the phenomenon she anatomizes. The implication seems to be that some sort of grand conspiracy has been going on these many centuries.

But who or what is behind it she doesn't really attempt to explain. One leitmotif that runs throughout the book involves the author's own struggles and compromises with the trappings of femininity.

She disdains skirts and makeup but dyes her hair, which began to gray prematurely. She's proud that her figure is suited to pants but feels a little guilty about her pride. She's ambitious for professional success and has never cared much for children, yet it seems to have been a struggle for her to accept these things about herself. All in all, what her personal history adds up to - and this was probably intentional on the author's part - is a battle- scarred terrain where the wars over femininity have been waged.

I am afraid that her latest book amounts to the same thing. It strikes one as a weary compromise, with not much ground gained in any particular direction. Its fury is muffled or spent. It seems to want to avoid engaging with the enemy, whoever or whatever it may be. View on timesmachine. TimesMachine is an exclusive benefit for home delivery and digital subscribers.

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This division results in a satisfying compartmentalization of beauty standards and behavioral codes. Much of the contradictions inherent in femininity, Brownmiller postulates, originate in the conflicting implications and demands of these three archetypal figures. Perhaps a fairly simple and obvious concept, it can have devastating implications. This idea compels a new perspective on feminine grooming rituals that seem harmless at first glance, but appear oppressive when scrutinized. Brownmiller navigates a fine line throughout her book, not wanting to cast blame on women who conform to feminine beauty standards, while simultaneously critiquing these standards. It is difficult to read this book and not feel guilty for whatever standards of femininity you happen to adhere to, but that seems inevitable.

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Femininity

In this passionate but decidedly more compassionate essay, Brownmiller examines femininity in all its studied manifestations: hair, skin, scent, voice, gesture, posture, clothing, makeup, emotion, style of ambition. You do not read very far before you understand that femininity takes an awful lot of time and energy, all to the dubious end--a mixed blessing at best--of pleasing men: ''When will dinner be ready? But is masculinity not often an effort to please women? Brownmiller has thought of that. Whimsy, unpredictability and patterns of thinking and behavior that are dominated by emotion, such as tearful expressions of sentiment and fear, are thought to be feminine precisely because they lie outside the established route to success. From these roles, Brownmiller concedes, liberation is difficult, especially when most women do like to attract men. Still, a man does not have to be hit over the head by Alan Alda to see that her point is well taken.

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Femininity, by Susan Brownmiller (Fawcett/Columbine, $7.95). This...

Femininity was published by Linden Books, a division of Simon and Schuster, in It had many foreign language publications and is still in print with Ballantine Books. This excerpt is from the prologue. Femininity, in essence, is a romantic sentiment, a nostalgic tradition of imposed limitations. Even as it hurries forward in the s, putting on lipstick and high heels to appear well dressed, it trips on the ruffled petticoats and hoopskirts of an era gone by.

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