With intelligence and humor, Susan Brownmiller explores the history and unspoken rules of the burden of "feminine perfection"What is femininity?

How are women meant to dress, look, think, act, feel, and be, according to the mores of society?Susan Brownmiller offers a witty and often pointed critique of the concept of femininity in contemporary culture and throughout history.

She explores the demands placed upon women to fit an established mold, examines female stereotypes, and celebrates the hard-won advances in women's lifestyle and attire.

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(But dont women have better coordination or reflexes?) Or does it mean that being a woman is so desirable but who wants to be a man? While Brownmiller does give statistics and sources, I would have liked to see some stories from other women. The breaking of the book into different sections emotion, hair, skin, voice, body, ambition, clothes, and movement allows Brownmiller to explore the concept on various levels. In many ways, perhaps because of the personal feel of the essays, Brownmiller makes connects and examines details that Wolf let pass such as the connection between the decline of the corset and the raise of the tottering heel, both things constraining womens movements. In her sections about hair and skin, Brownmiller looks at each aspect from both a gender and racial perspective. It would be fair to say that race should also be taken in consideration when discussing the other aspects (in particular voice and ambition), but I wonder if this lack is due in part to when this book was written.

If you like lists of cultural mores that are oppressing you, then read this book.

I've heard/read many people bemoan Second Wave feminists for demonizing femininity, for transphobia, homophobia, racism, and for authoritarianism over all women - but not having found any actual firsthand declarations (save for Catherine McKinnon and Andrea Dworkin), have had a difficult time taking such complaints seriously.

She explores the topic appropriately starting with a chapter entitled "Body", and ending with "Ambition". I did not appreciate how hard it was for women to evolve from restrictive clothing (corsets, long skirts) to comfortable clothing that allowed for freedom of movement. I was trying to imagine how this book would feel from a man's perspective. Overall this book can read a little too much like a history book, crammed with facts and figures, but in the end I remain positive as I found most of the information fascinating and it illuminated the topic. Not so much in America anymore, but in India (where I happen to be living) I think I have seen 2 young girls with short hair cuts. If a woman's long hair is admirable, why not a man's?

This book is an important read not only for women, but men too. The book is important reading for anyone who wants to get to the humanity behind gender stereotyping, and, it might be argued, for those who have or want children who are interested in questioning their own ideas about sex and gender and what that means for the world their child grows up in.

And of course domestic violence was allowed if a woman spoke out at her man in public. On the other hand the author never lets you forget all of the trends that women were not allowed to participate in for fear of being too masculine. The author needed to stop whining that she didn't want to do something but was forced to because of the opinions of her peers.

This book fiercely attacks the beauty standards that women daily and tireless attempt to stand up to. My favorite line though is In a culture that glorifies youth, men are hardly immune to the anguish of aging, but they have yet to resort in large numbers to the illusory feminine procedures for stopping the clock, even as they continue to judge women by standards they would not be foolish enough to apply to themselves.

The book left me feeling the same as I always do when I contemplate the masculine-feminine binary, which is, simply: frustrated.

Brownmiller went on to coordinate a sit-in against Ladies' Home Journal in 1970, began work on Against Our Will after a New York Radical Feminists speak-out on rape in 1971, and co-founded Women Against Pornography in 1979.

  • English

  • Feminism

  • Rating: 3.80
  • Pages: 272
  • Publish Date: February 12th 1985 by Ballantine Books
  • Isbn10: 0449901424
  • Isbn13: 9780449901427