The XX Factor

Marilyn French’s Anger

I remember reading Marilyn French’s The Women’s Room , her 1977 novel about the world of oppressive, forced domesticity that was the expected lot of women of her generation-French just died at age 79-and being so grateful that world had broken apart because of women like her. Her obits in the Times and the Post show French remained a woman of the second wave of feminism -who saw the institutional oppression by men everywhere and who retained a burning anger about it. Probably she was angry that young woman didn’t share her anger. But why should they be incensed about their oppression when they live in a world in which their opportunities are abundant and assumed? As I was reading her obituaries, and feeling that she had become an anachronistic figure, I saw this line quoted from her 1992 book, The War Against Women : “”Men’s need to dominate women may be based in their own sense of marginality or emptiness; we do not know its root, and men are making no effort to discover it.” She suddenly didn’t seem so anachronistic anymore, since every day we read in both the Times and the Post about the inroads the Taliban is making into Pakistan. We are living in a time when women on the other side of the world have to worry about having acid thrown in their faces for wanting to go to school, a time in which a nuclear power is ceding territory to a group which beats, even murders women, for leaving the house unaccompanied by a man. Saudi Arabia does not allow its female citizens to drive. A few years ago they let schoolgirls trapped in a fire burn to death because if the firemen rescued them they’d see the girls not completely covered. The urge to dominate-and obliterate-is frighteningly present.