As the audience in the Eddystone Hall, Jetwing Lighthouse Hotel, rose to give feminist icon Germaine Greer a standing ovation after her powerful speech (titled “Who Put the Post in Post-Feminism”), at the concluding session, last Sunday, of the Galle Literary Festival 2009, I overheard a woman ask: “Why did she say ‘sleeping with the enemy?’ I love my husband, and I don’t look on him as the enemy”, and I thought: “Lady, you missed the point!”
But had she really?
In the course of her speech, Germaine Greer bounced this idea off us: That there can be an inherent distrust in women of other women (she used the term “sister/s”), because women are sleeping with the “enemy”, be it partner, husband, lover. This distrust keeps us from men who share the loveable, almost moronic level of friendship that finds expression in a world of weird handshakes, shared rituals and war cries associated with male bonding.
The woman asked the question not of Ms. Greer but of a gentleman sitting next to her who, as far as I could make out, made no reply.
Having considered her question, I ask: Do we really regard men as “the ENEMY”?
I hope not. If we do, why would we want to seek equality with them? One might want to emulate a hero and be identified with heroic feats, but surely not with an enemy?
Give us more credit, please. I would rather go to a job interview with a list of my accomplishments and convince my hirers that they need me and that “this is what I am worth” than declare that I am “as qualified as Mr. So and So, that he is paid this much, and that I deserve the same”.
If the thrust of feminism is to give men and women equal status, then that cause has missed the point, because it only repeats the self-defeating process of continuous comparisons. Such comparison-making reminds us of those children you see at school sports meets who, despite being in a leading position in a race, squander their advantage by looking over their shoulder, thus losing time, focus and sight of the finish line.
Be yourself, you want to shout: Do your thing. You have it in you.
I do believe that women should be empowered and respected for who they are. And, as Ms. Greer said in summing up, the revolution or change must come from within. And where does that leave men? As friends, companions and fellow travellers, I hope. Otherwise, where’s the fun?
So I agree with the woman in the audience who declared that men are not our enemies. But I also agree with Ms. Greer: She did not say “men are our enemies”. What she said was that some women distrust other women – and perceive them as traitors to the “sisterhood” – by actually liking and loving men.
If there really are women who would go this far, to them I say: Please, get over it! Stop these endless comparisons. Be yourself, girl! You are worth it. You are worthy. You are Woman.