In response to:
Women: What Is to be Done? from the April 20, 1972 issue
To the Editors:
I am disappointed that you chose a man to review books on the position of women in society [“Women: What Is to Be Done,” NYR, April 20]. While I do not subscribe to the theory that the contents of a person’s underpants determine the quality of his mind, I do feel that a woman’s experiences would qualify a reviewer to discuss works reflecting women as women, not just as modular human beings, in a more interesting way than Mr. Sennett has done.
I do not know or care if the authors wrote primarily for woman readers, but I do know that many more women than men will read their books. While Mr. Sennett is probably correct that no man will cast off his sexism after reading The Dialectic of Sex, must feminist books be addressed to solving the problems of men? The something which “must be done to change men” will be done by the women, not the books, in their lives. It will be done by women who recognize our colleagues and lovers in Firestone’s men (even if they do not recognize themselves), and who are liberated into being able to express our anger when confronted by the logical extremes of sexism. Angry women who see sexism even where it does not exist are unlikely to overlook it where it does…for one thing it is even more tedious for us to be nurses than whores.
My heart does not bleed for Mr. Sennett’s television repairman’s hypothetical plight…my “terrible rage and urge to retaliate” are real and present. If a man becomes unrespected when he can no longer oppress his family, let him make himself respectable.
Mr. Sennett is probably unqualified to criticize Mitchell’s analysis of women’s groups. My women’s group coped with the problem of leadership quite adequately, but I would have been interested by the experience a woman reviewer might share. Certainly different groups would choose different paths over the same terrain.
Mr. Sennett feels that the woman’s movement needs better analyses and more humane programs. I disagree. At this point we are still scrabbling to attain the most basic goals—what we need is more aware and angry women. Only with a much broader base can we begin trying to remodel society, only then will the sociological rather than the propagandist value of feminist analyses and programs be of more than academic interest.
University of New Hampshire
Durham, New Hampshire