Friday Feminist – Marilyn French (2)

Cross posted

“I asked him how he felt about her now. He thought of her as ultimately desirable, but his memory of her was singed with anger. He had loved her, he had wanted her, and he had done nothing. He was angry with her but angrier with himself. ‘What could you have done?’ ‘I could have raped her.’

“I wasn’t even surprised. This guy was unbearably stiff and boring, impossible correct, Christian, mild, meek all that. But at heart, a rapist.”

“I know all this, I’ve known it always,” Mira said faintly.

“That story – and God knows how many others, how many pieces of history, laws, traditions, customs – everything congealed for me while I walked the streets of Chicago with Chris, watching the men looking at her. And it became an absolute truth for me. Whatever they may be in public life, whatever their relationships with men, in their relations with women, all men are rapists, and that’s all they are. They rape us with their eyes, their laws, and their codes.”

Mira’s head lay in her hand. “I have two sons,” she said softly.

“Yes. That’s one way they keep their power. We love our sons. Thank God I don’t have one. It would hold me back.” [Val’s] face was fierce.

Mira sat up. “Hold you back?”

“Everything came together. That guy – the minister – and the way Tad treated Chris, the kid who raped her, the lawyers who raped her soul, the courts and the way they treated her, the cops with their guns hanging down and the way they looked at her, and the men on the streets, one after another, looking at her, making remarks. There was no way I could protect her from it, and he way she’s feeling now, no way I can help her to bear it.

“And my mind was wandering, I wasn’t able to control it. I thought about marriage and its laws, about fear of going out at night, fear of traveling, about the conspiracy among men to treat women as inconsequential – there are more ways to rape than one. Women are invisible, trivial, or demons, castrators; they are servants or cunt, and sometimes both at once. … All these years, these centuries, these millennia, and all that hate – look at the books – and under it all, the same threat, the same act: rape.

Marilyn French, The Women’s Room, 1977.

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3 responses to “Friday Feminist – Marilyn French (2)

  1. Pingback: Femmostroppo Reader - May 16, 2009 — Hoyden About Town

  2. I stumbled upon this by accident looking for information about this book, which I’m going to start reading soon. Of course this contains the famous “all men are rapists” quote, but it’s amazing seeing it in the somewhat expanded context here.

    It’s of course a character’s point of view in a novel, and so shouldn’t be dealt with the same as if it were said by a real person. But wow is it affecting passage — as a man, affecting in many conflicting ways. Taken as a factual statement, something again we can’t completely do, it both distorts the definition of rape and unfairly assumes a power and control on the part of all men over women akin to the power possessed by a rapist. Fictional or not, that sickens me a bit. On the other hand, the character has a valid perspective that actual rape is connected to all of the other ways that women are subordinated in patriarchal society – of course, being “connected to” isn’t equivalent to “the same as.”

    I do look forward to reading the book. And the site here looks very interesting, by the way.