The sadness of feminism

Germaine Greer is a leading feminist. An Australian, she came to study in England in 1964 and has lived in this country ever since. An academic and a writer she shot to fame in 1970 with her best selling book The Female Eunuch, an analysis of attitudes toward women and a call for an end to what she saw as sexual repression. Her most recent book [1999], The Whole Woman, another best seller, continues in the same feminist groove but surprises other feminists at times with its conclusions.
By now in her sixties, she recently produced an article for Aura magazine that was also featured in the Daily Mail. That paper described the article as a ‘searingly honest testimony’ under the headline, ‘How one baby lit up my life in a way no lover ever could’.
Here we summarise her story as a reminder of the many people all around us who feel badly let down by lives lived according to the accepted rules of the day.
Babies are bad news
She begins by telling how she grew up to believe that babies were seriously bad news. Pregnancy meant ‘morning sickness, bloating and loss of looks’; babies just unleashed a whole set of other unpleasant problems. She was taught to have a ‘good time’ before facing the horrors of pregnancy and bringing up children. One of the problems with this was that a promiscuous lifestyle was considered to be essential. ‘We all lived in fear of ‘being late’’ she writes and describes some of the desperate measures contemporaries took to deal with an ‘unwanted pregnancy’.
She herself took to using a ‘Grafenburg ring’, an early form of IUD. This led to problems with her reproductive organs. During a laparotomy to investigate this, it was necessary to perform a four hour emergency operation and she was told, incorrectly as it turned out, that she would never be able to have children. This was followed, nevertheless, by two pregnancies and, sadly, two abortions. In the first case at least, it was the thought of being ‘condemned to the life of the impoverished single mother of a handicapped child’ that filled her with terror and led to the ‘termination’.

Scrumptious, delicious, adorable
In the middle of all this she describes how she helped out a pregnant student by providing her with an emergency roof over her head. She describes how, despite forebodings that ‘quality of life would take a nosedive’, she found the trials of dealing with a screaming baby a delight. In a line that will come as no surprise to most parents she says ‘I found her scrumptious, delicious, ineffable, adorable ….’ Sadly, this reaction also astonished her. Not until then had she realised the tremendous joy that only children can give.
Ms Greer continued to engage in fornication but now avoided using any contraception. However, she was apparently unable to become pregnant despite what was now a great longing. A visit to an expensive Harley Street clinic served only to worsen the situation. Another expensive gynaecologist was able to repair the damage by means of microsurgery but an apparent pregnancy turned out only to be a phantom one.

Soon she reached the age of 40 and her gynaecologist informed her that from this point on, if there was a pregnancy, he would expect her to have amniocentesis. Interestingly, she told him that by this time she had no intention of aborting a child even if it was suffering from Downs syndrome. He was shocked by this. She in turn was shocked at his opposition to her point of view, although it would perhaps be a typical one in the medical profession.
Despite great efforts to get pregnant before the onset of menopause, it never happened. Like others in her situation she has considered adoption. The fact that she was single and that in this country most children available for adoption are those with many problems precluded this. She rightly finds the idea of buying a child from poor third world parents morally repugnant. Towards the end she describes a dream in which she finds an abandoned baby girl in a rubbish skip. She takes the child to the table but finds its head crawling with ants. She has no doubts that this dream was an expression of her deep seated desire to be a mother. She still dreams that somehow one day she will be able to adopt a child.

Our response
The article is far from being a retraction of her leading ideas. Much less is Ms Greer saying ‘I repent of sin’. However, she has come to the point where she can see that despite the vaunted glories of the humanist lifestyle she, for one, is full of regret, at least as far as her never having been a mother is concerned. There are many reasons why people do not have children but in this case the problem is chiefly an unbiblical lifestyle. It is not our purpose here to gloat. The article moves one to compassion rather. Ms Greer is typical of many, no doubt, who are reluctant to abandon their anti-scriptural stances but have begun to see at least some of the limitations of their chosen road.
This article first appeared in Grace Magazine.