In 1970, an Australian author, Germaine Greer, wrote a bestselling book that helped define women’s rights around the world.
In the early 1970s, a woman’s role in society was still set by male expectations. While women were expected to work and be educated, it was considered more important that they marry and become housewives. Women were also paid less than men for the same work, and denied many opportunities because they were women.
The Female Eunuch challenged a woman’s traditional role in society, and provided an important framework for the feminist movement of the 1970s.
The Female Eunuch called on women to reject their traditional roles in the home, and explore ways to break out of the mould that society had imposed on them. It also encouraged women to question the power of traditional authority figures – such as doctors, psychiatrists, priests and the police – who at the time were not used to being questioned, and to explore their own sexuality.
There had been other books published on Women’s Liberation – most famously Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique – but Greer’s book was written with a wicked sense of humour and a directness that the others lacked. This witty honesty made the book accessible to a very wide readership, and was perhaps the reason for the book’s enormous success.
Greer hoped that her book would inspire women to see themselves as powerful when it came to their own roles and sexuality. In many ways she was successful. The Female Eunuch certainly did push the Women’s Liberation Movement forward, and it became one of the world’s most influential books on the subject. (Source: State Library of Victoria)