May 6th, 2009

Rose Blight

One Woman's Room: Marilyn French

I was reading in today’s Times about the death of Marilyn French. When I was young I read The Women’s Room. I read it while I was eating, I read it over the baby’s innocent little head as she sat on my knee, I read it every moment I could until I’d finished: that’s why it was a best seller. After all these years I can still remember a great deal about it; the truths French expressed but also the aspects of the book which caused me to start mentally shredding it once I’d got through. There’s a scene, for instance, where a group of women sits around discussing their husbands as though they were faddy children (he likes this, he won’t eat that) which stuck in my head as being absolutely true. There’s also a lot to dislike: the narrator’s childish desire to shock her parents once she was a mature woman, for instance.

I have a problem with the bleakness of outlook which can see no happy relationship between men and women unless it’s based on no-ties sex. Not only are old fashioned notions of duty and loyalty thrown out of the window but love means nothing in the empty marriages French describes. This is very sad and a dishonest foundation for feminism, which should be less subjectively argued for. Nevertheless The Women’s Room was an important book and Marilyn French an influential writer.