'The Fire of Female Fury': New books offer tools for busting up the rules of patriarchy.

AuthorIngram, Mrill

I remember when I, and anyone else I considered worth having a conversation with, was reading Mary Daly. It was the late eighties, and we passed around a hard copy of Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, reveling in a new language and arming ourselves against the omnipresent forcefield of male privilege.

Daly offered us a prickly lexicon, bristling with hyphens and slashes providing purchase along the worn-smooth paths of patriarchal discourse: "[F]eminist no-saying is more than a substantial removal (re-direction, re-allocation) of goods and services.... It has also the form and full portent of assumption of power," she wrote. "Spinsters," she added, "must melt these masses of 'knowledge' with the fire of Female Fury."

I also remember the confusion--from some--at her language: "Hag-ocracy"? "Fembot"? "Phallocracy"? Really?!

Really. Those words generated space and power. They were an in-their-face warning: Step away or risk third-degree burns. The take-no-prisoners language created the mental clearance to fight off societal expectations and work toward authentic self-definition.

So it is Mary Daly I thought of as I read Mona Eltahawy's The Seven Necessary Sins for Women and Girls, with an erect middle finger gracing the cover. The book was written, she says in her introduction, "with enough rage to fuel a rocket."

But where Daly's goal was an academic wrangling with patriarchal language to birth a feminist ethics, Eltaway's is a call to arms, a "manifesto," arming women and girls with "tools to fight back." Those tools--the "seven necessary sins," each of which is a chapter in the book--are anger, attention, profanity, ambition, power, violence, and lust. Her creative approach exposes the rules that shape women as nice, giving, well-behaved, patient, content, submissive, and always the object, never the instigator, of desire. She sees the sins as ammunition to blow up those rules, which submit women to a position of permanent disadvantage.

Eltahawy builds on the momentum of #MeToo and #MosqueMeToo and #IBeat-MyAssaulter: "This is a revolutionary moment in which we are connecting and exposing the ways patriarchy has enabled and protected so many..." she writes. "This is a revolutionary moment in which sharing, and echoing stories of abuse, survival, and resilience. It is a revolutionary moment of women's rage."

Eltahawy's writing is peppered with "musts" and "shoulds," a declarative style tempered by moving stories about women...

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