the mermaid and the minotaur

This book, first published in 1975 by Dorothy Dinnerstein (1923-1992), is more relevant and needed than it has ever been and it might have a good chance of being heeded this time around. A seminal book for me, it was on every women’s studies bibliography. The sub-title, “Sexual Arrangements and Human Malaise”, must give you a hint of what we are now calling the MeToo problem that Dinnerstein addresses:

“It seems possible that now, for the first time in history, women in substantial numbers hate, fear and loathe men as profoundly as men have all along hated, feared and loathed women.”

She uses Freud and mythology, hard-wired into our psyches, to remind us of what has been going on for so long. She emphasizes, insists on, the need for basic change in gender arrangements, a change that goes deeper than the recent ragged displacement of male sexual bullies. The malignant aspect which women have just begun to have the courage to call out is not going to change fundamentally until, Dinnerstein writes, “female-dominated child care ceases to be the basic condition within which ‘normal’ personality develops”. The good news is that it’s starting to happen, and I have the promising proof of it in my own great grandchildren, or rather, in their other caregivers, the fathers.

“Man’s hand must be as firm on the cradle as woman’s.”

It’s going to happen, it’s happening, and the government, finally, is helping, with the dispersement of maternity and paternity leaves. I have been so aware of this as I recall my utter solitude and isolation with my babies compared to the group efforts focused on my gregarious geegees (great-grands).

My copy of the book is studded with post-it notes. They and my yellow highlights give me an entree into the author’s thoughts but they’re not enough. I’m going to have to re-read it again. (How many times now?)