From The Archive
Lucy Ellmann
No. 27  March 2015

Three Strikes! [1]

 Thoughts after reading Three Guineas 

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[1] In baseball, three strikes and you’re out. Out on your ass. The expression therefore has some bearing on the trajectory of this article, my pitch being that men are swinging wild. The original idea for the piece came from reading Virginia Woolf’s 1938 essay Three Guineas, to which I was alerted by the novelist Peter Burnett. But I couldn’t refer to three letters as Woolf does, since nobody writes letters anymore; and I chose strikes to replace her guinea idea, since nobody knows what a guinea is anymore either. (Nobody knows what a strike is anymore, come to think of it. That’s why we need one.) Woolf is being ironic about guineas anyway. With wit and eccentricity, her essay considers various good causes to which three guineas could usefully be put: the prevention of war, rebuilding a women’s college in Cambridge, and finding employment for women in the professions. In the end she offers each cause a guinea, this being all an “educated man’s daughter” could afford: Woolf’s three guineas thus become, in their paltriness, an emblem of women’s second-class status (making the diminished status of women the real subject of Woolf’s essay). It may be hard now to imagine being patronizing toward Virginia Woolf (aren’t we all supposed to be afraid of her?), but she was well aware of what the “intelligentsia” and “ignorantsia,” as she calls them, put most women through. In her essay, she concludes that women are “outsiders”—but in a good way. So are the many footnotes in her essay. Footnotes are always outsiders within a text, and therefore make obliging underdogs in an essay on female subordination. The footnotes here are the women of this essay, and they’re taking over.

I made nice.[2] It didn’t work. Women are still oppressed, men still running the show. They’re still running around raping, killing, and maiming women—raping, killing, and maiming children too (which is really just another way of attacking women). They’re still waging war, spraying every living thing with pesticide, eating huge pizzas,[3] and charging an awful lot for a cut, highlights, and blow-dry. And how about this new craze for “murder-suicide,” which consists of the maddened liquidation of women (usually ex-girlfriends or estranged wives) and their children?[4] And all the jihadist outrages.

[2] As George Bernard Shaw said on his second arrival in America, “I told you what to do and you haven’t done it.” In 2013 I put my solution to male violence toward women in the most palatable form I could think up, a rom-com novel called Mimi, about a rich guy in New York who sees the light and becomes a champion of women. Mimi’s solution to the downward spiral of patriarchal insanity and its catastrophic effect not only on women, men, and children but also on the arts, culture, and the environment is: hand over the money. Transfer all wealth into female control. Not half of it, not 52 percent—ALL THE MONEY. Given the mean little way that late capitalism works, a steady and wholehearted redistribution of wealth seems the simplest method of ensuring that women get treated with more respect, and get raped and murdered less (a fad that clearly owes much to women’s low social status). Until we can return to a matriarchal form of socialism, or “commonism” (as the Scottish novelist and political activist John Aberdein would say), in which money has no place, we must put women in possession of real, unquestionable wealth. This pro-female asset-rearrangement, which I’ve dubbed the Odalisque Revolution, constitutes a peaceful revolutionary act, and can be achieved on an individual basis, in private, by any right-thinking man who’s tired of hearing about women being deprived, denied, despised, derided, deluded, ignored, cheated, exploited, manipulated, mocked, blamed, scolded, threatened, raped, killed, overworked, and ordered about. (Incidentally, women are automatic members of the Odalisque Revolution.)
 It’s not just about guineas, though. The ultimate aim of the Odalisque Revolution is the start of a new matriarchal era in human civilization. It seems to me a safe, sensible, efficient, and really rather innocuous solution to the problem of male mayhem, war, and the destruction of the environment. And yet hardly any men to my knowledge have followed my very clear instructions on how to relinquish the unfair advantages so many of them claim to abhor. Only one man (the intrepid English writer and critic Anthony Rudolf) has asked to have his Odalisque Revolution Mea Culpa Declaration stamped. This detachable certificate can be found at the back of any copy of Mimi (on page xxv): all the contrite uxorious philogynist has to do is sign it and give all his money (or most of it: he can keep some petty cash, for pizza’s sake) to a woman or women of his choice.
 The Declaration, written in plain English, merely invites the signatory to make an admission that male property and power are ill-gotten gains, the products of men’s misguided five-thousand-year-long terrorist campaign aimed at the usurpation and colonization of women. To give him his due, my copanelist, Alan Bissett, at a so-called debate on so-called feminism at the so-called Edinburgh International Book Festival in 2013, publicly pressed upon me £10. It was a start, though far from the full relinquishing of funds I have in mind. In return, I sent him, too, a stamped copy of the Mea Culpa Declaration. But from other men—apart from my husband, Todd McEwen, who has already given me all he has—there have been very few signs of acquiescence to my demands. No one has even asked me to defend my position. Men have relied on their stock tactic in response to female insurrection: they have tried to starve the idea of oxygen by not responding to it at all (aside from a long, ill-considered review by Christopher Buckley in the New York Times that, among its other failures of understanding, wrongly accused my heroine Mimi of being a nymphomaniac—get with it, mister, female sexuality is legit).
 A few female reviewers have surfaced too, voicing doubts about my pro-female cash-redistribution plan. Now, wait a minute! You’re telling me you object to acquiring all the available wealth in the world, and with it the opportunity to subvert the murderous course men have taken? You’re using the examples of Margaret Thatcher and Elizabeth I and Medea and Pandora and Lady Macbeth to justify never giving women an even break? All because a few female creeps rose to high office within patriarchy, and because male writers came up with some violent female characters? You really believe women would make as big a mess of power as men have? Oh, come on. Enough of this self-abnegation. We’ve run out of time for ambivalence. What we need more is a radical redistribution of power.

[3] Why do men like pizza so much? I think it’s because the boxes look official, like they’ve just come from some important meeting and they’ve got some really important documents in there or something, not just a big, hot, slippery blop of dough covered with mini-hamburgers, chicken tikka, and pineapple chunks.

[4] Last December, David Crowley, a gun enthusiast, murdered his wife and daughter (Pat Pheifer, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Jan. 22, 2015). Jonathon Walker shot his two daughters, his wife, and his wife’s mother—though one of the girls survived (Benjamin Mueller and John Surico, New York Times, Jan. 24, 2015). Because the murderer dies in the fray (of his own making), these callous acts are often treated in the same way as domestic “disputes”: culprit-free crimes that are merely “tragic family incidents.”

These people are trying to kill us! I don’t know why we’re all so nice about it. Nothing substantial is ever done about the way men carry on. Instead, it’s feminism, that most noble of causes, that is forever in retreat. [Pause to do dishes.] When any outwardly positive step forward is made—toward equal pay, say, or maternity/paternity benefits, or restrictions on the numbers of pink products targeted at girls—something even worse always seems to happen to women on some other level. Patriarchal retribution is swift: for all the mild protests against “Gamergate,” or against male bias at the Academy Awards, topless photos on Page 3 of the Sun newspaper in Britain, or nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence being stolen and shared online, we now have a global rape epidemic, with an accompanying crisis of female self-hatred and self-harm. Sure, women are permitted to work (great, thanks a lot), or deny Brits their Sun fun (though that exhausting effort was only semi-successful), or sue hackers over invasions of privacy, or join “reclaim the night” demos, or even defile the British ten-pound note with a (prettified) portrait of a female novelist,[5] but our punishment for it will be some new, unexpected form of violence, privation, ostracism, or bomb threat, along with a lot of malignant jibes from Twitter trolls. As Mary Beard said in 2014 about men’s determination to ignore, for the past few thousand years, everything women have had to say, “women . . . pay a very high price for being heard.”[6]

[5] Yes, the Bank of England has bitten the bullet and plonked Jane Austen’s face on a ten-pound note. A lot of good it does her (and she really could’ve used £10).

[6] For the whole lecture, see the London Review of Books, March 20, 2014. Beard fixes on what it’s like never to feel that you and your kind are properly represented in the culture. America broke away from England for just such a reason: “No taxation without representation.” (Not that the United States has turned out all that well: founded on the abuse of the native population, and of slaves, it cannot seem to get massacre out of its ethos, or its gun laws. On the Fourth of July, 2014, eighty-two people were shot in Chicago, and fourteen died.)

Self-inflicted saturation in porn has produced a whole generation of young men who apparently cherish, or at least accept, absurd ideas about pneumatic female torsos[7] and male rights (and rites) of domination.[8] The consequences of the recession[9] here in the United Kingdom (I live in Edinburgh) have been felt most by those already disadvantaged, and particularly women, through cuts to the health care system, rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, legal aid, and other vital services. Police mistreatment of female victims of rape and violence degrades us all.[10] Despite the scandalous gang rape and evisceration in India last year, quickly followed by a similar event in South Africa, or the Steubenville case in Ohio, in which an unconscious sixteen-year-old girl was carried naked from party to party to be sexually molested and peed upon (activities that some of the perpetrators claimed to interpret as consensual sex), doubt only seems to grow about what constitutes rape or whether it even exists.[11] The worse men behave, the more their crimes get downgraded into minor misdemeanors. This perverse transmutation is essential, of course, for preserving the status quo: the mass hallucination that men are okay and women in some way, in so many ways, aren’t.

[7] Our increasing absorption with youth and beauty has disenfranchised whole swaths of the female population. The bodies of older women are now the last great expanse of unchartered territory in the world.

[8] One of the forms this takes, in an all too literal kind of “backlash,” is the newly fashionable taste on the part of straight men for anal sex, an avidity touched on in the aptly named movie Damsels in Distress (directed by Whit Stillman, 2012). Men’s current unwillingness to concern themselves with the vagina is a new blight on our age, and women’s increasing dissatisfaction with their own genitals has kept pace with male oversights—I’m not just talking waxing, plucking, and scenting here, but surgery and the phenomenon of the “designer vagina,” a term that begs to be pronounced with an English accent. (See Marie Myung-Ok Lee’s article in the Guardian, Oct. 14, 2011.) But the fault is not with female erogenous tissue; it’s with the men who malign it. Straight men have simply become worse lovers than ever before. (And, given the history of the missionary position, that’s saying something!) They appear to be pitilessly unaware of their true role: that of pleasing women. Women are not here for male pleasure—men exist to give women pleasure. Female prostitution is founded on a dangerous misinterpretation of sexuality, leading men to pursue their own delights instead of women’s, in defiance of anatomy, and to the detriment of both sexes. Biology supports feminism! For an explanation of the way in which penis construction is oriented toward female pleasure, rather than male, see Catherine Blackledge, The Story of V (2003).

[9] Caused by men, but borne by women. Men run the banks, the building societies, the buying and selling of property, Parliament, Congress, the stock markets, the media, the oil wells, the Internet, and all the other enterprises that allow economic downturns to keep happening. We are all being crushed beneath their incessant belief in “growth” and “progress” (male terms for a society doomed to implode) and, now, their “austerity cuts.” Men can also withstand recessions better—because they’ve got all the dough!

[10] Only eight out of forty-three police forces in England and Wales respond adequately to domestic violence, according to their own body, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary. Their behavior ranges from unforthcoming to utterly shameful. West Midlands police officers called one female victim a “fucking slag.” (See the Guardian article of March 27, 2014, by Sandra Laville.) Meanwhile, the police did nothing for years about reports of the rampant pedophile Jimmy Savile’s crimes, and it now seems that the whole of the British establishment has been molesting children with impunity for years: the accusation of unthinking institutional sexism must be added to the British police’s proven proclivity for racism.

[11] Whoopi Goldberg perplexingly declared Roman Polanski not guilty of “rape-rape.” (See the Guardian article by Jessica Valenti, April 24, 2014, on the new rape vs. “rape-rape” distinction.) For an infographic analysis of the number of rapes reported and rapists tried and convicted, including the minute proportion of false accusations, see the Enliven Project (at theenlivenproject.com), though who is “enlivened” by these wretched statistics, I don’t know. Arguments about rape are so wearying—especially when you need all your strength for fleeing rapists.

How about the sex-slave trade? Or the treatment of women and children in detention centers?[12] Or the way the English family court system vilifies mothers?[13] The aim is always to traumatize women and to subdue them. This is traditionally accomplished through rape but can now also be inflicted through the justice system. [Pause to hang up laundry.]

[12] In her superb book on the illegitimacy of U.K. immigration policies, Open Borders (2004), Teresa Hayter says all border controls are counterproductive and unjust: “Their object . . . is to exclude poor people, and especially black people. The denial of free movement across frontiers gives rise to some of the worst and most vicious abuses of human rights, and provides perhaps the most fertile terrain for the agitation of the far right.” It’s also obvious that intolerance toward immigrants and foreigners closely corresponds to the male attitude toward women and animals: all of these groups are left out of calculations, except as objects of blame.

[13] As noted by the UN’s special rapporteur, Rashida Manjoo, in her statement last April on sexism in the United Kingdom—a report that dropped like cool rain in a desert and affronted the Mail. (Or was it the Male?) Among many acute observations about British gender discrimination and the country’s noncompliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (a great idea, and one to which the U.K. government had already signed up—who knew?), Manjoo voiced concerns about the family court system. It ignores “children and women’s safety when hearing applications for contact with estranged parents. . . . Lawyers and magistrates have limited understanding of the dynamics of domestic abuse and force children and their mothers to enter into unsafe and inappropriate contact arrangements. . . . Shared parenting is increasingly seen as an appropriate, default position without the adequate consideration of the best interests of the child principle and ignoring the history of family abuse” (my italics). A little-known aspect of England’sdespotic family court system (see the website of the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service: CAFCASS) is that mothers who seek legal help to protect their children from abusive, violent, or unpredictable fathers are threatened with having their children taken away if they don’t accept the judge’s decision: there is no redress. Women are also gagged—prevented, on pain of losing their children, from speaking to the press or anyone outside the courtroom about the treatment they received. These constraints incapacitatewomenby placing them outside the justice system and beyond the benefits of free speech.

This is a society that’s failing women,[14] a society in which women are kept in a perpetual, simmering state of terror.[15]

[14] We think we treat women okay? Then why do some women feel they need to look like Barbie dolls? Why do they wear six-inch heels just to get to work? Why do they feel their only purpose in life is to shape their eyebrows, give good head, and learn to lap-dance? Why is the young Irish mezzo-soprano Tara Erraught described in the English papers as a “dumpy” (Independent), “unbelievable, unsightly and unappealing” (Times), “chubby bundle of puppy fat” (Financial Times)? What about her ability to SING? Has the relevance of that—in an opera star!—been totally lost? (See Susannah Clapp’s fiery retort to the insults, in the Observer, May 25, 2014.) Women’s self-image is in tatters, smothered under a deluge of photoshopped celebs, the designer-fashion parade, porn geared to male pleasure and male fantasy, cosmetically altered styles of female body, the sex objects beloved of advertising, and all the top-heavy superwoman types in cartoon animation. As a result, there are girls on anorexic websites congratulating one another for dying.
 In answer to the whole current hysteria about plumpitude, see “The Obesity Era” by David Berreby, which convincingly explains that fatness relates to global pollution rather than to failings of self-restraint—even lab rats are getting fatter (Aeon magazine, June 19, 2013). One defect of Susie Orbach’s book, Fat Is a Feminist Issue, is that in the end it descends into diet advice: this much decreases the radicalism of her message. But fatism is a feminist issue, because all discrimination on the basis of how you look is (implicitly) directed at women, women being the most likely candidates to worry about such things. Women now resort to plastic surgery from an earlier and earlier age. It’s a form of self-mutilation, self-denial, and self-inflicted punishment, that is becoming the norm—if you can afford it, that is, and you may well be fired, demoted, dumped, maligned, or shunned if you can’t—with every operation performed putting pressure on other women to endure the same. Yet even if you manage to be or become whatever is considered beautiful at the time (it’s always changing), you’ll still be stuck in a sexist society that hates you. As the Nobel-winning novelist Elfriede Jelinek wrote in Greed (2006), “The slim ones, who have worked hard for their figure . . . climb up the mountains every day or climb the walls at home.”

[15] No one has so far questioned my use of the term “terrorism” in Mimi to describe all the lousy stuff men do to women, perhaps because it’s so apt. But men, the controllers of language, usually get to define what terrorism is, and therefore never employ the word to describe their behavior en masse, as a gender. They trip all over their own feet trying to define the word (and much, of course, depends on which government is doing the defining). Here’s how “terrorism” is described in the U.S. Department of Defense’s Dictionary of Military Terms: “The unlawful use of violence or threat of violence, often motivated by religious, political, or other ideological beliefs, to instill fear and coerce governments or societies in pursuit of goals that are usually political.” My first question would be: Why is any violence “lawful”? And next: What is the oppression of women by men, if not a coercive political campaign that makes use of propaganda, blackmail, and the calculated use of (unlawful) violence and physical threat to promote an ideology (patriarchy)? Just because this form of terror has gone on for thousands of years doesn’t reduce its criminality. Let’s be clear about this: ALL VIOLENCE IS TERRORISM AGAINST WOMEN (unless it’s committed solely to protect life, i.e., in self-defense), if only because women produced all the people being mangled, manhandled, murdered, or mutilated. (The fact that children are fathered by men is relevant merely on a molecular level.) “Family annihilation”—that euphemism for slaughtering your whole family—is a misogynistically motivated hate crime. Misogyny is lethal. As Fritz Feld tells Katharine Hepburn in Bringing Up Baby (1938), “The love impulse in men very frequently reveals itself in terms of conflict.”

Yet how we bustle around, trying to look good, be good, restrain ourselves in all kinds of ways, and contort ourselves and our own needs and beliefs in order to work within a setup men have molded to suit themselves, a setup in which women are forever doomed to be the losers, hangers-on, and the butts of jokes, floozies all.[16] The first suggestions offered to you when you Google the word women are “women’s clothing,” “women’s shoes,” and “women’s dresses.” Have we no other interests?[17] We certainly aren’t supposed to. [Pause to mess—in vain—with my hair.] The harsh treatment of Mary Beard or tennis star Marion Bartoli by the British media (and the public), on the grounds of their looks, shows the high level of hostility directed at women whose achievements single them out from the crowd.[18] This, after the centuries it took for women to get the vote![19] This, after people died to protect abortion rights.[20] This, after (many) governments have finally recognized the injustice of female circumcision.[21] What did all these struggles mean?

[16] In The Kreutzer Sonata (1889), Tolstoy’s narrator Pozdnyshev complains that the whole world is pro-woman, because women are big shoppers. (We may be hopeless at making money, but we sure can spend it!) This idea of male victimhood is neatly contradicted, though, when it turns out that Pozdnyshev has murdered his wife. Her days of excessive buying are over.

[17] Women have to be kept on their toes—worrying, spending, and consuming—to keep late capitalism afloat. So-called fashion is a way of fashioning women’s psyches into mute, mystified (and impoverished) acquiescence. In its feverish attempt to undermine them, fashion exerts daily pressure on women to throw one set of carefully chosen clothes away in favor of another, or risk belittlement. Marks and Spencer’s 2014 “Leading Ladies” advertising campaign in Britain displayed well-known, middle-aged women like actress Emma Thompson and musician Annie Lennox swanning about distractedly in M & S gear (S & M gear would be more appropriate, given the submissive position generally expected of women these days). Somehow, they all seemed a lot more respectable before they were roped into dopily modeling these black-and-white duds. Thus, a vague “advance” made by women is twisted into its opposite, on the advice of commerce. Instead of offering middle-aged women reason to feel somewhat proud of themselves as people who’ve accomplished something (as the ad purported to do), this M & S campaign implied that whatever lofty things these high-flying women may have on their minds, what they really care about is what they’re wearing. In unambitious obedience to the old “male gaze” (a term originally coined by the filmmaker and critic Laura Mulvey), these public figures become just more female bodies on which to hang products. (That word “Ladies” said it all.)

[18] BBC sports reporter John Inverdale felt his estimation of Marion Bartoli’s feminine allure was required by the nation when she won Wimbledon in 2013, saying, “Do you think Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker . . . so you have to be scrappy and fight’?” The Boasting Buffoon Club (BBC for short) received seven hundred complaints about Inverdale’s comments (and even a reprimand from Maria Miller, then secretary of state for culture, media, and sport). Inverdale duly apologized for his obnoxiousness—but what good’s that? The damage to the mental health and aspirations of women and girls across the country had already been done. Inverdale’s message was clear: get back to your mirrors, ladies, because, however good you may be at something else, your only real function in life is to be found attractive by jerks like me. (See the article by Patrick Sawer and Claire Duffin in the Telegraph, July 6, 2013.) Inverdale later claimed that illness had interfered with his judgment. The last resort of the cornered misogynist is, often, hypochondria. The MP Michael Fabricant said he’d just been to the dentist in June, 2014, to explain the following violent tweet about the journalist and critic Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, presumably issued in a state of extreme novocaine confusion: “I could never appear on a discussion prog with [Alibhai-Brown.] I would either end up with a brain hemorrhage or by punching her in the throat.”

[19] While American women got suffrage a few years earlier, British women were fully entitled to vote (i.e., at age twenty-one) only in 1928, ten years before Woolf’s Three Guineas came out.

[20] For an example of right-wing efforts to thwart female freedom, see the report by Susan Saulny and Monica Davey concerning the murder of Dr. George Tiller (New York Times, June 2, 2009).

[21] “Not a single case has been brought to the courts since specific laws against FGM were introduced in 1983 and 2002” (Rowena Mason, the Guardian, March 3, 2014). The West prides itself on its lenience toward female genitalia, keeping most vulvas largely intact (apart from those subjected to cosmetic surgery), but a form of virtual female genital mutilation goes on at American Evangelical “purity balls” (now spreading to Europe). These are cheery gatherings at which girls effectively neuter themselves, if only temporarily. Each girl, dressed all in white, grotesquely pledges her virginity to her father (in the father’s capacity as “High Priest in the home”—I’m not kidding) for safe-keeping, for the sake, they are all led to believe, of some future husband. Not even kissing is allowed before marriage. Weirdly borrowing from abortion lingo, the doting fathers (or High Priests) claim to be protecting their daughters’ “choice.” (See Katy Winter, the Daily Mail, March 21, 2014.) Any worship of virginity is a denial of female sexuality and bad news for women.

Not a goddam thing. The violence continues, as does the inequality, and the pay gap,[22] and the production of a million reactionary Hollywood movies that fail the Bechdel test. When we peer up through that glass ceiling we still see big, dirty men’s shoes galumphing around.[23] Even Mary-Kay Wilmers, editor of the London Review of Books, defended the magazine’s lack of articles by and about women on the grounds that men make more pitches, and women have a lot of housework to be getting on with.[24] [Pause to scrub stovetop.]

[22] The Equal Pay Act was passed in Britain in 1970, and yet, recently, “a separate European commission report calculated the pay gap between men and women at 16.4 percent across the EU, with the UK still one of the worst offenders despite having narrowed its disparity to 19 percent” (Gwyn Topham, the Guardian, March 2, 2014).

[23] Despite the fact that seven women successfully sued the New York Times in 1974 for sex discrimination in hiring, pay, and promotion, the paper has never quite outgrown its male bias. In 2014 the Times fired its first female executive editor, Jill Abramson, apparently on the grounds that she was too “pushy.” (See Patricia Sullivan’s triumphant June 8, 2011, report at womensmediacenter.com on Abramson’s appointment, and Olga Khazan’s grimmer May 14, 2014, article in The Atlantic on Abramson’s dismissal.) Coincidentally, Le Monde fired its first female editor, Natalie Nougayrède, the same week! Female CEOs, it turns out, are more likely to be fired, and fired sooner, than male CEOs: studies have shown that male bosses are generally given more time to settle in (though they hardly need it, since their gender automatically positions them well), while employers, colleagues, and junior staff all tend to grow impatient with female bosses more quickly. (See Edward Helmore, the Observer, May 17, 2014.)

[24] Eighty-two percent of the articles published in the LRB since its inception were written by men (though it did publish Mary Beard’s lecture on the silencing of women, mentioned earlier). In Three Guineas, Woolf warns against any form of gender segregation, citing the enthusiasm Hitler and Mussolini shared for separating the sexes. Ideally, perhaps, men should review women’s books, and vice versa, as a way of preventing women’s work from being side-stepped and ghettoized. The LRB’s track record seems fairly progressive, though, compared to the gender ratios in just about every Saturday newspaper supplement, in which all women seem able to do is eat noodles and model clothing, while most of the columnists, gardening experts, chefs, and other know-it-alls are men. Women garden too! But the self-aggrandizement of male chefs is particularly irksome—women cooked for thousands of years and didn’t make a big fandango about it. (The worst thing about men taking over the kitchen is that all the food in fancy restaurants now arrives covered in ejaculate—all those genitally boastful drizzles and foams and schmears.) Just wait until men learn how to make beds—think of the prizes, the TV spots, the Olympic bed-making medals, and CASH they’ll hand themselves!

So let’s admit it. We’ve tried equality and it doesn’t work. Equality within a society concocted by and for fascist dictators? Phooey! What we need—what the victims of fascism need, what the victims of war and war crimes[25] need, what the pathetically isolated, frequently annihilated nuclear family needs, what neglected, hunted, infected, injected, vivisected, near-extinct, factory-farmed, in fact all, animals need, what every living thing threatened by disease, disrespect, disheartenment, “detainment,” and pizza, needs—is female supremacy.

[25] War and war crimes are actually the same thing; there’s nothing to be gained by distinguishing the two. The WWI veteran Harry Patch said war is “nothing better than legalized mass murder” (The Last Fighting Tommy, 2008). And the novelist Thomas Bernhard wrote, “War is the poetry of men, by which they seek to gain attention and relief throughout their lives. . . . They [flee] from one misery to another, one misfortune to another, each one deeper and more inescapable than the last, and they always [make] sure of taking someone else with them” (Gathering Evidence, 1985).

We can do this the easy way or the hard way.[26]

[26] See Valerie Solanas’s S.C.U.M. Manifesto (1967) for examples of the hard way (“S.C.U.M.” stands for Society for Cutting Up Men). But I advocate only peaceful methods of revolution. Violence is a male delight, after all—to hell with it.

People apparently had it good for a couple hundred thousand years: stable matriarchal societies resulted in a three-hour working day and plenty of leisure time. Veneration of women is a natural impulse in mammals with a high level of cognition, and the results were colossally beneficial to everyone. Free to think and move about outdoors without constraint, women invented agriculture, pottery, weaving, music, metallurgy, medicine, painting, sculpture, and astronomy. Then men, driven by fear and envy (of women), and a strong desire for pizza, loused everything up.[27] [Pause to darn cheap sock.] Vengefully appropriating (or reversing) the progress women had made, men instituted their anti-nature religions, their anti-female taboos, their hatred of the body, their paternalistic approach to medicine, and all their favorite games of imperialism, rape, slavery, witch hunts, war, drug cartels, vampires, football, darts, and Monopoly. The Industrial Revolution was no picnic either: in just a few centuries, men have managed to ruin the environment for everyone, leaving us with toxic waste, climate havoc, smog, sweatshops, suicidal workers, tormented pigs and chickens, foreclosures, destitution, and a zillion T-shirts that say things. But who gave men permission to mess this way with the air, the water, the land, and life itself?

[27] See Marija Gimbutas’s remarkable Language of the Goddess (1989), on the matriarchal cultures of “Old Europe.”

Men are so messy, always wrecking things. The plan in Glasgow to demolish buildings in “celebration” of last year’s Commonwealth Games[28] was much in tune with the male urge to desecrate land and sea for fun: mayhem for mayhem’s sake. Obliterating beavers so they can build their own damn dams! Shooting dead the first gray wolf seen in Iowa for almost a hundred years, despite its being a “protected” species (protected from what exactly?).[29] Denuding the land. Burning fossil fuel. Men insist on killing everything, and using up every natural resource.[30] Do we really need cars and planes and air conditioning and so many throwaway pens you can never find one when you need one? Does every last thing have to be made out of plastic? Must the world be so UGLY? Those devilish inventions, TV, computers, and the Internet, will eventually destroy us all. And how about the psychotic male allegiance to nuclear power, waterboarding, fracking, police sirens, reversing-vehicle beeps, and all the devious lies they tell about WMDs and government surveillance? Why should we let George Bush (Sr. and Jr.) and Tony Blair get away with it? Why’d we let Hitler get away with it? Why should we let Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris and Mel Gibson and Charlie Sheen and Ike Turner get away with it, or Charles Manson (recently engaged!), Fred West, Peter Sutcliffe, Thomas Hamilton, John Worboys, and Adam Lanza? And Ronald Lee Haskell, who executed four children and their parents in Texas last July, because he was in a bad mood about something or other. Not to mention ISIS and Boko Haram. Why should we let ANY of them get away with it? We can’t. Basta! [31] And yes, I know, I know, women sometimes go along with some of this stuff.[32] But that is no excuse for indulging men further. Never mind what women do—it is time for men to behave like mensches.[33]

[28] “Games organizers planned to kick off Glasgow 2014 in July by blowing up the flats” (Joe McGuire, Daily Record, April 17, 2014). After a public outcry, they shelved this idea, but their tastelessness stands, uneraseable.

[29] See the article by Ben Romans in Field & Stream, May 14, 2014.

[30] Warmongering is a male trait (noisily echoed by the ridiculous male absorption in team sports). As Virginia Woolf writes in Three Guineas, “Obviously there is for you some glory, some necessity, some satisfaction in fighting which [women] have never felt or enjoyed.” Wilfred Owen, she admits, did not share this penchant. And then there’s Harry Patch. And Thomas Bernhard. And all the men who refused to fight in the Vietnam War. And the Veterans for Peace, who declare, “We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace” (veteransforpeace.org.uk—emphasis mine). So, clearly, the taste for war can be resisted.

[31] I do (sort of) realize that most men are not personally responsible for most male atrocities, nor do women have a monopoly on humanity and compassion—but that’s no reason for men to be let off the hook here. The endgame we currently face was inflicted on us by men as a “class” (Woolf’s term), so men should act en masse to redress the situation: they have bungled things and should set them aright.

[32] Rosemary Goring, literary editor of the Glasgow Herald, wrote in despair about women crime writers and their hordes of bloodthirsty female fans. (See the Herald, May 24, 2014.) This predilection does let the feminist side down, as it suggests women, too, love violence and gore. But I think it’s an ironic bloodlust, stemming from the self-hatred that inevitably results from five thousand years of oppression, disenfranchisement, mockery, and violence. It’s a kind of Stockholm syndrome, and it needs repair work, not censure. Give women a nurturing environment in which to recover some self-respect, and they probably won’t savor tales of female torment much longer.

[33] A reference to The Apartment (directed by Billy Wilder, 1960), in which C. C. Baxter is urged by his doctor neighbor to give up his presumed playboy lifestyle (that has supposedly led to Fran Kubelik’s suicide attempt) and behave “like a mensch . . . a human being.” Baxter takes his advice.

Virginia Woolf talks tentatively in Three Guineas about the possibility that patriarchy is based on unconscious “sex-taboos,” but I think, if we’re going to get fancy about it, what we’re dealing with is mirage-making. Men are intoxicated with self-delusion (among their many forms of intoxication), and, merely by dint of superior upper-body strength, they have forced women to engage with all sorts of surreal male ideas about how life should be lived, how sports, business, agriculture, and sex should be conducted, and even how omelettes should be made! [Word to the wise: very hot pan.] We are left with a whole lot of Dali paintings, the theater of the absurd, an extensive and admittedly inventive literature of alienation, nuclear warhead gaps, and cowboy movies. When do women get to dream? What about allowing us a few hallucinations too? Like that we look okay, or that we’re okay mothers and daughters, or that we have okay things to say or do or read or make? Or that we’re better at omelettes. Women need time and peace in which to develop our own insouciance, our own hobbies, our own play, our own (pro-female) philosophies, our own sexuality,[34] our own pizza flavors! [Pause to contemplate handkerchief tree in Edinburgh’s Botanical Gardens.]

[34] To quote Jessica Valenti, “We’re so accustomed to a male vision of female sexuality [via porn, pop music and advertisements], it’s hard to imagine what authentic and organic female pleasure would look like” (Guardian, May 13, 2014). A woman-centered society would find out pretty quick. The multiple orgasm is, after all, one of nature’s triumphs. Why waste it?

So here’s my new solution, since men wouldn’t play the game and just hand over their money to women like I told them to. Once again, it’s up to women to sort this out, I’m afraid. We shouldn’t have to, we’ve all worked hard enough already for little recompense, but it looks like we’ll have to exert ourselves further.[35] My advice is for women to go on strike, on a private, public, local, national, and international level.[36] Women make up half of the world’s population, and so, united, we cannot fail to have an effect. And there will be jolly times later as we begin to enjoy the results of proving of our worth.

[35] Why not get things off to a merry start by spray-painting, or knitting, matriarchal corrections for street names: Hepburn Road, Solanas Street, Wollstonecraft Mews, Lorde Boulevard, (Andrea) Dworkin Avenue, and so on (along the lines of the artist Jacki Parry’s feminized map of Glasgow, “Women in the City” [2012], which used the names of real women who have made contributions to Scottish culture—except that hers was not an act of civil disobedience)? The patrilineal aspect of such names, though, is depressing.

[36] Barcelona has led the way on this. Last October 22, the city held the underreported “Vaga de Totes” feminist general strike, and a bigger one is planned for 2015. That’s the kind of striking we need now, globally—whether they’re spontaneous events or carefully stage-managed international shindigs like Eve Ensler’s “One Billion Rising” demos (Valentine’s Day) and the International Day of Peace (September 21).

There are three forms of strike I recommend: a housework strike, a labor strike, and a sex strike. I can’t wait (for the first two). While the ultimate object of all three is female supremacy, each strike has its own particular focus: (1) animal rights; (2) nuclear disarmament; and (3) you guessed it, female appropriation of wealth, property, and power.[37] These issues are all bound together in a struggle to preserve nature, civilization, and the best aspects of human culture. [Pause to help husband find his man-bag.]

[37] Anyone wishing to help organize these protests, protest against them, or hone the strike-settlement bargaining requirements, is very welcome to contact me at odalisquerevolution@gmail.com.

Strike One: Nurture Nature

Attitudes toward animals and the natural world are closely linked to male attitudes toward women. They spring from the same anti-nature, anti-life, anti-female assumption that the world is there to be shaped, ravaged, and ruined (by men), and that animals can be exploited, experimented on, and forced to yield their every atom in service to men’s needs, whims, and financial greed. Ever since Christianity declared the superiority of humans over animals,[38] and scientists started up with their loose talk of “tool-users” and “higher” and “lower” mammals, and philosophers chimed in with their notions of instinct vs. individuality and creative thinking, animals have been looked on as a commercial resource rather than as living beings (though men, too, can of course be shocked by this narcissistic approach).[39] Prehistoric matriarchal cultures never conceived of working against nature in this way—they left it all intact for us to destroy.

[38] With all that “let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the fowl of the air and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26, King James, Cambridge Edition) jazz, and other maniacal androcentricities. Boy, it’s men who’ve fouled the air!

[39] See the scene in Napoleon Dynamite (directed by Jared Hess, 2004), in which Napoleon is faced with chickens on a factory farm: his discomfiture is nicely done.

So, Strike One is a housework strike, to protest against the destruction of the environment and the ways in which animals are misused and misunderstood, from concentration-camp-style farming[40] and zoos to whaling, fishing,[41] and habitat assimilation and destruction. To demand a stop to all this, for the sake not just of the natural world, but of human civilization too (which depends on the preservation of a habitable planet), women should withhold their home- and family-oriented labor: stop mothering,[42] stop daughtering, stop wifeing. Stop cooking, stop cleaning, stop taking out the trash, stop making the beds and ordering the pizzas, stop shopping, stop lugging home bottles of booze for men to glug, stop gardening, stop ironing, stop washing your hair, stop putting on makeup (in fact stop the whole beauty cult).[43] Stop vacuuming and sterilizing the cat litter tray and alphabetizing the books and paying the bills; stop making all those pots of tea and coffee and smelling the milk to see if it’s gone bad. Stop doing all the things you do to try to make a nice home for your family. This won’t be easy for most women to carry out, since women originally created the home: they needed to establish domestic tranquility, comfort, and security in order to raise children. Women invented coziness.[44] [Pause to buy artichokes at neighborhood grocery.] But you can put it all on hold for a little while, in aid of animals and the natural world, can’t you? And what a lot of thinking time you’ll gain.

[40] According to Philip Lymbery and Isabel Oakeshott’s Farmageddon (2014), factory farming is not only cruel to animals but dangerous to humans, too, due to the pollution and “superbugs” it’s caused. We will probably end up with a global flu epidemic leading to millions of deaths, just so that for a mere fifty years or so farmers were able to “grow” meat in record time. Bird flu, swine flu, and variant CJD were all generated by “intensive farming,” a euphemism for men’s incorrigible assault on the natural order in favor of profits. (It’s now accepted that vCJD was caused by feeding scrapie-infected sheep to cows for the sake of faster growth.) See the Meat Atlas (Heinrich Böll Foundation/Friends of the Earth Europe, 2014), for further evidence of the destructiveness and cruelty of industrial livestock farming. Farm animal welfare in the United States is not protected by law: see the 2015 in-depth exposé, by Michael Moss, of the insanely arrogant and negligent attempts to “retool” animals to produce multiple births and tenderer meat, carried out by the government-financed U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, essentially a state-approved school for sadists (New York Times, January 19, 2015). And as discussed in Farmageddon, grain and vegetable growing is beset with screwball ideas too. Having drained the land of nutrients and beneficial insect life (in some parts of California, the soil is now like Styrofoam), farmers have to make up for the resultant lack of bees, birds, and soil quality by drenching everything in more pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers. (See also the food facts documentary film, Our Daily Bread, directed by Nikolaus Gehrhalter, 2006.) Bees are now so overworked, even by bee standards—transported by car and plane to pollinate crops—that they’re like an insect version of the sharecroppers in The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Rescue bees from slave labor! The whole way we now interact with nature is fraught with self-defeating artifice. For the most lucid treatment of the subject, read Rachel Carson’s beautifully vehement Silent Spring (1962).

[41] Fishing is now run on an intensive basis too, and relies on cruelty, collateral death and damage, depletion of stocks, and waste. Whales, dolphins, and sharks are being caught “accidentally” in fishing nets, leading to repeated trauma and often death, even if attempts are made to free them. Seals are mutilated in the rudders of boats. Carl Zimmer recently reported that, as a result of climate change, pollution, and acidification, the oceans are on track for mass extinctions this century. (See the New York Times, January 15, 2015.) What is wrong with us? Are we all too busy getting laid to get MAD?

[42] But this strike is not meant as an attack on motherhood. (We can leave that game to men!) Carry on shielding your children from danger and providing them with food, clothing, and shelter. Take them to school and help them with their homework. Life, health, education, and freedom of movement are all fundamental principles that need protection. Denigrating mothers is the oldest trick in the book, and a great way of repressing women. It is very important, for patriarchy, to downgrade women’s major role in procreation and parenting—starting with patrilineal naming. (What an idea that was!) Childcare, maternity services, family planning, schools, and parental access arrangements (after divorce) are all areas in which women’s power is diminished, cuts are threatened or enacted, and the gender battle is waged. Laura Mulvey’s film Riddles of the Sphinx (1977) movingly pinpoints the political implications of childcare provision. If you mess with motherhood, you are attacking women. It’s “matrism” (a term coined by me): discrimination against mothers. When women have all the power and the money, maternal matters will be better handled.

[43] We are now OBSESSED with looks in the West. Sure, some people are attractive. So what?! Why is that big news? Why so endlessly enthralling (to some)? The meager delights we may find in noticing beauty come at the cost of so much misery: the deceitful and mercenary diet industry, the plastic surgery industry, anorexia, bulimia, OCD, suicide, ankle injuries from tumbling over in high heels, melanomas from tanning salons, and all that unaesthetic Lycra gear worn by joggers. I’m so corrupted myself by all this beauty nonsense that I now have “body dysmorphia” about other people’s bodies: I see only the bits that trouble me. It’s distracting and depressing, and all so unnecessary: there is no need to consider or discuss people’s appearances all the time. It’s rude. Supreme beauty is actually so rare that it should be regarded as an oddity, perhaps to be pitied. I hereby call for a one-year moratorium, starting from the date of publication of this essay in The Baffler, on any mention of people’s appearances. We can chat about other topics for a change instead. The beauteous would survive a slight lessening of acclaim, and the rest of us could relax. After a year of such abstinence I expect we will find ourselves cured of the fixation, and much better conversationalists.

[44] For further elucidation of “coziness,” see Mimi, pp. 24, 32–33, 37, 64, 66, 72, 82, 171, 194, 195, 198–199, 207, 223, 226, 230–231, 234, 273, 294, xii, xiii. (Courtesy of the 2014 Mimi index kindly compiled by the writer and translator Suzy Romer.)

DESTRUCTION OF NATURE IS AN ATTACK ON WOMEN. The strike will be called off only when governments agree to end animal cruelty, factory farming, the intensive use of herbicides, pesticides and chemical fertilizers, chemical pollution, CO2 emissions, marsh-draining, rainforest encroachment, and all their other dopey, criminal, and crazy ideas (such as filling the world with nanoparticles). The money saved from these enterprises is to be spent on childcare provisions. Six-pack plastic rings in which turtles get tangled are also to be banned (men will just have to carry their beers some other way). And every man must make a contribution of 10 percent of his after-tax income to Compassion in World Farming, the World Wildlife Fund, or Greenpeace, must agree to clean the toilet weekly without being asked, and must from now on confine the foaming, the schmearing, the drizzling, and the fracking to the boudoir.

Strike Two: No More War Work

Forget all the romanticized notions of women’s contributions to war efforts that we’ve been asked to stomach lately in celebration of World War I—all those TV shows about selfless, bitchy, or homicidal WWI nurses, as well as all the photographs of women slaving away in munitions factories. War is no place for women. It wasn’t women’s idea (war was invented by Bronze Age patriarchal societies, following the invention of superior weaponry), and it’s not in women’s interests: war promotes and entertains men, but it severely curtails women’s freedoms. It is designed to subdue women and deprive them of what they need. Women, therefore, shouldn’t have to help with this.[45] They shouldn’t have to proudly or tearfully or bravely welcome home the dead. They shouldn’t have to provide the world with young men and women to be killed, raped, tortured, maddened. War devalues the power of giving birth. That is its primary purpose. War serves as a means of rejecting and destroying women.

[45] Marching doesn’t suit women either: female soldiers have been injured by standardized marching requirements oriented to the length of the male leg. For further glimpses into the world of military marching, including a chicken who’s pretty good at it, see marchright.com.

Strike Two, a peace strike, involves withholding women’s labor in the workforce.[46] [Pause to check net for poorly paid part-time jobs.] The intention behind it is to organize not just against war, but also against the threats to all life on earth posed by nuclear energy and nuclear bombs, and against the suffering they have caused and will continue to cause.[47] Men insist that these forces are manageable and economically necessary. They are not. We don’t need them, we can’t handle them, and we can’t afford them. Some of the guys involved in creating the atom bomb have had the grace to apologize, but such apologies are of no value. Who in hell cares about Robert Oppenheimer’s conscience, one of the tiniest things in the universe? Nuclear bombs should never have been invented. Women could have told men this, and probably did, but war is a convenient excuse to override what women have to say.[48] It has always served as a means of suppressing women—through rape, trauma, injury, exile, poverty, deracination, disease, starvation, bereavement, sexual frustration, voicelessness, grief, and male punditry. In the twentieth century, warfare was redirected specifically toward the obliteration of women and children.[49] Whatever noble motives militarists may claim for themselves, if women are the main victims of war, warfare is just another outlet for misogyny.

[46] Of the three strikes I propose, a labor strike should be the easiest to pull off—after all, who wants to WORK? If women’s value to the labor force must be proven in such an elementary way, let’s get started. Even a strike of one day by all women everywhere would bring things to a complete standstill. (While demonstrating, we can sing “Union Maid” by Woody Guthrie, which speaks of the almost bygone days when workers were defended by unions.) Employers would soon have to “come to the table” (a nice domestic phrase) and meet our terms. And think of the delicious sensation meanwhile of a day/week/month/year off! Why should women (or bees) participate in the Protestant work ethic devised by men? Overwork silences dissent and original thought and destroys physical, emotional, and community health. “WoHeLo,” short for Work-Health-Love, the motto (and greeting!) of the Campfire Girls, may be more legitimate than the exhortation to “eat-pray-love,” but it makes no real sense, because work is anathema to health and love. Women have already worked hard enough in the most menial jobs for centuries anyway. It’s time they took things easy. This is why the Odalisque Revolution will entail much relaxation in cozy surroundings, and the wearing of harem pants.

[47] See Hiroshima by John Hersey (1946). No less devastatingly, Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr Strangelove (1964) offers a clever, artistic, and horrifying take on nuclear bomb folly. In one scene, U.S. forces fight each other, beneath a billboard asserting the official ethos of the Strategic Air Command: “PEACE IS OUR PROFESSION.” “Peace” is the favorite word of hypocrites.

[48] See the documentary film If You Love This Planet (directed by Terre Nash, 1982), in which the great antinuclear activist Helen Caldicott challenges the official (male) acceptance of nuclear energy and weaponry.

[49] Sven Lindqvist’s A History of Bombing (1999) charts men’s love of the bomb and adoption of civilians as its primary targets. Drone strikes are one of the latest variations on this sport. And now we have Boko Haram’s massacre of two thousand civilians in Baga, Nigeria, in January 2015, as well as their new use of girls as suicide bombers and their abduction of hundreds of schoolgirls last year, to be raped, married by force, and sold as slaves. (See the article by Abdulwahab Abdulah and Uduma Kalu in the Vanguard, Nigeria, May 5, 2014.) More than two hundred of those girls are still missing.

One aim of the strike is to ensure that anyone who feels his or her life has been blighted by war in any way gets a year’s paid vacation, in order to reflect and recuperate. (People providing essential services, by the way, such as farming and medical care, will have to take turns having a year off.) This traumatized bunch will inevitably include all military personnel and their families, and anyone who has paid taxes, since successive Western governments have put a vast proportion of tax revenues into so-called defense—i.e., into grand-scale, institutionalized aggression. [Pause to sort receipts for tax purposes.] Even after a million or so people protested across Britain against the Iraq War, Tony Blair went ahead with it. He and all warmongers must be tried by the Russell International War Crimes Tribunal, and the only legitimate military outfit from now on will be the United Nations’ peace force.

It is also essential to end non-military uses of nuclear energy. When exploiting atomic energy for supposedly peaceful purposes in the nuclear power industry, men are prepared to take such incredible risks with our lives and the lives of all future entities on earth that this alone is proof that they are unfit, as a sex, to rule. Nuclear waste and nuclear disaster mess cannot be adequately contained—the means of doing so have not yet been found and may never be.[50] The ease, also, with which criminals could sneak into nuclear power stations at any moment and make off with plutonium is never mentioned by politicians when they’re foisting another bunch of reactors on us, bombastically claiming that nuclear energy is safe, efficient, and cheap. It’s only cheap if life is.

[50] We’re depending on men to safely dispose of nuclear waste? What, are we CRAZY? These are people who use every pot in the house to cook anything and then leave them all lying around the kitchen after. “They don’t cover anything when they put it in the fridge,” as short-order cook Harriet disgustedly remarks in Sleepless in Seattle (directed by Nora Ephron, 1993). Thus, “Hot Particles” and “bucky balls” (?) from the meltdown at Fukushima will now drift around the planet to the end of time. The Fukushima plant can no longer contain its contaminated water, so the facility’s officials pour it into the sea. Tuna on the west coast of America have significantly higher levels of radioactive contamination than ever before. (See fukushimupdate.com, April 5, 20, and 30, 2014.) For the latest thinking on containment strategies for nuclear waste—strategies that probably won’t work—see the devastating documentary film about Finland’s radioactive waste repository, Into Eternity (directed by Michael Madsen, 2010). But no level of radiation is safe.

BOMBS, DRONES, WAR, NUCLEAR WAR, AND NUCLEAR REACTORS ARE ALL ATTACKS ON WOMEN. This strike will end only when men hand in all their guns and quit their jobs in the military sector (female soldiers can remain, if they must, but only to work for the United Nations peace force), and when governments agree to an immediate end to all peaceful and military uses of nuclear power. Men must contribute means-tested contributions (10 percent of annual income after tax) to Women’s Action for New Directions (WAND), Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), Global Zero, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, The Ribbon International, or the World Disarmament Campaign.

Strike Three: Money for Sex

As Woolf points out in Three Guineas, women have labored in the home unpaid for thousands of years, watching all the family money go to men’s education, men’s leisure pursuits, men’s beer, men’s cigars, and pizzas.[51] This money must now be reallocated to women, and until that is done, heterosexual women should withhold themselves sexually from men.[52] Men go on sex strike all the time, to keep women docile—now it’s our turn! Women mustn’t be vindictive, though. The pure-minded aim of our sex strike is merely to gain the assets and privileges to which women are entitled: I’m talking about THE MONEY. Since men wouldn’t give up their dough voluntarily, they must be forced to hand it over in return for sex. They’re always accusing us of being sluts anyway, so this is a simple equation they should be able to grasp: no money, no sex.[53]

[51] “The daughters of educated men received an unpaid-for education at the hands of poverty, chastity, derision and freedom from unreal loyalties . . . an unpaid-for education . . . that fitted them . . . for the unpaid-for professions” (Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas).

[52] It will be important to enlist the support of prostitutes in this endeavor, since men (currently) have the means to buy their way out of sexual abstinence.

[53] Women who have sex with women need not participate in the sex strike. Its purpose is male sexual privation, not female. Gay sex in both genders will either be unaffected by the strike, or enjoy a surge in popularity.

This type of sexual blackmail has similarities with the fictional sex strike employed by Aristophanes’s Lysistrata.[54] In an effort to bring the Peloponnesian War to an end, Lysistrata enlists the help of “enemy” women, on the grounds that war is bad for all women, and it works! They hole up in the Acropolis together, and it’s quite a successful sit-in, until some of the sexually frustrated participants start trying to tiptoe off, on the feeblest pretexts: “the moths will be eating my sheepskin,” or “I turn out to be pregnant and have to go home to have the baby—be back tomorrow,” or “the owls [fellow inhabitants of the Acropolis] are keeping me up at night.” (I paraphrase.) But in the end, the plan works like a charm: the priapic men-folk quickly agree to a peace deal, so that they can rush the women off to bed.

[54] Lysistrata, by Aristophanes (411 BCE)—see Lysistrata and Other Plays (translated by Alan H. Sommerstein, 2002).

Even with the availability of porn mags and sex slaves, a sex strike still seems an excellent ploy in the twenty-first century.[55] [Pause to put on lipstick.] It’s not a bad method of confronting men about their increasing disregard for female sexuality either. For greater effect, we might usefully employ the show-stopping power of vaginal display.[56] Such a strike would of course have to be carefully policed because of male dependence on violence as a form of comment and coercion—not everyone is as sane and easy-going as Aristophanes’s male characters.

[55] It’s worked in Colombia (2006/2011), Liberia (2003), Naples (2008), Ukraine (2010), the Philippines (2011), Belgium (2011), and Togo (2012), and was used as a form of protest against the Russian presence in Ukraine (2014).

[56] The vulva’s mythic significance as the basis and origin of all human life makes vaginal display the perfect antidote to death-lust. In ancient history, women resorted to vaginal display as a fertility rite and as a form of antiwar protest. According to Catherine Blackledge, in Greek mythology women used this method to quell Bellerophon, who was threatening to flood the Xanthian plain. And “making derogatory remarks about female genitalia is punishable by vaginal display en masse . . . in [parts of] Africa” (The Story of V). Sheela-na-gigs, exaggerated Mediaeval depictions in stone of women pulling their vulvas wide open (a remnant of prehistoric mother-goddess cult symbols), which were added to buildings to ward off evil or to promote fertility, remain one of the few public acknowledgments of female sexuality in the West. Similarly, Ukrainian feminist FEMEN activists use nudity to shame men, and have recently moved from going topless to going bottomless as well.

Now, no shirking, sisters. No lame excuses and secret assignations![57] Remember, there will be plenty of sex, and sex maybe of a higher quality, once men have recognized their responsibilities. [Pause to push through hordes of mamas and babies in café.] We might hope for some collateral fall in the population too, while we’re at it. Over-population is one of the biggest threats to peace, climate stabilization, the natural world, and getting close to paintings in museums. It’s essential that we all stop multiplying. Forget in vitro fertilization! Forget the expense and tedium and thanklessness of parenthood itself. With a moratorium on childbirth for a year, just to start with, we might see women adopting a new identity based on the freedom, leisure, and originality of childlessness.[58]

[57] Of the heterosexual variety, that is.

[58] While not wishing to devalue motherhood in any way, I don’t think women have fully explored the advantages of contraception yet. Aren’t we all a little tired of registering every advance in diaper and stroller technology? No one dares mention population control for fear of sounding pro-eugenics, and anti-“growth.” But just cutting off the government’s supply of “cannon fodder” seems reason enough to remain childless (a motive mentioned in two women’s letters to the Telegraph in 1937, quoted by Woolf in Three Guineas). The missing tax revenue and pension contributions could be supplied by allowing free movement of immigrants. (See noborder.org.)

POVERTY IS AN ATTACK ON WOMEN. The sex strike will be called off only once men have transferred over half of their financial assets (on a permanent basis) to one or more women of their choice or contributed the same to a women’s charity or nonprofit banking organization formed to issue women loans, such as the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. Governments must make all violence a crime, tax men twice as much as women, and earmark the resulting revenues for the enhancement of women’s lives. Men must spend at least one day a week listening to, or reading, what women have to say. And children must study prehistory in order to get an understanding of the matriarchal cultures that predated patriarchy. So as to reinstate men’s natural duty to serve female pleasure, biology courses in school will revise our approach to sex, with particular emphasis on the female orgasm. Men might as well sign my Mea Culpa Declaration, too.[59] and I wish they’d smile more—men’s default facial expressions are far too gruff. They frighten me.[60]

[59] “I, the undersigned, confess to having, consciously or not, overtly or not, been part of a worldwide conspiracy that has constrained women’s lives through centuries of violence, repression, distress, and discouragement. I recognize that this treatment of women has been a ploy in a power game—the result of male cowardice, stupidity, perversity, and corruption—and that the status of men has been artificially exalted by it. I acknowledge that vast numbers of women have been unfairly treated throughout the period of male rule. I therefore apologize for any tyrannical behavior of my own, and that of other men, and pledge to do my utmost to prevent such injuries, insults, and injustices from occurring ever again. I apologize for stubborn male resistance over the centuries to women’s ideas, thoughts, decisions, and remarks—in the home, at work, in business, in the arts, in education, and in government. In light of this loss of female input over centuries, I now agree to abide by the decisions women make, without resorting to mindless criticisms or meaningless reflex contradictions and derision, no matter how wacko or whimsical the ideas expressed by women may seem to me to be. I renounce male power and privilege, on the grounds that they were unsportingly won. I wish to relinquish all remaining economic, social, and political advantages I may have obtained, either as a mere consequence of being male, or because of my active participation (now regretted) in misogynist acts of terror, either overt or underground. In aid of this, I have transferred and/or will transfer, and will continue to transfer, my financial resources to a woman or women, no strings attached. By such means, I hope to foster a more humane environment, in which women are less likely to be mistreated and maligned. It is my hope that the hand-over of power and property to women will ultimately lead to a transformation of society, benefiting people, animals, and the natural world, as well as ensuring a future for human culture, and the preservation and continuation of artistic endeavors. I believe in the pleasure principle, and therefore renounce the male work ethic as an indecency imposed by men who wished to profit from enslavement and subjugation. I hereby attest the inalienable right of all creatures to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” (See Mimi for further details on stuff men ought to do.)

[60] At a small Bloomsday celebration at the Irish consulate in Edinburgh last June, I noticed that all the men were standing around scowling, while the women were smiling and trying to be genial. This wasn’t because the men were having a lousy time (the Guinness was flowing freely); they’re just LAZY. (What would Joyce have made of it?!) Men should realize how threatening the male scowl is. Just as they must learn not to walk menacingly down a dark street behind a lone woman, or interrupt women, or scold women for interrupting them, or complain about everything women do, they should adjust their facial expressions into more frequent displays of beneficence. It’s not fair that women do all the giggling and buttering-up, forever trying to make people feel comfortable. Why should we, after what we’ve been through? It’s MEN who make everybody uncomfortable, and men who should make more of an effort to be convivial. Sheesh, do we have to explain every little thing?

[Pause to caress husband’s cheek.][61]

[61] Husband remarks encouragingly that, when the aims of all three strikes have been realized, capitalism will be finished.

If all else fails, we can always mobilize a pizza strike. That’s got to work.

Would we settle for less, to end our strikes? But we have, for thousands of years, and it pains me that Virginia Woolf had to settle for less.

Lucy Ellmann’s novel Mimi contains The Odalisque Manifesto, which proposes a peaceful revolution leading to worldwide matriarchy.

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Further Reading

 October 10

A masterful narrative of the Greek debt crisis, Varoufakis's Adults in the Room makes a case for the revival of a humane internationalism.