Tuesday, July 29, 2008

FROM REVERENCE TO RAPE: THE TREATMENT OF WOMEN IN THE MOVIES by Molly Haskell.

"Because woman did not fight back, man quickly took the advantage and made her the scapegoat for all his vices and fears.

He was abashed that his penis moved, unbidden, when he looked at Eve, and so he invented penis envy.

He was terrified by the prospect of his own demise, and so he invented God and His Son to resurrect and redeem him.

He was resentful that another man had preceded him and made love to his mother, so he invented the Virgin Birth and vasectomized his father.

He was intimidated by woman's sexual desire, and so he invented the mutually exclusive virgin and the whore.

He was worried lest woman, resenting his freedom, should want to live and work as he did, and so he invented and ordained the mother in honored vassalage to him.

He was ashamed of growing old and ugly, and even more ashamed of being ashamed, and so he invented female vanity to exorcise and account for these fears."

  • Molly Haskell

This quotation is the most "feminist" Molly Haskell ever gets in her excellent overview of the treatment of women in movies from the earliest days of the silents up until the seventies. So if you made it through THAT passage, fellas, you have nothing more to fear. The book is not a shrill feminist diatribe but an extremely readable and cogent examination of these themes. Haskell has described herself as a film critic first and a feminist second and this fact is demonstrated in this admirable film study that I heartily recommend for any and all film fans. And no, at no time does Haskell engage in any "male bashing" so really. . . fellas, don't be scared. Molly won't hurtcha.

4 comments:

Weaverman said...

Don't know what the rest of her reasoning is like but I actually found the extract a bit off putting as she managed to be both man bashing AND Christianity bashing...I almost expected her to be wearing a T-shirt that says "God created man but she was only joking" instead of what looks like one of Bill Shatner's old costumes from STAR TREK. I think before Man invented God (her words) Woman invested Goddess...and oh for the days when my penis moved unbidden!

Cerpts said...

Actually, I don't think she was stating her actual beliefs. At least the rest of the entire book doesn't come off that way. The quote was the beginning of a chapter on European films and how women are portrayed in them. Since nowhere else in the book does she even intimate that that is her particular axe to grind, I think it's probably meant to be ironic or funny. I admit that my choosing of that particular quote would probably make her appear the opposite (in other words, like a table-thumping radical feminist) but my real reasons for choosing it were because I got a good laugh from it as well as finding it to be a real "attention getter". Like I say, she has never come across as a rabid feminist in her writings or in the several documentary appearances I've seen her in. She has too much of a sense of humour and gentle way about her (with that laidback southern accent) to qualify as the radical feminist that quotation probably makes her appear to be. I can only assure you again that her writing is never a humourless, rabid feminist tract but instead a rather interesting history of women in the movies that doesn't really have any axe to grind.

Ms. Henrietta Hudson said...

awesome, i am so checking this out!!! spanks fer the info, baby.

Cerpts said...

Glad to hear it. The spanks are on me. It really is a great book; a classic from 1974. She was also memorable in the made for TCM documentary HIDDEN VALUES: THE FILMS OF THE FIFTIES (2001) which I just so happen to ALSO have on DVD.

And I'm extremely bummed to find out that apparently in 2006-2007 she co-hosted the TCM ESSENTIALS series with Robert Osborne in which she picked her favourite essential films to screen. And I must say I HIGHLY approve of the list of films that appeared -- here they are:

THE HUSTLER, THE QUIET MAN, BRIEF ENCOUNTER, DUCK SOUP, WINCHESTER '73, IMITATION OF LIFE, THE FOUR FEATHERS, A PLACE IN THE SUN, GILDA, RIDE THE HIGH COUNTRY, TOP HAT, FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, SUNSET BLVD., THE THIN MAN, BLACK NARCISSUS, GONE WITH THE WIND (ok, one clunker in the bunch), KISS ME DEADLY, FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT, THE MALTESE FALCON, JEZEBEL, THE TREASURE OF TEH SIERRA MADRE, WRITTEN ON THE WIND, MY FAIR LADY, GUNGA DIN, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, THE THIRD MAN, STALAG 17, MURDER MY SWEET, LITTLE WOMEN BALL OF FIRE and TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN.