Marilyn French Quotes
“Later, she would remember these years, and realize with astonishment that she had, by fifteen, decided on most of the assumptions she would carry for the rest of her life: that people were essentially not evil, that perfection was death, that life was better than order and a little chaos good for the soul. Most important, this life was all. Unfortunately, she forgot these things, and had to remember them the hard way.”
“S and M is only the expression in the bedroom of an oppressive-submissive relation which can happen also in the kitchen or at the factory, can happen between people of any gender. There is obviously something titillating about these relationships, but it isn't the sexual components that makes them ugly, they're uglier elsewhere. Nothing sexual is depraved. Only cruelty is depraved, and that's another matter.”
“The breakdown of the neighborhoods also meant the end of what was essentially an extended family....With the breakdown of the extended family, too much pressure was put on the single family. Mom had no one to stay with Granny, who couldn't be depended on to set the house on fire while Mom was off grocery shopping. The people in the neighborhood weren't there to keep an idle eye out for the fourteen-year-old kid who was the local idiot, and treated with affection as well as tormented....So we came up with the idea of putting everybody in separate places. We lock them up in prisons, mental hospitals, geriatric housing projects, old-age homes, nursery schools, cheap suburbs that keep women and the kids of f the streets, expensive suburbs where everybody has their own yard and a front lawn that is tended by a gardener so all the front lawns look alike and nobody uses them anyway....the faster we lock them up, the higher up goes the crime rate, the suicide rate, the rate of mental breakdown. The way it's going, there'll be more of them than us pretty soon. Then you'll have to start asking questions about the percentage of the population that's not locked up, those that claim that the other fifty-five per cent is crazy, criminal, or senile.
WE have to find some other way....So I started imagining....Suppose we built houses in a circle, or a square, or whatever, connected houses of varying sizes, but beautiful, simple. And outside, behind the houses, all the space usually given over to front and back lawns, would be common too. And there could be vegetable gardens, and fields and woods for the kids to play in. There's be problems about somebody picking the tomatoes somebody else planted, or the roses, or the kids trampling through the pea patch, but the fifty groups or individuals who lived in the houses would have complete charge and complete responsibility for what went on in their little enclave. At the other side of the houses, facing the, would be a little community center. It would have a community laundry -- why does everybody have to own a washing machine?-- and some playrooms and a little cafe and a communal kitchen. The cafe would be an outdoor one, with sliding glass panels to close it in in winter, like the ones in Paris. This wouldn't be a full commune: everybody would have their own way of earning a living, everybody would retain their own income, and the dwellings would be priced according to size. Each would have a little kitchen, in case people wanted to eat alone, a good-sized living space, but not enormous, because the community center would be there. Maybe the community center would be beautiful, lush even. With playrooms for the kids and the adults, and sitting rooms with books. But everyone in the community, from the smallest walking child, would have a job in it.”
“What I don't understand is where women suddenly get power. Because they do. The kids, who almost always turn out to be a pile of shit, are, we all know, Mommy's fault. Well, how did she manage that, this powerless creature? Where was all her power during the years she was doing five loads of laundry a week and worrying about mixing the whites with the colors? How was she able to offset Daddy's positive influence? How come she never knows she has this power until afterward, when it gets called responsibility?”
“You think I hate men. I guess I do, although some of my best friends...I don't like this position. I mistrust generalized hatred. I feel like one of those twelfth century monks raving on about how evil women are and how they must cover themselves up completely when they go out lest they lead men into evil thoughts. The assumption that the men are the ones who matter, and that the women exist only in relation to them, is so silent and underrunning that ever we never picked it up until recently. But after all, look at what we read. I read Schopenhauer and Nietzsche and Wittgenstein and Freud and Erikson; I read de Montherlant and Joyce and Lawrence and sillier people like Miller and Mailer and Roth and Philip Wylie. I read the Bible and Greek myths and didn't question why all later redactions relegated Gaea-Tellus and Lilith to a footnote and made Saturn the creator of the world. I read or read about, without much question, the Hindus and the Jews, Pythagoras and Aristotle, Seneca, Cato, St.Paul, Luther, Sam Johnson, Rousseau, Swift...well, you understand. For years I didn't take it personally.
So now it is difficult for me to call others bigots when I am one myself. I tell people at once, to warn them, that I suffer from deformation of character. But the truth is I am sick unto death of four thousand years of males telling me how rotten my sex is. Especially it makes me sick when I look around and see such rotten men and such magnificent women, all of whom have a sneaking suspicion that the four thousand years of remarks are correct. These days I feel like an outlaw, a criminal. Maybe that's what the people perceive who look at me so strangely as I walk the beach. I feel like an outlaw not only because I think that men are rotten and women are great, but because I have come to believe that oppressed people have the right to use criminal means to survive. Criminal means being, of course, defying the laws passed by the oppressors to keep the oppressed in line. Such a position takes you scarily close to advocating oppression itself, though. We are bound in by the terms of the sentence. Subject-verb-object. The best we can do is turn it around. and that's no answer, is it?”
“They leave the genitals off Barbie and Ken, but they manufacture every kind of war toy. Because sex is more threatening to us than aggression. There have been strict rules about sex since the beginning of written rules, and even before, if we can believe myth. I think that's because it's in sex that men feel most vulnerable. In war they can hype themselves up, or they have a weapon. Sex means being literally naked and exposing your feelings. And that's more terrifying to most men than the risk of dying while fighting a bear or a soldier.”
“One advantage to being a despised species is that you have freedom, freedom to be any crazy thing you want. If you listen to a group of housewives talk, you'll hear a lot of nonsense, some of it really crazy. This comes, I think, from being alone so much, and pursuing your own odd train of thought without impediment, which some call discipline. The result is craziness, but also brilliance. Ordinary women come out with the damnedest truth. You ignore them at your own risk. And they are permitted to go on making wild statements without being put in one kind of jail or another (some of them, anyway) because everyone knows they're crazy and powerless too. If a woman is religious or earthy, passive or wildly assertive, loving or hating, she doesn't get much more flak than if she isn't: her choices lie between being castigated as a ball and chain or as a whore.”
“Our culture believes strong individuals can transcend their circumstances. I myself don't much enjoy books by Hardy or Dreiser or Wharton, where the outside world is so strong, so overwhelming, that the individual hasn't a chance. I get impatient, I keep feeling that somehow the deck is stacked unfairly. That is the point, of course, but my feeling is that if that's true, I don't want to play. I prefer to move to another table where I can retain my illusion, if illusion it be, that I'm working only against only probabilities, and have a chance to win. Then if you lose, you can blame it on your own poor playing. That is called a tragic flaw, and like guilt, it's very comforting. You can go on believing that there really is a right way, and you just didn't find it.”
“It would be hard to get statistics on violent death -- what do you count as murder? When people starve to death because of policies of governments and corporations, is that murder? Nature does a fair amount of murdering itself, which is why this whole notion of dominating nature arose: it was one of those things that seemed a good idea at the time. No one ever believes a cure will prove worse than the disease. And maybe it isn't. An invasion of microbes that destroys a body could also be called murder. All deaths are violent deaths, I suppose.”
“She could envision Shakespeare's sister. But she imagined a violent, an apocalyptic end for Shakespeare's sister, whereas I know that isn't what happened. You see, it isn't necessary. I know that lots of Chinese women, given in marriage to men they abhorred and lives they despised, killed themselves by throwing themselves down the family well. I'm not saying it doesn't happen. I'm only saying that isn't what usually happens. It it were, we wouldn't be having a population problem. And there are so much easier ways to destroy a woman. You don't have to rape or kill her; you don't even have to beat her. You can just marry her. You don't even have to do that. You can just let her work in your office for thirty-five dollars a week. Shakespeare's sister did...follow her brother to London, but she never got there. She was raped the first night out, and bleeding and inwardly wounded, she stumbled for shelter into the next village she found. Realizing before too long that she was pregnant, she sought a way to keep herself and her child safe. She found some guy with the hots for her, realized he was credulous, and screwed him. When she announced her pregnancy to him, a couple months later, he dutifully married her. The child, born a bit early, makes him suspicious: they fight, he beats her, but in the end he submits. Because there is something in the situation that pleases him: he has all the comforts of home including something Mother didn't provide, and if he has to put up with a screaming kid he isn't sure is his, he feels now like one of the boys down at the village pub, none of whom is sure they are the children of the fathers or the fathers of their children. But Shakespeare's sister has learned the lesson all women learn: men are the ultimate enemy. At the same time she knows she cannot get along in the world without one. So she uses her genius, the genius she might have used to make plays and poems with, in speaking, not writing. She handles the man with language: she carps, cajoles, teases, seduces, calculates, and controls this creature to whom God saw fit to give power over her, this hulking idiot whom she despises because he is dense and fears because he can do her harm.
So much for the natural relation between the sexes.
But you see, he doesn't have to beat her much, he surely doesn't have to kill her: if he did, he'd lose his maidservant. The pounds and pence by themselves are a great weapon. They matter to men, of course, but they matter more to women, although their labor is generally unpaid. Because women, even unmarried ones, are required to do the same kind of labor regardless of their training or inclinations, and they can't get away from it without those glittering pounds and pence. Years spent scraping shit out of diapers with a kitchen knife, finding places where string beans are two cents less a pound, intelligence in figuring the most efficient, least time-consuming way to iron men's white shirts or to wash and wax the kitchen floor or take care of the house and kids and work at the same time and save money, hiding it from the boozer so the kid can go to college -- these not only take energy and courage and mind, but they may constitute the very essence of a life.
They may, you say wearily, but who's interested?...Truthfully, I hate these grimy details as much as you do....They are always there in the back ground, like Time's winged chariot. But grimy details are not in the background of the lives of most women; they are the entire surface.”
- Date of birth: November 21, 1929
- Died: May 02, 2009
- Born: in Brooklyn, The United States.
- Description: She attended Hofstra University (then Hofstra College) where she also received a master's degree in English in 1964. She married Robert M. French Jr. in 1950; the couple divorced in 1967. She later attended Harvard University, earning a Ph.D in 1972. Years later she became an instructor at Hofstra University.
In her work, French asserted that women's oppression is an intrinsic part of the male-dominated global culture. Beyond Power: On Women, Men and Morals (1985) is a historical examination of the effects of patriarchy on the world.French's 1977 novel, The Women's Room, follows the lives of Mira and her friends in 1950s and 1960s America, including Val, a militant radical feminist. The novel portrays the details of the lives of women at this time and also the feminist movement of this era in the United States. At one point in the book the character Val says "all men are rapists". This quote has often been incorrectly attributed to Marilyn French herself. French's first book was a thesis on James Joyce.French was diagnosed with esophageal cancer in 1992. This experience was the basis for her book A Season in Hell: A Memoir (1998).She was also mentioned in the 1982 ABBA song, "The Day Before You Came". The lyrics that mentioned French were: "I must have read a while, the latest one by Marilyn French or something in that style".French died from heart failure at age 79 on May 2, 2009 in Manhattan, New York City. She is survived by her son Robert and daughter Jamie.