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Interview with Erica Jong
1. What was your initiation into feminism? Was there a defining moment that made you see the importance of the new women's liberation movement? Many people talk of having suddenly realized how thoroughly patriarchy shaped the world and how that impacted on and oppressed women's lives. If so, which year was it for you?
I have been a feminist my entire life. I read The Second Sex when I was 13 and knew DeBeauvoir was right. All I had to do was listen to my mother's rage, the ambiance in which I grew up.
2. Did you become involved as an activist at demonstrations and feminist events? Any particular political events that were of particular significance for you?
1970: I marched with the sisters on August 26th and discovered that sisterhood left a lot to be desired. I demonstrated against the Kent State Massacres with my students and protested various egregious male outrages as well. I participated in the founding issue of MS magazine and all the events around it. I joined a Consciousness-Raising Group (and left because I thought the other feminist writers--they were all writers!-- would steal my material.)
3. Was there anything in particular that led to your writing Fear of Flying and what prompted your other books dealing with feminism in different ways both fiction and non-fiction? Is there one that now seems, to you, the most important?
I read Portnoy's Complaint and wondered why a woman couldn't tell the truth about her inner life too. I loved Doris Lessing's The Golden Notebook--but I wanted to write a Golden Notebook that was FUNNY! So much for literary influences.
4. Do you see feminism as having been a transforming movement? For the generation who fought the battles or their daughter generation?
Yes. Feminism has been absorbed into our society. Young women think it's obsolete because they have no idea how dire life was without it!
5. Isn't it possible things would have changed anyway without the women's movement?
ABSOLUTELY NOT. Would the Ancient Regime in France have given up power without losing their heads? Would the Kings of England have made a a Constitutional Democracy without the threat of Revolution? Would America be a sovereign nation without the War of Independence?
You know the answer.
The trouble with The Women's Revolution is that we have not gone far enough because we indulge our fathers, husbands, brothers, sons. Also we feel sorry for them because they are led around by their dicks and their brains go soft. We accept the burden of being rational cause we know they're testosterone-driven.
6. There is a lot of talk these days about the failure of feminism to maintain an importance and dynamic for younger women and that it does not concern them. Do you share this view? What about your daughter Molly? Does she see feminism as having anything to offer her?
Molly is a fierce feminist. Any smart woman knows that the world is designed for the benefit of men, no matter how men whine about it.
7. Should we feel disappointed and disillusioned at the way things have gone with and for today's young women?
They are terribly naive, most of them. When they turn forty and have no child support, no good jobs, no pensions, no health insurance (as in the US) they'll suddenly become radicalized. Gloria Stein said: Women get more radical with age. Sad but true.
7. Is it that passion and understanding of how fundamental feminism is has been replaced by other concerns? Or is it that young women don't want to be associated with what being a feminist is seen to mean--over earnest, another generation's preoccupation, un-feminine etc? Not my thoughts I should add, but something that certainly gets said.
YEP. They just wanna have fun. They think SEX AND THE CITY proves the sex war is won. Actually, they just don't know how tough it is when you no longer have young and cute to fall back on. Talking dirty is fun but it's hardly freedom. Bridget Jones, who was no feminist, knew this too.
8. Is this a cause for anger by women who have put so much energy into trying to make live better and more equal for women?
Anger, schmangar. Let's just keep on truckin'. Changing society takes time. Feminism ebbs and flows. What saddens me is that young women have to re-invent the wheel again and again. Mary Wollstonecraft said it. Susan B. Anthony said it. Simone deBeauvoir said it. Germaine Greer said it. Gloria Steinem said it. I said it. But nobody believes it until they live it! We could learn from our foremothers but since we have repudiated their wisdom, we must keep beginning over. The real answer is to trust older women. They know. The generations must nurture and support each other. That's the only answer.
9. What do you see as the way forward for feminism now if any?
See # 8 above.
Copyright ©1997-2009 Erica Mann Jong