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Fruit of Knowledge

Fruit of Knowledge Fruit of Knowledge

Fruit of Knowledge back

Liv Stromquist


Page 45 Review by Stephen

A great big book of taboo with the tables at long last turned.

"I once read that the difference between guilt and shame is that we feel guilt for something we've done, but we feel shame for what we are."

The all-powerful, all-patronising patriarchy has proved a dab hand at shaming women for what men have believed they are (unclean, unfaithful and basically rubbish) and guilt-tripping them over things that they do: menstruating monthly, performing witchcraft almost daily, that sort of thing. They really can't help themselves, the poppets.

Isabel Greenberg's laceratingly funny ONE HUNDRED NIGHTS OF HERO is one massively inspirational fuck-off to all this (it's a book about storytelling and story spreading, set in a world where women are forbidden to read or write and emphatically not allowed to tell stories), while Jacky Fleming's THE TROUBLE WITH WOMEN is to be taken with same degree of irony as my previous paragraph, please.

The biggest bastion of patriarchy - of mind-control, misogyny and bigotry in all its delightfully hate-mongering shapes and sizes - is, of course, organised religion. The lads there have really known how to keep a good woman down, treating their chattel like cattle (for they surely owned both - is one word a derivative of the other?"), and here comes that guilt-tripping and shame-making, about menstruation (Leviticus 15) at extreme, emphatic, and repetitive length.

It's the sort of thing Diamanda Galas might put to music (yes, it is music, shut up).

"When a woman has a discharge and her discharge is blood from her body, she is to be in her menstruation for seven days, and anyone who touches her will be unclean until evening!
"Anything she lies on during her menstruation will be unclean!
"And anything she sits on will be unclean!!
"Anyone who touches her bed must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening!!
"Anyone who touches any furniture she sits on must wash his clothes, bathe in water, and be unclean until evening!!
"If there is something ON the bed or the furniture she sits on, when he touches it he will be unclean until evening!!!"

At which point, apparently it wears off.

There's a very funny epilogue to that exchange of outrage, as the Elders high-five each other, job done!

And a lot of Str?mquist's comedy does come from the post-script or deftly timed repetition and confirmation masquerading as elaboration, as in the opening chapter which should make everyone wince at the sheer, medieval ignorance and brutality meted out with vocational zeal against women and their genitalia in the name of science. As she points out in her introduction, there is an even bigger and more serious problem in our culture than men suppressing all talk about female genitalia:

"I - and many others - would have preferred a SLIGHTLY less driven, goal-orientated approach from men who've been TOO interested in the female genitalia."

She then proceeds to name and shame her list of top seven "savants" beginning with John Harvey Kellogg and their diagnoses, prognoses and lame-brained but establishment-endorsed so-called cures for things that needed no cure in the first place except in the eyes of men. Surgery, essentially, and I think you can guess which bits were chopped out.

All approved, of course, apart one Dr. Baker Brown who was chucked out (wait for it...) for failing to obtain the consent of the women's husbands.

"There is NOTHING WRONG with a correctly performed clitoridectomy!!!" declare a bunch of beards.
"As long as you obtain the consent of the husband!" shouts a husband.

An eye-opener and an eye-widener, consider this but a small sample of what is decidedly top-shelf, well articulated anger.