Man’s inhumanity to man”--the phrase is all too familiar. But until Phyllis Chesler's now-classic book, a profound silence prevailed about woman’s inhumanity to woman. Women's aggression may not take the same form as men's, but girls and women are indeed aggressive, often indirectly and mainly toward one another. They judge harshly, hold grudges, gossip, exclude, and disconnect from other women.
Like men, women are exposed to the messages of misogyny and sexism that permeate cultures worldwide. Like men, women unconsciously buy into negative images that can trigger abuse and mistreatment of other women. But like other social victims, many do not realize stereotyping affects members within the victimized group as well as those outside the group. They do not realize their behavior reflects society's biases.
How women view and treat other women matters. Are women oppressed? Yes. Do oppressed people internalize their oppressors' attitudes? Without a doubt. Prejudice must first be acknowledged before it can be resisted or overcome. More than men, women depend upon one another for emotional intimacy and bonding, and exclusionary and sexist behavior enforces female conformity and discourages independence and psychological growth.
Continuing the pioneering work begun in Women and Madness Chesler's bestselling book that broke the story on double standards in psychology Woman's Inhumanity to Woman draws on important studies, revolutionary theories, literature, and hundreds of original interviews. Chesler urges us to look within, to treat other women realistically, ethically, and kindly, and to forge bold and compassionate alliances. This is a necessary next step for women, without which they will never be liberated.
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"A heady amalgam of research . . . again, Chesler's voice is breathtakingly bold, ruthlessly honest, provocative, challenging and compassionate. This is rough terrain, and Chesler is leading the way. This book's usefulness [is in] furthering an open conversation among feminists men and women alike who want to get past the infighting to a more expansive view of human liberation." Tikkun
"A staggeringly thorough study of the cruelties, conscious and unconscious, that females visit upon one another." Denver Post
"Fascinating . . . Chesler takes on the sisterhood like Sherman took Atlanta . [Woman's Inhumanity to Woman] is a provocative take on the nature and behavior of women." Seattle Times
Phyllis Chesler has one of the most original and provocative minds in modern American feminism. It has always been her style to turn the conventional wisdom on its head, and take us wherever that leads. Here she is in top form, enlivening her readers with an exciting and thought provoking argument about the other side of sisterhood.” Vivian Gornick
Once again Phyllis Chesler braves uncharted waters. In this lucid book, she explores a topic forbidden among feminists for too long. She provides an understanding of jealousy and anger among women, yet she is also compassionate. Like her groundbreaking work, Women and Madness, this book will strengthen feminism and help to end the sad bitterness Chesler so ably describes." Susan Griffin, author of The Book of the Courtesans: A Catalogue of Their Virtues
"Chesler's credentials are impeccable, her explanations thorough, her research well documented. This is not about men vs. women or women vs. women: lt's about people learning to be fair." St. Petersburg Times
"I love what Chesler has done in this very important work. I find Chesler's careful perspective confirming, provocative and comforting." Judy Grahn, poet and author of Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds
"An important book . . . Woman's Inhumanity to Woman proves that Chesler still has a thing or two to teach the kids after all." Salon.com
Chesler, author of the bestselling Woman and Madness, explores the "shadow side" of sisterhood: women treating each other badly. How could her own mother have been so mean to her? How could someone who "borrowed" published ideas from her not acknowledge her or say "thank you"? In this treatise on breaking the "cycle of cruelty" between women, controversial feminist Chesler addresses why sisters fight, why some women prefer to work for men rather than for women, and other highly subjective cases of woman/woman cruelty. From the "demented Demeters" and "murderous Electras" of Greek mythology to modern-day Mommie Dearest, Chesler warns, mothers and daughters are doomed. Whether they acknowledge their mothers' viciousness, as Chesler does, or whether they're "unconscious" and suffer "amnesia" about the hurt, she says, the patterns are set. Throughout girlhood and into adult life, women repeat the basic lesson in Chesler's words, "maternal envy teaches daughters to be passive, fearful, conformist, obedient as well as similarly cruel to other women." Thus, she says, "an assertive woman manager might be viewed as bitchy and non-maternal." This comment is certainly more digestible than, say, "what complicates the aging process is a woman's life-long experience of all other women as rivals and potential replacements." Chesler draws her evidence from interviews with an unspecified group of women with horror stories: backstabbing by feminist colleagues, sadistic gynecologists, battering lesbians, etc. Needless to say, her book sometimes comes off as quite cynical, despite her claim that "I would like women to treat each other in good ways." (Mar.)Forecast: It's prickly and contentious, but it's Chesler so expect some buzz in the academic feminist circles she inhabits.
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