Monthly Archives: December 2017

‘I’D LIKE TO SAY A WORD FOR THE FARMERS…’

It has been suggested recently that humans have a small, slender head simply because of our consumption of soft foods such as cheese and dairy. Research by the University of California claims that the advent of farming, especially dairy products, had a small but significant effect on the shape of our skulls. The reason is all to do with the effort it took to eat farmed food. Humans who lived by hunting and foraging wild foods had to put more effort into chewing than those surviving on a softer diet of cheese and cereal mush.

Without the daily workout of crunching, grinding, and gnawing bones and muscle, mass declined, refining the features of farming communities concluded the study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. ‘The effect of farming is mostly visible in the area of the skull that generate or experience stress in chewing,’ said David Katz, a post-doctoral researcher at the University of Calgary. ‘The simplest explanation is that these stresses were reduced because farming diets were generally softer.’

Hunter-gatherers began to rely on eating domesticated plants and animals from around 10,000 years ago, and archaeologists have noted that skulls began to shrink but could never quantify the change or say why it happened. To pick out the changes, researchers studied 1,000 skulls and jaws from pre-industrial groups throughout the world, who were either hunter gatherers or farmers. They found that in farming communities, a part of one of the major chewing muscles, the temporalis, became smaller and changed position as communities changed their diet. As a result the upper jaw became shorter and the lower jaw smaller.

‘The main differences between foragers’ and farmers’ skulls are where we would expect to find them and change in ways we might expect them to if chewing demands decreased in farming groups,’ said Dr Katz. ‘Agriculture changed not only human culture and life ways, but the human biology as well.’ The largest changes in skull morphology were observed in groups consuming dairy products, suggesting that the effect of agriculture on skull morphology was greatest in populations consuming the softest foods. ‘At least in early farmers, milk did not make for bigger stronger skull bones,’ added Dr Katz.

A previous study by the University of Cambridge suggested that over time skeletons have become much lighter, with bone mass around 20 per cent lighter and more susceptible to breaking since the invention of agriculture.

As a consequence, we must therefore thank the farmers for our shrinking features that, if nothing else, make us more elegant and rather good to look at.

PS. In keeping with others, my blog will close down during the holiday season. My next missive will be up on 2 January 2018. I take this opportunity to wish all my readers season’s greetings and if we all can manage it, a good New Year.

 

 

 

NO LONGER WITH US

Delphine Claire Beltiane Seyring born 10th April 1932 in Beirut Lebanon and died aged 58 in Paris. Occupation Actress.

Seyring may be most widely known for her role as Colette de Montpelier in Zinnemann’s 1973 film The Day of the Jackal. In turn, perhaps her most demanding role was in Chantal Ackerman’s 1975 film Jeanne Dielman, 23 qui du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, in which she was required to adopt a highly restrained, rigorously minimalistic mode of acting to convey the kindest of the title character.

Seyring was a major feminist figure in France. Throughout her career, she used her celebrity status to promote women’s rights.

Here is the substance of an interview I did with her in 1987.

delphine-seyrig.jpg

EARLY INFLUENCES
Delphine Seyrig: My mother was very independent, and she was hoping I would grow up to be independent, but she was not competitive. In fact she hated competitiveness. She hoped I would not be a passive, feminine little girl. She was hoping I would have scope and would be physically strong and independent. She herself led a very independent youth. She was a sailor, and she sailed with another girl of her age at a time when women did not do those things. She lived on a boat and went all round the Mediterranean when she was twenty.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES
Delphine Seyrig: I couldn’t as a child think in terms of advantages and disadvantages in an objective way. I could see what my advantages would be, very early, before I knew how to speak. I think one begins to face life in babyhood. We’re not allowed as children to consider that we have a hard life to face. We’re told we’re going to face a hard life when we are not with our parents anymore, but they don’t tell us that our life is hard when we are children, and I think it is. I do think I had to face life extremely early. This is a very important point for me. Life was never as hard for me as an adult as it was as a little child, because, as an adult, when life is hard, I can say, my life is hard, but when I was a child I was not able to say that, I was supposed to be a happy little girl and materially everything was provided for me. I was not able to say, my life is tough, I was not even able to think it.
Women have not been encouraged to make a living, they have been encouraged to work free at home. Women asking to be paid to work is still a novelty.
I’m trying to work day by day. I’m president of an association of a women’s centre which is called Le Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir. This centre is trying to create a memory of women of our time through audiovisual documents, film and documents about women or by women. Sometimes they are films by men, but they are about women. It’s trying to bring these things together, to create a memory of women of our times, of their work, of their thoughts, of their visions.

FEMINISM
Delphine Seyrig: We’re not at home on this planet. All the institutions are male institutions, so we have to adapt to them, that’s all, and we don’t. That is why there are so many women in mental institutions, so many more than men. Women do not have power. Even if they have a little more power in New York than in other places, and if they have taken responsibilities for certain things, American women are just as oppressed as European women. There is no question but that money is in the hands of men, everybody knows it. What is in the hands of women is infinitesimal. Money is in the hands of nations which are led and lawed by man. It is a male-run planet. I’m talking about reality, not about how I feel. Reality is that economy is in the hands of men, law is in the hands of men, dissent and aggression are in the hands of men. And politics is entirely in the hands of men. It is not just a theory. It is already a big step forward to say we are aware at this time that the power is not in the hands of women and all in the hands of men. I think this is already important and very shocking. I have been doing what I can to become aware of it myself, and read what other woman have written on that subject, meeting women who are questioning this power. This is what I have been doing for the past twenty years. I don’t have any hopes for the future, but I think that, even when there is no hope for the future, being a human being and being a female human being, you have at least to say what you see and how you feel about it and what can be changed in your own small realm.
The fact that you have a woman Prime Minister, that’s nothing, that’s of no consequence, that’s not interesting to me. Women always show up somewhere in places of power, but they apply the men’s laws and they are men in their profession. They have to abide with all the male structures of society. They can’t change that, there’s no question of that.
There is now a big issue in France about incest – one out of five families has an incestuous relationship. That’s 20 per cent. You have this problem everywhere, of course, because of the male structures of the society. So those are things where women can speak out and act to stop certain things, or at least to make things evolve.

There are a million things men could do to improve harmony between men and women, but they don’t do them. The women’s movement has not at all encouraged men to think for themselves. It’s extraordinary that men do not bring up certain subjects among themselves, such as rape, violence, sexual violence. It is only women who discuss it. Men don’t, but they want to listen when women are talking about it. Why don’t men who do not rape organize a convention about it? Why do they not discuss it? It’s strange, but they don’t. How come men are not interested in discussing the subject? They say, I’m not a rapist, therefore I’m not interested, therefore I don’t have to discuss this. All right, who is going to discuss it, the rapists? Are you going to leave it in the hands of the judges, and the repression by jail and punishment, and is it not a subject that should interest men? It’s very strange to me, this.
I consider myself a woman who has adapted very successfully to a patriarchal society. And within that successful adaptation, I feel extremely rebellious. I can see, within my life, what has happened, and I can question this adaptation. I consider myself in pretty good shape considering what it is to adapt to this society. I could have gone crazy.

MOTHERHOOD
Delphine Seyrig: I think I was a conventional mother, with everything that implies. I’m not so proud of the way I educated my son. I did the only thing I knew how to do, and the only thing that was done around me. Now, when I think back, I feel I did what I could in those days. He is now an adult, but somehow I feel if I had to do it over again, I would do it differently.
I was in the struggle for abortion. I had abortions done right in this house when it was absolutely forbidden in France and they were arresting women who had abortions, and women who had performed abortions, and putting them in jail. So a number of us signed a manifesto, saying we had all had abortions, and we were not arrested. This was one way of showing the hypocrisy of the law, and we advanced to the point where abortion was admitted in France. I testified in abortion trials. Those are the kinds of struggles I was into, in other words; that’s the realm of an individual’s action in a group, but it does not change the world.

RELATIONSHIPS
Delphine Seyrig: My experience is that there are a lot of things I can share with women that I cannot share with men. Men, in my experience, cannot share a great many things with other men, except in the Church, in the army and in sports. Otherwise, I find men are very lonely, and very isolated from each other.
How can one believe in marriage? I don’t believe in much. I don’t know what marriage is any more. It made sense as a sort of law in the past for women to be able to have a roof over their heads and be supposedly protected but actually they were greatly imprisoned.

DIFFERENCES
Delphine Seyrig: I think each individual is slightly different biologically from another one, and there is an infinity of nuances between male and female. I don’t think it’s that definite. But it’s very important for women to realize that their mind is just as good as a man’s, and that their power of thinking is certainly as good, and that they’re probably far more capable of expressing emotions in ways other than battle. Women probably have difficulty in surviving emotionally in a patriarchal society because emotions have been so distorted from childhood. Men seem to survive. We are in a patriarchal society, and I don’t think that’s contested. Within that framework, there are a lot of women trying to understand the structure, this male structure, and trying to clarify it, trying to identify how women are situated within that structure. Within that male structure, women are subjugated in every sense of the word. Women are the best agents to perpetuate the male structure because they are in charge of small children, yet they’re not responsible. They’re in charge of children, but they’re in charge of bringing them up adapted to this society. If a woman brings up her little boy to cry whenever he feels emotion, she will not make a man adapted to this society, and if she brings up her little girl to be strong, as my mother wanted me to be, well, I could see the society around my mother was not saying the same thing as my mother was, and I chose very early between my mother’s vision of what I should be and society’s vision. And I could see that my interest in society was to adapt, but not do what my mother felt I should do. My mother was right, in some ways, except that she herself had given up her independence to be a married women who accompanied her husband and lived his life. She stopped living her life after she was married. I could tell, at a very early stage, it was safer to adapt. I’m putting this in an adult’s words but I was then between two and four years old, and already something was decided within me: that I was going to be a real little girl, playing a little girl’s role and not a boy’s role, because boys are boys and girls are girls. But my mother didn’t teach me that, society did. Kindergarten taught me that. I knew it was better to be a cute little girl with bows in her hair than a little tomboy. Women are the ones bringing up the children, but the responsibility they have is to make them into happy young men and women. And, to be a happy young woman, you have to adapt, because otherwise you will be rejected; and, to be a young man, you have to be a happy young man according to the rules or you will be rejected. So what they are doing is bringing up their children to fit into the world. The fact that women bring up children is not a guarantee of liberated adults, because they know that to be liberated from a society also means being rejected by society.

TAKE IT ON THE CHIN!

Lately, I’m finding myself increasingly irritated by so many of those in the public spotlight taking themselves far too seriously. Perhaps it’s always the fate of the elderly to think the past was better, but when I recall how I was abused or vilified in the past, I mostly remember it with good humour, almost affection. Something I think today’s celebrities might learn from.

Here’s one example of what I mean. Publishing, like any other branch of the media, has always provided the gossip mongers with a wealth of ammunition. In 1984, Lady Olga Maitland, in her Sunday Express diary column, under the heading ‘Arab Peerage’, reported my interest in acquiring Burke’s Peerage.

FullSizeRender.jpg

Harold Brooks-Baker, a director of Burke’s, was quick to confirm the story, saying, ‘Naim is very keen. He is a crashing snob but that, of course, is what we make our money on.’ It was the first time anyone had ever called me a ‘snob’ – something I am emphatically not, though I suppose it made good copy.

The viability of Burke’s Peerage as a commercial proposition at the time was a matter of debate. Whatever view you took, the undeniable fact was that it would need substantial refinancing if it were to have any chance of survival. I decided the burden would be too heavy to take on and declined to proceed.
That did not prevent Private Eye from going into its irresistible parody mode and producing a spoof advertisement for ‘Berk’s Peerage’, now under new management, the definitive guide to Britain’s historic nobility, as revised by Naim Attullah-Disgusting. ‘NO self-respecting snob can afford this book – whoops! to be without this book, which lists the antecedents of Britain’s oldest families.’ Then it gave a typical entry, ‘showing the ancestry of a highly important personage’, which provided NAIM ATTULLAH with his own heraldic crest: a shield flanked by a unicorn and a greyhound, topped by a crescent, its quarterings juxtaposing the ‘Q’ for Quartet with sets of moneybags, and underneath it the motto Dieu et mon argent.

That did not prevent Private Eye from going into its irresistible parody mode and producing a spoof advertisement for ‘Berk’s Peerage’, now under new management, the definitive guide to Britain’s historic nobility, as revised by Naim Attullah-Disgusting. ‘NO self-respecting snob can afford this book – whoops! to be without this book, which lists the antecedents of Britain’s oldest families.’ Then it gave a typical entry, ‘showing the ancestry of a highly important personage’, which provided NAIM ATTULLAH with his own heraldic crest: a shield flanked by a unicorn and a greyhound, topped by a crescent, its quarterings juxtaposing the ‘Q’ for Quartet with sets of moneybags, and underneath it the motto Dieu et mon argent.

1. Attullah the Hun (803–906)
2. Sir Norman de Toular (984–1067), Chevalier de Maurice
3. Neamus O’Toler of the Reeks (1097–1194), 1st Lord of Galway
4. Sir Niam Mctullach of the Mctullachs, Lord of Asprey (1280–1569)
5. Sir Nimrod st John Fitztuller, Knight of the Order of St John of
Jerusalem, 1st Crusade – mentioned in despatches twice (1106–1209)
(That’s enough bogus ancestors. Ed.)’
At the foot of the panel were the words: ‘Berks – we gottem.’

AN AUTHOR’S CONFESSION

Basia Briggs the author of Mother Anguish, just out, is a woman whose background and character are fascinating to say the least.

Here is what she would like the readers to know about her persona before they embark on reading her memoirs:

My Grandfather who was much older than my Granny, was the Governor of the Southern part of Poland in 1914 and his men captured Lenin and advised him to have him shot because he was a troublemaker.   He had him imprisoned in the jail in a town called Nowy Targ and my Grandfather interrogated him.  As the jail was full of noisy drunks and the like, my Grandfather took him home because he found him interesting to talk to.  He lent him money to travel to Switzerland and Lenin gave him an IOU and also left his watch as security.   After he left Nowy Targ after ten days Lenin wrote that he had been ‘very well treated.‘ The rest is history.

I myself have always felt, since a very young age, that I should be ‘in charge.’  I think I have a mental problem as I tend to befriend ‘lame ducks’ and try and help. Which is stupid as one of my girlfriends was a murderer, but she still needed ‘sorting out and helping.’  It must be ancestral memory genetically transferred from my Grandfather and other bossy forbears.

I have a real problem with authority and was always in trouble at school as I don’t like being told what to do.  I react badly to being bossed around. My pride will not tolerate it.   Although I do have exquisite manners, just as long as I am treated properly but don’t take well to the constraints of discipline.

I am a fierce animal lover and in my last house I had pet pigs, goats and of course many dogs and cats and birds tend to befriend me as well.

I trust NO ONE. Never ever.

I am often complimented on my complexion and I would like to say that the best face creams are made by Neutrogena and women should not waste their money on fancy brands which are full of hype and unnecessary perfume and pretty packaging.   Neutrogena is superior to all other brands.
The best shampoo in the world is Head and Shoulders. (Donald Trump says the same)

I am an only child and have been brought up to be very solitary, which I like.   I am never lonely if I have a book.

I have got knobbly knees and rarely wear skirts, usually jeans.

I wear lots of make –up as I am not a natural beauty but my best feature is my belly –button as immediately after my birth my Grandmother bandaged my stomach up tightly so it wouldn’t pop out when I was crying as a baby.   Endless women these days have expensive surgery to change their belly buttons from an ‘outie’ to an ‘innie ‘ to make them look good in bikinis and they should have had sensible grannies like mine.

I love gardening and everything I plant grows magnificently.  If I take a cutting from a shrub and just poke a stick in the ground, it grows

As her proud publisher, I suggest you buy the book and find out for yourself whether my assessment of her is spot on. Her hutzpah deserves your whole-hearted attention.

mother-anguish.jpg

 

HOLD YOUR HEADS

Would you believe that the world’s first human head transplant has been carried out on a corpse in China, in an 18 hour operation that showed it was possible to successfully reconnect the spine, nerves and blood vessels? At a press conference in Vienna recently, Professor Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group, announced that a team at Harbin Medical University had ‘realised the first human head transplant’ and said an operation on a live human would take place ‘imminently’.

The operation was carried out by a team led by Dr Xiaoping Ren, who last year successfully grafted a head onto the body of a monkey. Professor Canavero said: ‘The first transplant on human cadavers has been done. A full head swap between brain-dead organ donors is the next stage and that is the first step for the formal head transplant for a medical condition, which is imminent.’

Professor Canavero shocked the world in 2015 when he said that he would be ready to transplant a human head within two years. Although Valery Spiridonov, a Russian computer scientist who suffers spinal muscular atrophy, has volunteered to become the first head transplant patient, the team has since said the first trial is likely to be carried out on someone who is Chinese, because the chances of a Chinese donor body will be higher.

getimage.aspx-4.jpeg

Professor Canavero said: ’A high number of people have already volunteered for the transplant.’ At the press conference he said: ‘For too long nature had dictated her rules to us. We’re born, we grow, we age and we die. For millions of years, humans have evolved and 100 billion humans have died. That’s genocide on a mass scale. We have entered an age where we will take our destiny back in our hands. It will change everything. It will change you at every level. The first human head transplant, in the human mode, has been realised. Everyone said it was impossible. But the surgery was successful.’

British experts accuse Professor Canavero of ‘egotistical pseudoscience.’ But the neuroscientist said details of the operation will be published in the journal Surgical Neurology International shortly. The Daily Telegraph has seen an early copy of the journal’s paper which confirms that the first human head transplant has taken place on two men who donated their bodies to medical science. Describing the surgery, Professor Canavero said: ‘The operation was split in two parts. In the first procedure, the blood supply of the donor body was attached to the brain of the recipient. Then the head was severed and the nerves and blood vessels attached to the new body using a biological glue known as PEG. When accrued out on a live person, the team plans to apply electrical stimulation to encourage new nerve endings to form, before using virtual reality stimulations to help the patient get used to their new body.’

Professor Canavero continued: ‘They would take great care to ensure the larynx nerves were not severed so that the patient will still speak with the same voice when they awoke. Undeniably, this is huge. We are wading into unchartered territory here. It’s like going to the Moon. Apollo 11 was successful so was Apollo 12, but then look what happened with Apollo 13. They called me crazy, a lunatic, Frankenstein. But Frankenstein was a very ethical man by the way.’
Professor Canavero also announced plans to begin work on the first human brain transplants which he claims could lead to ‘immortality’. He said he envisaged a future where people could live forever by transplanting their brains into younger bodies possibly cloned from themselves. ‘The goal of China is to treat incurable medical conditions. My goal is life extension because I believe ageing is a disease which must be treated. I call it Heterochronic Parabiosis – the putting together of two people of a different age. Scientists have already showed the rejuvenating benefits of injecting people with young blood. If you have a young new body it would be able to wash the old brain with young blood rejuvenating the brain repeatedly. You could potentially live for ever,’

However, the scientific community reacted to the news with scepticism claiming that a head transplant operation could only be deemed a success after a paralysed human had survived the operation and recovered. Dr James Fildes, NHS principal research scientist at the Transplant Centre University Hospital of South Manchester, dismissed the announcement as ‘egotistical pseudoscience. Unless Canavero and Ren provide real evidence that they can perform a head, or more appropriately, a whole body transplant on a large animal that recovers sufficient function to improve quality of life, this entire project is morally wrong,’ he said. ‘Perhaps far more worryingly this endeavour appears to revolve around immortality, but in each case a body is needed for the transplant, and therefore a human needs to die as part of the process.’

All this scientific mumbo jumbo is to me beyond the realms of possibility, but who can tell? The world we live in is full of mysteries. Some are so gigantic as to clatter our brains and stun our comprehension. Professor Canavero is either a genius or a lunatic or belongs to a species from a different planet more advanced than our own.

NO LONGER WITH US

Kate Millett, the much-garlanded writer, who died in September 2017, was also a highly regarded artist and a well-known activist in the second-wave feminist agitation of the 1960s and 1970s. Here is the substance of an interview that I did with her in 1987.

kate-millett_d2wWC_800.jpg

THE EARLY INFLUENCES

Kate Millet: I grew up in a small Irish town which was originally French, St Paul, on the Mississippi. There was a left-over French tradition which mixed with a strong Irish nationalism, and a sense of exile from Ireland which my family encouraged and kept up. They also kept up with Irish politics: the struggle for the freedom of Ireland from England. I grew up also with catholicism. So those together were the larger social features of my upbringing. My mother, my aunt, my sisters and my father were the biggest influences in my life. I’ve written a book about my aunt, which is not yet published. It will be called A.D, which is a pun on Anno Domini; her name was Dorothy, so we called her A.D. for Aunt Dorothy. She was very rich, very beautiful, very intelligent, probably very spoiled, very domineering and absolutely fascinating. My father was her brother. He was an engineer who worked hard and finally succeeded in breaking away from working for the Highway Department and founded his own company. For a while he lived in glory, and then he went bankrupt. He was supposed to be also an alcoholic, which I think is probably my mother’s opinion. She was a different class and type from the Millets. She was what we call Irish Irish, peasant Irish from Galway, very strong and very determined. The Millets were Norman Irish, very ancient, very difficult, very obscure people, but wonderful, fascinating, extremely delightful, very brilliant, always sophisticated. They had an endless sense of gentry which could be irritating and which was also very captivating to a child. I ended up growing up with my mother, who had majored in English at the university and therefore pushed me full of literature. My aunt did as well. I had two great teachers in my aunt and my mother, but my mother somehow made much a deeper impression, and I guess that I ended up throwing in my lot with my mother and her people and with their point of view. But it was always very ambivalent, because I also very much identified with the Millets. It was a kind of schizophrenic childhood in a sense, always very divided loyalties, at any rate. I had two wonderful, brilliant sisters. One is an actress and one an attorney and also a banker, and my mother gave all three of us a great deal of encouragement and strength. We were, in many senses, her surrogates: we did all the things she was never permitted to do because she was raising three children and her life to some extent stopped when ours began.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Kate Millet: It was very much a turning-point for me that, in my own country, I couldn’t make a living, although I had a very wonderful education and gained an Oxford Master’s degree. It was about that time I began to hear about the women’s movement, so I joined it, but it was a call that I had been waiting for all my life. From the time I was a child, I was aware of how unfair things were between men and women and how entirely masculine control of society was- the Pope, the President, the whole business; the family structure which I saw doing so much to suffocate my mother.

Woman artists are not even represented in museums. We have to fight back this absurd misrepresentation of women through art history. Much as we were discriminated against, we did actually paint pictures and make sculptures, but I never heard of it when I was a young artist. We have virtually no sense of our past in the visual arts at all. The work of our predecessors is not exhibited; we ourselves, in my generation, do not really have access to the museums. Of course, it’s all a stacked deck, all of it, everywhere. Publishing is the same. I’m always paid less than men. I’m always treated like a child, I have to be a good little girl. Agents think so, publishers think so, editors think so. I’m infantilized, even in my own profession, but it’s typical. Popular literature is often written by women, and some of it makes a lot of money, not only in these times but in the nineteenth century as well. I think, however, when you are talking about serious writing and fine arts, you really are up against an enormous wall of prejudice and discrimination, and it is spelled out in reality in the number of exhibitions, the number if museum entries, the collections, the way dealers and collectors feel about you, the way editors, publishers and agents feel about you. It’s not only a matter of money, it’s a matter of prestige, encouragement, sense of identity, all of it, and this is someone speaking who has probably had a lot of privilege and a lot of good luck. About 80 percent of people who go to art school in this country are women. About 10 percent of people who exhibit in the museums are women. This is a man’s world. And what we’re trying to do is make it a different one, one of people.

If we started from the base of equality, I think people would be startled to see how unequal things are in America. Start with the Congress. We have virtually no representation at all, and certainly less than any other country. It’s not because women don’t want to go into politics, it’s because this is a patriarchy and it hasn’t changed much. It had two big waves of organized feminist political agitation, but it hasn’t changed. It didn’t pass the Equal Rights Amendment, and we are now in a very dreadful period of reaction to Reagan’s regime. All progressive forces in this country are virtually at a standstill. The women’s movement is holding its own, but it’s not making any great progress. Blacks aren’t making any progress and we don’t have a left. These are really bad times.

There has been a remarkable and wonderful little bit of progress on the part of gay people in view of the fact that you couldn’t even say lesbian or homosexual fifteen years ago. The fact the gay people can identify themselves as gay, organize as gay, run for office, demand their rights, it’s fantastic. Historically speaking, it is an amazing amount of progress in a short span. But you still have enormous prejudice as well, enormous contempt and hatred. And its gotten much worse in this country under the present reactionary climate of the Reagan regime and the right-wing screaming about Aids being the scourge of God and so on. It’s a dreadful, dreadful disease, but it is not the scourge of God.

FEMINISM

Kate Millet: You don’t have any oppressive system without its continuance being assured by members of the oppressed group. That’s true of all oppressed people. Therefore, if the feminist movement is to succeed, it must start at home with women and with the conditioning of children: to decondition them, in fact, so that they have a fuller sense of themselves as little people, and not little males, little females, horrid little stereotypes that they have to live out. I taught kindergarten once, and at about five years old my kindergarteners were already so stereotyped that it was almost funny, but tremendously sad. They had so accepted the silly sex roles of their culture, they were like little caricatures of masculine and feminine behaviour in some respects. It was interesting to try to talk to them out of some of that rigidity. And not easy.

A little token woman here or there doesn’t really change anything that much. It doesn’t approximate equality; it’s the index of some change, but the change has not been accomplished. The process is long and torturous, slow and tedious and silly. It consumes years of many women’s lives, just burned up in trying to achieve an equalization between the sexes. And all unnecessary, a great waste of human spirit, a great waste of lives. I mean, they accomplish something wonderful – all people who work for liberation do – but we didn’t need to have the oppression situation at the beginning.

Mrs Thatcher is a bad excuse for a woman in power. She is a deplorable reactionary, and the fact that she is in power is hardly an example of women’s progress. Throughout history, there have been cases of these dreadful reactionaries who happen to be females being given a break. It is not an example of female equality any more than Elizabeth I was.

I see patriarchy increasing its colonial oppression of other peoples. I’m an American. I watch my government commit atrocity after atrocity upon people in South America, for example, or throughout the world, through the CIA, its support of dictatorships, and torture. I’m watching torture resurrect itself in the twentieth century and become one of the ways in which governments govern. One of the things i’m doing during this period of my life is writing a very long book about torture and its reemergence. I see patriarchy as grotesque, increasingly militaristic, increasingly greedy, colonialistic, imperialistic, brutal, with a terrible disregard of civil liberties, of democratic forms. This late-stage patriarchy is a tremendous threat to all citizens. The state’s invasion of private life is absolutely terrifying. Ultimately, patriarchy is about the continuation of male power as we have known it through history, but the means it is using now are very grotesque and very frightening. It’s a really exciting time to be a woman. We are on the move, and we are making history. It is an exciting time to be one of us.

MOTHERHOOD

Kate Millet: I find the maternal instinct is really the end product of a great deal of social conditioning. Lot’s of women don’t have children. I’ve never had any children. It seems to me absurd that my life should be judged on whether or not I have children. Lots of men don’t have children; their lives are not predicted on their paternity. To care for infants or any helpless vulnerable creature is a good and wonderful thing that anybody could experience probably, but i don’t really believe in maternal instinct. I realize, too, that it’s dinned into us all the time. Propaganda, propaganda, propaganda.

CREATIVITY

Kate Millet: Things were so arranged that woman had babies instead of making symphonies. There are always enough women around who haven’t got a baby this month who would have time to make a symphony if it was OK to make symphonies. But men said to us, you can’t make symphonies, but you can make babies, and wow, that’s wonderful. It is wonderful. To make a life is wonderful, absolutely marvellous. But it is also marvellous to make symphonies, and if you make lives because you have no other option, you are just a breeder and a slave. And most of history, what other option did we have? You can even poison maternity with this system. Just as you can poison sex with rape. You can ruin anything through invading it with power relationships. The history of men and women is a very sad disgrace.

RELATIONSHIPS

Kate Millet: I like men very much, but I live very much of my life with women. Once upon a time I didn’t spend so much of my time with women. I knew more men, and I was married to a wonderful Japanese sculptor and lived in a heterosexual world, men and women. Of course, men dominated everything and talked all the time, and it was extremely frustrating in thousands of ways. But I had a greater sense of contact with the world than I do now, when I live mostly with women. Most of my friendships and contacts, and the work I do and the people I know and am close to, are women. If i’m likely to fall in love, i’m more likely to fall in love with a woman at this point, but that doesn’t mean I couldn’t fall in love with a man. I have. It seems to me that the natural state of human beings would be bisexuality. But, under certain social conditions, that would be less likely to happen, as, for example, in a very repressive regime of heterosexuality. Or, in this case, where there is a kind of withdrawal from the male world to strengthen ourselves, and an enormous sense of solidarity, we would be more likely to form relationships with women.

There are some women who, for probably excellent reasons, choose to live in their own sphere, separately and so forth. Like any people who have been much aggressed upon, oppressed, so women can get a lot of strength from each other. That makes sense. That’s a political event in a certain period of time. The degree of separatism that actually exists is very much exaggerated, but it frightens men a lot, so they fixate on it.

It seems to me that heterosexuality is also conditioned into us as a result of endless propaganda, because otherwise we would just love whomever we like, which makes sense. But we are very carefully conditioned into heterosexuality. It is all part of the same set-up: conditioning you for motherhood, for heterosexuality, for feminine acquiescence in a patriarchal society, those are the things that make it work. I’ve loved both men and women. It’s sensible, I think. They were loveable people.

DIFFERENCES

Kate Millet: I don’t know of any differences between men and women beyond the biological, physical ones. I don’t know of any inherent psychological differences. We have every proof of enormous cultural differences, social differences, conditioned differences, but we have no proofs of any inherent, innate psychological ones. But, through our conditioning, we have become enormously different. We live in two different cultures. You can’t quote the animal kingdom; the animal kingdom is a mess. It can prove almost anything; it’s like quoting the Bible.

With all the stereotyping and conditioned behaviour between men and women, we divide up the good and evil qualities in human nature. Men are active, women passive; woman are nurturing, men aggressive, and so on. Well, there’s a lot of good in nurturing, there’s some good in aggression, so everybody gets to, not a whole person, but half a one, like a semi-person. You can see how this would stunt the human spirit and unbalance human personality. So, in a male-dominated society, traits that are regarded as less valuable and important are assigned to women. Now, a lot of that is crazy. The caring of children is extremely important, but is regarded as unimportant, so we get it. All the way along, it’s illogical, irrational, arbitrary, stupid. It’s limiting, and it completely surpasses the human spirit, the growth of the individual, the development of an entire psyche. It’s a dumb, comically stupid, painfully tragic system.

WAITING AT THE CHURCH…

It’s very difficult for women nowadays to find the ideal partner with whom they can share the comforts of a relationship that will last a lifetime. The reason is perhaps simply that with ever constant liberalisation, and the way society seems to forgo long held traditions, choosing newly practised, less binding sexual behaviour which they find hard to resist.

The result is nearly two thirds of single women are happy without a partner, according to research. This compares with just under half of single men, it found. The study, by retail analysts Mintel, revealed a total of 70 per cent of singles of both sexes say they have not actively tried to find a partner in the last twelve months.

This rises to 75 per cent of single women who say they are prioritising other parts of their lives. The research found that 58 per cent of adults describe themselves as being in a relationship with the remainder single. Midel analyst, Jack Ducket said: ‘It’s easy to assume that all singletons are actively looking for a partner, however our data shows that this is far from being the case. Much of this reluctance to look for a partner can be attributed to the young increasingly prioritising their education, careers and financial stability over being in relationships. Some 38 per cent worry about being alone, rising to 54 per cent among young adults aged between 18 and 24.’

Mintel found 1 in 3 feel under pressure to make their lives seem more fulfilled than they are. It revealed 54 per cent of singles say they are not where they expected to be at their age, and 25 per cent think their peers are more grown-up than they are. Mr Ducket said: ‘There remains a societal focus on being partnered up and a sense of obligation to be in a relationship.’

The truth of the matter as I see it, is that the new generation are much more ambitious than ever before and are guided by the freedom of the environment in which they find themselves. No more restrictive traditions of their peers’ matters a great deal and they seek to live their lives unbridled by anything that prevents them from attaining their goals. What is at stake in lots of cases is perhaps the happiness and contentment they often yearn for, which is sometimes illusionary.