Review: Helen Garner’s “The First Stone: Some Questions about Sex and Power”

by writereaderly

helen garner the first stoneMM has recommended this so often and so strongly that I finally picked it up. I knew it had been controversial, and that HG had had a literary brawl with a spiteful ex-lecturer of mine (Jenna Mead), and I couldn’t be bothered to be involved in the controversy. This book is Garner’s exploration of a sexual harassment case at Ormond College in Melbourne Uni in the early ’90s, and her premise was “Has feminism come to this?” – that is, women taking male academics to the court for squeezing an undergrad’s breast at a party. After a distasteful 70pp attempt, I could no longer be bothered humouring Garner’s retrograde opinions. Once she’d said that men are expected to read women’s minds to know they don’t want sexual advances in trains, etc – bullshit! How many times have men been told explicitly that their hand- and eye-contact is unwanted?! – and that she couldn’t understand why the young women were so angry that they’d taken this perfectly nice man to court – because, simply put, women are never not afraid of sexual violence by men, in case Garner hadn’t noticed that – she’d worn out my patience and her credibility. Pathetic. Abandoned.  Be off with you. (I have, however, remained irritated at those 70pp since I dumped the book, and hope this review gets its unwelcome presence out of my head. Bah.)

Where it came from: MM’s Bookshelf
Time and manner of reading:
A couple of unenthusiastic bed reads
Where it went: Home
Reminds me of/that: Feminism’s work is far from done
Who I’d recommend it to:
Conservatives wanting a feminist to bolster their misogynist claims
Also reading: Rabbit #4; How to Read a Poem by Edward Hirsch; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon; Being Alive edited by Neil Astley; The Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman; Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens; The Bone People by Keri Hulme