When I began reading The Public Woman by Joan Smith I was still coming to terms with losing our first female Prime Minister. The feminist in me was a bit shattered and public life meant nothing but a political one.
By the time I finished Joan’s book I realised the public woman is every woman. Whether she is famous or anonymous, a celebrity, CEO, sex worker or stay at home mum, she is all of us. She is under scrutiny and under siege. No one was safe from Joan’s prying analysis not even the very Royal Princess Cate.
In her own words;
“we’re on our own: the female eunuch has become the public woman, but the price of giving up the protection of patriarchy is that we have to take our chances in a harsh world.”
Set as a series of essays with no stone left unturned it was an easy read and not overly academic. It is that accessibility that is one of Joan’s strengths. As each chapter is a stand-alone essay you could pick it up and read time and time again. This structure also means you don’t have to read it sequentially.
And while most of the analysis focused on the UK all of her arguments are universal. In her publicists words;
“Smith shows how misogyny has assumed new and dangerous forms as we confront an economic, social and religious backlash.”
However once I had completed The Public Woman I felt like feminism is still facing the same issues it has been for decades. Yet the author’s declaration of human rights reminds you how simple women’s rights really are. As objects of lust, sufferers of violence or as a constant minority this book was meant to be a call to arms.
I’ll be honest, Joan’s work did not leave me empowered or uplifted, but that was not the point. What she did was really brought home that despite our successes we still have a long way to go.
Published on: Aug 10, 2013, Discordia