Heuvels van het paradijs. Een geschiedenis van macht en onmacht. (‘Hills of Paradise. A History of Power and Powerlessness’). Amsterdam: Prometheus, autumn 2018.

 

Since time began the female body has been desired, admired, used and abused. Even advertising can’t do without it. Men and women have always needed each other but why did men end up with more power than women? Answers to this question have a lot to do with female anatomy. Through the ages male narrators, artists and scholars have shone light on those body parts they do not have: breasts, wombs and vulvas – the topics of this book.

 

The female sex has given birth to human life and sexual lust but also to anxieties: fear of the magic of nipples, hymens and menstrual blood. Fear of dark passages, in which that most vulnerable of male parts must heroically find its way. Fear of dependency on mothers and other women. To calm these fears mythology has come up with male creators not only of the world but also of human life, and women have been denied access to public spheres because of their ‘distracting’  anatomy.

 

Anyone who delves into this richly varied legacy of power and powerlessness will be overcome by intense compassion for humanity. This revealing and sometimes hilarious history offers not only clear insight into the world before #metoo, but also in the way we, consciously or subconsciously, still interact with each other today.

 

Mineke Schipper © 2018