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Tue Jan 6, 2015, 04:38 PM

Help with understanding a passage from "The Female Eunuch"

I've just begun the book, and as usual with books from 40+ years ago, there are references and language used I often don't get. For the most part, a dictionary and context works well enough, but every so often, it doesn't.

The passage is this:

"Such counsel will be called encouragement of irresponsibility, but the woman who accepts a way of life which she has not knowingly chosen, acting out a series of contingencies falsely presented as destiny, is truly irresponsible. To abdicate one's own moral understanding, to tolerate crimes against humanity, to leave everything to someone else, the father-ruler-king-computer, is the only irresponsibility."

I think I have a decent idea of what was meant by "father-ruler-king", but the "computer" part keeps throwing me for a loop. Perhaps it was meant as a symbol of power? Computers were a relatively recent devolopment then, and I could see that being a reasonable meaning.

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Reply Help with understanding a passage from "The Female Eunuch" (Original post)
F4lconF16 Jan 2015 OP
ismnotwasm Jan 2015 #1

Response to F4lconF16 (Original post)

Tue Jan 6, 2015, 05:07 PM

1. Let's see

The relationships recognized by our society, and dignified with full privileges, are only those which are binding, symbiotic, economically determined. The most generous, tender, spontaneous relationship deliquesces into the approved mould when it avails itself of the approved buttresses, legality, security, permanence. Marriage cannot be a job as it has become. Status ought not to be measured for women in terms of attracting and snaring a man. The woman who realizes that she is bound by a million Lilliputian threads in an attitude of impotence and hatred masquerading as tranquillity and love has no option but to run away, if she is not to be corrupted and extinguished utterly. Liberty is terrifying but it is also exhilarating. Life is not easier or more pleasant for the Noras who have set off on their journey to awareness, but it is more interesting, nobler even.

Such counsel will be called encouragement of irresponsibility, but the woman who accepts a way of life which she has not knowingly chosen, acting out a series of contingencies falsely presented as destiny, is truly irresponsible. To abdicate one’s own moral understanding, to tolerate crimes against humanity, to leave everything to someone else, the father-ruler-king-computer, is the only irresponsibility. To deny that a mistake has been made when its results are chaos visible and tangible on all sides, that is irresponsibility. What oppression lays upon us is not responsibility but guilt.

I think it's very much a symbol of power and patriarchy, however, according to wiki, the word was in usage far before the computer as we know existed

The first use of the word “computer” was recorded in 1613 in a book called “The yong mans gleanings” by English writer Richard Braithwait I haue read the truest computer of Times, and the best Arithmetician that euer breathed, and he reduceth thy dayes into a short number. It referred to a person who carried out calculations, or computations, and the word continued with the same meaning until the middle of the 20th century. From the end of the 19th century the word began to take on its more familiar meaning, a machine that carries out computations.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Computer

It may have a more modern reference, obliquely referencing the moralistic science fiction of the time--computers as an all controlling power/force all controlling force.

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