We don’t need no education,
we don’t need no thought control,
there’s lots of hazards in the classroom
teachers leave them kids alone.
– Pink Floyd, The Wall
Somerville College, founded 1879, in honor of Mary Somerville, 1780-1872, mathematician. Dedicated to the emancipation of women and equality of the sexes.
Thanks Mary she thought as she walked through the first quad; built in the style of 1690, hammer-dressed Bladon stone. Through the archway and heading west toward the second quad she came up against a wall, a factory-like wall,* that blocks an otherwise open view to the south, thinking tiredly, bloody figures, St. Aloysius keeping it all square and contained.
“This essay is brilliant Ms. Tinsley.”
“Thank you Professor Thornton, Livy replied.
“It’s so good really that I’m afraid for you.”
“Yes, afraid, you see, for a writer college can only do so much.”
“How do you mean?”
“What I mean is that you have an innate ability to see connections in things and to craft fine sentences without knowing much about parts of speech. It just comes natural for you.”
“So, you see, what I’m saying is that you have what you need in terms of the mechanics of things. What you don’t have yet is a great deal of life experience to draw from. If you stay at Oxford you run the risk of having the fire stomped out of you. For you, the classes here will become, very quickly, inane and droll.”
“But I love my history classes.”
“Then study it on your own. You’ll need a foundation in history, but everything else will become quite a yawn.”
“I have felt that I’m meant for more.”
“And you are. That’s why I’ve taken it upon myself to get you placed somewhere where you can grow.”
“The New Yorker magazine love.”
“Yes, my God. It’s just an internship mind you, but it’s in the center of things.”
Livy hugged him and began to walk out.
Professor Thornton yelled after her,“You have a couple of weeks.”
Men can be good for something, Livy thought.
There were echoes running along the walls. A young woman’s voice, beyond Walton House and beyond the third arch, in the garden quad. Surrounded by red-brick, she sounded passionate, if not slightly neurotic. Livy continued on until she could see the woman. There was a small crowd around her and in the crowd was Livy’s friend Hermione whom she called “My” for short.
“Hey ya My.” Livy said into Hermione’s ear.
“Livy, this one’s on about it today love.”
“On about what My?”
“Just on and on really,” she said smiling.
The two turned to listen.
“So that just as. to assure elimination of economic classes requires the revolt of the underclass (the proletariat) and, in a -temporary dictatorship, their seizure of the means of production, so to assure the elimination of sexual classes requires the revolt of the underclass (women) and the seizure of control of reproduction: not only the full restoration to women of ownership of their own bodies, but also their (temporary) seizure of control of human fertility – the new population biology as well as all the social institutions of child-bearing and child-rearing. And just as the end goal of socialist revolution was not only the elimination of the economic class privilege but of the economic class distinction itself, so the end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud’s ‘polymorphous perversity’ – would probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would be born to both sexes equally, or independently of. either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general, and any remaining inferiority to adults in physical strength would be compensated for culturally. The division of labour would be ended by the elimination of labour altogether (through cybernetics). The tyranny of the biological family would be broken.”*
The speaker finished.
“That was something.” Livy said smiling.
“Something or other.” My returned, her green eyes alight with the levity of Livy’s presence.
“You know My, I think I’m done here.”
My furrowed her brow.
“But its only just a year.”
“I know but… well… I just don’t want to be institutionalized anymore. Professor Thornton suggested America.”
“Yeah, doesn’t it sound cool lovey? America, John Wayne, hamburgers and freeways. Professor Thornton says he can get me an internship at the New Yorker. Bloody cool isn’t it?”
“You’ve got no degree love.”
“I’m not running for political office. I’m just gonna write. He thinks I can write and good if I work at it.”
She’d been here a lifetime she thought, everyday like a bigger yawn than the one before. A nuthouse full of pontificators espousing their “singular” and simplistic, shortsighted nonsense. She wanted to be in it, on it, of it. Inside of things, part of the current. Not cloistered behind stone walls.
She walked into the bare, shallow and unadorned space of the college chapel, not because she necessarily believed in the power of the place, but because, as of yet, she hadn’t ruled it out, and was feeling the need to connect to something.
Professor Thornton, Miss Brompton, two saviors, thank you God.
* from The Dialectic of Sex, Shulamith Firestone (1970)
Source: The Dialectic of Sex, publ. The Women’s Press, 1979.
Just the first Chapter reproduced here.