In a passage of Les Misérables, Victor Hugo offered a description of the animal kingdom that speaks directly to this matter. “Animals,” he wrote, “are nothing but the portrayal of our virtues and vices made manifest to our eyes — the visible reflections of our souls. God displays them to us, to give us food for thought. But since they are no more than shadows, He has not made them educable in the full sense of the word. Why should He do so?”
What Hugo saw in animals, the feminist sees in the prostitute. When the feminist beholds the prostitute, she finds a reflection of the male at his most privileged and domineering. The image is hateful to the feminist, who can only see what she loathes; and in that eruption of feeling the other woman disappears. The prostitute has become to the feminist like Hugo’s animal — a shadow devoid of human possibilities.
How do we untie this one? The only way possible: a strand at a time. And we’ll know we’re there when the feminist lion consents to lie down with the prostitute lamb.
David Landau is a novelist and playwright in San Francisco.