Feminism

I've been wanting to write about feminism for some time now, but I was afraid of how it would be perceived. Then it hit me: the fact that I was afraid was the biggest reason I should write about it. And as this is such a large theme and there are many things which can be discussed, I will focus only on what feminism is about.
The word feminism evokes different ideas in all of us. However, the idea that feminists are "angry and hateful women who want to be superior to men" is the most frequent one. Sadly. Because this is not what feminism is about. It's about equality. It's not about hatred and superiority and so it's definitely not about a war between men and women. It's about trying to address, discuss, and change many ridiculous gender based prejudices and stereotypes which are deeply rooted in our culture. The prejudices and stereotypes which complicate life for both women and men.
I don't hate men, I actually really like them, and some I even love and adore, because they are kind and amazing human beings. And I absolutely don't want to be superior to men, I don't want to steal anything from them, I just want to be their equal partner. Someone who is taken seriously without the need to prove themself first. Not someone who is dismissed immediately only because of being a woman. I just want my chance to be a happy and decent human being. And that's what feminism is about.

(Note: I've learnt a lot about feminism from amazing male and female teachers.)

It seems to me that very often people don't know much about history of feminism and feminism in general. And as this is a book blog, here are a few books I think might be a good starting point if you are interested in learning more about feminism. Some of them I've read, some of them I'm reading, the rest I want to read. There are many more amazing books, of course, this list is just a suggestion.

Books:

A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft





Writing in an age when the call for the rights of man had brought revolution to America and France, Mary Wollstonecraft produced her own declaration of female independence in 1792. Passionate and forthright, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman attacked the prevailing view of docile, decorative femininity and instead laid out the principles of emancipation: an equal education for girls and boys, an end to prejudice, and the call for women to become defined by their profession, not their partner. Mary Wollstonecraft's work was received with a mixture of admiration and outrage. Walpole called her "a hyena in petticoats," yet it established her as the mother of modern feminism.

A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf



A Room of One's Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on 24 October 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women's colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled "Women and Fiction", and hence the essay, are considered non-fiction. The essay is generally seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy.

The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan
  




Landmark, groundbreaking, classic—these adjectives barely do justice to the pioneering vision and lasting impact of The Feminine Mystique. Published in 1963, it gave a pitch-perfect description of “the problem that has no name”: the insidious beliefs and institutions that undermined women’s confidence in their intellectual capabilities and kept them in the home. Writing in a time when the average woman first married in her teens and 60 percent of women students dropped out of college to marry, Betty Friedan captured the frustrations and thwarted ambitions of a generation and showed women how they could reclaim their lives. Part social chronicle, part manifesto, The Feminine Mystique is filled with fascinating anecdotes and interviews as well as insights that continue to inspire.

The Myth of Mars and Venus: Do Men and Women Really Speak Different Languages? by Deborah Cameron




Popular assumptions about gender and communication--famously summed up in the title of the massively influential 1992 bestseller Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus--can have unforeseen but far-reaching consequences in many spheres of life, from attitudes to the phenomenon of "date-rape" to expectations of achievement at school, and potential discrimination in the work-place.
In this wide-ranging and thoroughly readable book, Deborah Cameron, Rupert Murdoch Professor of Language and Communication at Oxford University and author of a number of leading texts in the field of language and gender studies, draws on over 30 years of scientific research to explain what we really know and to demonstrate how this is often very different from the accounts we are familiar with from recent popular writing.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

Fifty Shades of Feminism by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes, Susie Orbach and others
The antidote to the idea that being a woman is all about submitting to desire. There are many more shades than that and here are fifty women to explore them.

Fifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, have women really exchanged purity and maternity to become desiring machines inspired only by variations of sex, shopping and masochism - all coloured a brilliant neuro-pink?

In this volume, fifty women young and old - writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers - reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today.

Contributors include: Tahmima Anam, Joan Bakewell, Bidisha, Lydia Cacho, Nina Power, Shami Chakrabarti, Lennie Goodings, Linda Grant, Natalie Haynes, Siri Hustvedt, Jude Kelly, Kathy Lette, Kate Mosse, Bee Rowlatt, Elif Shafak, Ahdaf Soueif, Shirley Thompson, Natasha Walter, Jeanette Winterson - alongside the three editors.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates







Women are standing up and #shoutingback. In a culture that's driven by social media, for the first time women are using this online space (@EverydaySexism www.everydaysexism.com) to come together, share their stories and encourage a new generation to recognise the problems that women face. This book is a call to arms in a new wave of feminism and it proves sexism is endemic - socially, politically and economically. But women won't stand for it. The Everyday Sexism Project is grounded in reality; packed with substance, validity and integrity it shows that women will no longer tolerate a society that ignores the dangers and endless effects of sexism.

The Feminist Promise: 1792 to the Present by Christine Stansell
Stansell largely blames the breaks in the long narrative of women's struggle for equality in America on "historical amnesia" that erased a sense that "the past was backing them up" and left each generation to forge new approaches without a record of prior feminist thought and action. Stansell's comprehensive history tracks major and minor moments that highlight promise both realized and unmet. Beginning with the release of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Woman and concluding with the connection of modern American feminism to global human rights, Stansell constructs a sweeping narrative that puts the accomplishments of specific players, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and the oft-overlooked Maria Stewart, into a larger historical context, and also chronicles leaders, organizations, and acts of protest that defined feminism in the 20th century. She examines the partnership between abolition and suffrage that led to respective political victories and indentifies the missteps (like an early partnership with white supremacists) that compromised progress, creating a truly balanced history for future generations. The volume's breadth means some details and individuals are lost, but in plotting the points of a long overdue narrative, Stansell fulfills her promise.

4 comments:

Blue Eyed Night Owl said...

Nice post! And the list is very interesting. I have only read the Moran book, but I've been wanting to read up on feminism lately. So I might check some of these out.

kara-karina@Nocturnal Book Reviews said...

Thanks for a thought-provoking list of reads, Petra! I'm going to check it out. Feminism is a complex topic for discussion, and a very interesting one, and I think it's especially telling in genres like urban fantasy how much we need heroines who kick ass to feel better about ourselves as women :) I don't talk about it these days because I don't need to in the environment I live in where my family and friends treat me like an equal, but I used to have huge discussions about women equality in the university in my 20s. In a majorly chauvinistic country like Russia it's still a big issue as the mentality of a nation hasn't shifted yet towards equality.

Ula (Blog of Erised) said...

I hate how people think feminism is something bad and scary, because just a small fraction of people ruined it for everyone. Bad rep is born out of those few individuals, that take it too far. It's like that with men (how they're all the same and blah blah), and with women (how we're all crazy), so it's nothing weird feminism has a bad sound to it as well. Some women do drive it too far, and there's the problem.
I don't like announcing out loud I'm a feminist, because it immediately brands me as a crazy person that thinks is above everyone else, especially men. Which is not what we want. I want what you describe. :)
I will definitely look the books you linked up, and see what they're like. :)

Petra said...

@Blue Eyed Night Owl
I loved that book. I think it's written so that almost anyone can read it and understand it, which is great.

@Karina
I'm glad that the people around you treat you like an equal, that's just great. I feel like the situation in UK is better than in my country as well. As for Russia, it's a shame. I love so many Russian things - writers, artists, folklore and myths. It's a shame. :/

@Ula
Yes, exactly, I feel like every time I even mention feminism I immediately have to explain. It sucks.
And I really despise all those generalizations and try to avoid them.
I'm glad you agree. :)

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