currently: recommended reading on feminism

these days, you are far more likely to find me trawling the internet for incisive articles about feminist issues as opposed to seeing me decked out to the nines and taking photos to share with you. so as i was scratching my head wondering about what i should post next here, it came to me: i write about fashion all the time, mention feminism in passing, but hardly ever talk ABOUT feminism. and today, there is no shortage of things to talk about when it comes to the vibrant movement. i’ve been sharing links left right and centre on social media, but i thought it might be helpful to my readers to share some of the best articles here to tide you over as you patiently await a new post about fashion from a feminist perspective. for the most part, these recommended reads omit the “fashion” and focus on the feminism, but i think they will tickle your fancy.

Fuck Patriarchy by Midge Belickis

Dear Patriarchy, Fuck Off by Midge Belickis

lately i’ve been thinking a lot of some of the conversations i come across online or in real life about their perspectives on the voices or faces of feminism. it almost always makes me feel quite uncomfortable, and always gets me thinking: who are my modern day feminist heroes, who i admire and aspire to be like? why are they never in the limelight the same way the “flavour of the moment” famous feminists are? why do i feel so uncomfortable with the idea of feminist figureheads, instead of a vision of an engaged larger group? why do i feel the need to bite my tongue before criticizing aforementioned feminist figures for fear of feeding into internalized misogyny or girl-hate? and last but not least, how do i find a balance between the urge to reject the “feminist” label, since these mainstream feminist figures do not even come clos to representing my beliefs or the feminists i know, and the empowerment and perspective i often get from the very same movement?

"Viva El Feminismo" circa 1936

“Viva El Feminismo” circa 1936

luckily, i’m not alone in these discomforts. lately, formerly highly-lauded self-identified feminists, such as Naomi Wolf and Caitlin Moran, are finding themselves in hot water over head-scratching comments or publications. instead of steeping in their discomfort, many writers and thinkers have been articulating their frustrations in fantastic ways.

Sheila Sampath over at Shameless wrote this fantastic article entitled “The future of feminism?” (October 7, 2012)

I think there is an important conversation to be had around how patriarchy functions in divisive ways, and how this often results in a culture of competition among women and girls. One of the first things I felt I had to do as a self-identified feminist was acknowledge and challenge this tactic in an attempt to overcome it. But without context and analysis, all a statement like that does is say that Wolf isn’t accountable to her feminist community for the things that she says. It’s insulting to critics like Jacklyn Friedman and Laurie Penny, it perpetuates the very beauty myths Wolf herself once wrote about, and it assumes that all of us want to look like able-bodied, femme-identified, zaftig white women. Trust me: we don’t.

Do yourself a favour and take the time to read the whole thing. If you want to read a real take-down of Wolf’s latest book, I think Zoe Whittall puts it best here:

Zoe Whittall tweeting a link to an article entitled "Naomi Wolf's book Vagina: self-help marketed as feminism" suggesting "Maybe read this, and then let's stop talking about Naomi Wolf, forever."

sad to see what one of the first feminist writers you really connected with has come to producing. but! moving on…

another more recent feminist figurehead is Caitlin Moran. a colleague recommended i read her book “How to be a Woman”, and i’ve been seeing more of her words (and face) these days (like in this article i disliked quite a bit). then, she tweeted some stupid shit. many, many times. over the course of a few hours. i try as hard as i can to stay away from twitter shit shows, primarily because i don’t think it is possible to have civil discussions with strangers in short 140-characters-or-less statements, try as we might. but luckily for people like me, there are fantastic plugged-in writers like Bim Adewunmi who offer us insightful rundowns on the situation. What the Girls spat on Twitter tells us about feminism (October 7th, 2012) is one of the best things i have read about the way white feminists often have their head in the sand (or worse) when it comes to questions from women of colour about which women get represented in pop culture:

When we have “heroes”, we look up to them, and feel it especially keenly when they mess up. But even with all of my affection for the series, the omission of black and brown people in non-stereotypical roles was glaring. Is it unfair to ask Dunham to represent all of womanhood onscreen? Of course it is. But here’s the thing: no one did. We merely asked that she take a step back and question the underlying reason for why Girls looks the way it does.

Read the whole thing! Reni Eddo-Lodge tackles the very same question in her article A problem that stubbornly refuses to budge (October 8th, 2012). This sentence says it all:

When feminists can see the problem with all male panels but can’t see the problem with all white television programmes, it’s worth questioning who they’re really fighting for.

A card of a flapper smoking a cigarette saying "I won't stand up for gossip. I prefer to sit down and make myself comfortable."

I Won’t Stand for Gossip.

last but not least, if reading all these posts is getting you feeling like i’m feeding into negative shit-talking gossip, i recommend one last read: On Shit-Talking Your Way Through Life by Michelle over at The Untitled Teen Mag.

My feminism, believe it or not, is wrapped up in shit-talking. The two are intertwined. In one hand, I carry my ideas and aspirations for me and mine; and in the other, a big-ass stick. While I’m working to create new and better spaces for those who are left behind, I’m making sure that those who opt out of helping me and others in our quest will never live it down. My feminism is vicious for those who cannot be. It is loud and ugly and it will laugh in your face if you give it excuses. It will keep your name in its mouth. It will never have a problem with keeping you on your toes where you belong.

let me know what you think! have you read this articles already? what resonates with you the most?

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4 Comments

Filed under currently, digital/online culture, links, politics

4 responses to “currently: recommended reading on feminism

  1. I’m so in love with that 30s photo. I’ve been really interested in the Wolf/Moran discourse that’s been happening. There was a really funny criticism of Wolf’s book on I think Feministing? I forget. I’d like to know what your reading – blog roll is for feminism. Thanks for sharing this.

    Maybe I find myself tight-lipped with feminism because I worry about getting the kind of scrutiny that came to Wolf/Moran. I’ll never forget the time in one of my Women’s Studies classes at UC Santa Cruz when I said something stupid in class and a classmate called me on it. But she didn’t just call me out, she full-on took me to task, made me feel horrible, and I’m sure I blushed. I remember that moment so clearly and vividly that I feel like on one hand it has kept me more silent on the feminism front, but on the other hand, I don’t wish she didn’t say what she did because I learned so much from it. So maybe that’s the lesson right there. I shouldn’t be afraid to speak up on topics because even if it turns out I’m wrong, and I’ll feel ashamed, I’ll be a better person ultimately because of having said it.

    • i feel like that’s a very important point to raise, mary. especially with the internet era of so many young people blogging about feminism – whether they have studied it or have been involved in activism or not – in their spare time.

      when it comes to criticizing folks like Wolf or Moran, i think there is an important line to draw between “career” feminists who make their living as public figures, rather than curious young students who are bound to make missteps (and even online bloggers to a certain extent). when it comes to criticizing someone who makes their buck at starting discussions, stirring up dirt, and having their name in the headlines. these people do have books to promote, in the end.

      at the same time, i think respectful disagreement in classroom spaces can be incredibly formative. i think back to the times when i thought any woman who didn’t choose to identify as a feminist was quote unquote, “a fucking idiot” as opposed to where i stand today, where i recognize a lot of the faults of the feminist movement (i.e. the blatant racism sometimes in the form of endorsing eugenics, ableism, classist bullshit) and understand the many reasons why some people aren’t comfortable with using the label for themselves. and of course, your ideas have to come from somewhere – from your experience, and from making statements that maybe aren’t so clear, or true, or informed. but that’s often how you get there in the end!

      i waffle back and forth about the importance of being made uncomfortable by some of the ideas feminism presents – especially for more privileged folks. at the same time, i often feel like the wrong people are made to feel alienated, like the people who have been historically/currently excluded from the mainstream feminist movement – everyone from trans* folks, people of colour, people with disabilities, etc.

      this has been a very long rambly response but i hope you get what i mean! i’ve been in your shoes as well, and just reading your comment took me back to second year women’s studies classes and not so pleasant memories…

  2. Why do i feel the need to bite my tongue before criticizing aforementioned feminist figures for fear of feeding into internalized misogyny or girl-hate?

    Right???

    There are a number of people on my twitter feed who are very willing to lean forward in time and get to the ‘well she has done a lot for feminism and this was stupid but lets not MURDER her’ stage of the Moran ordeal, which I feel awkward about. I don’t want people to lose their heroes, especially if they acknowledge that it WAS a lot of uncompassionate crap that she said, but.. too soon, y’know?

    I caught each of these articles when you linked them previously, except for the last one. Off to read that, then!

  3. This site was… how do I say it? Relevant!
    ! Finally I’ve found something that helped me. Thank you!

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