Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Feminist's advisory


“…if you are considering becoming a feminist or are trying to convert someone, the most effective book is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf…”

Yesterday at orientation, the father of an incoming student asked me, “Does anyone still read books?” After finishing Click: When we knew we were feminists (Eds. Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan, Seal Press, 2010) last night, I have a belated answer: Third Wave feminists. Maybe it’s because I’m a librarian, but one of the salient features I noticed in this collection of intriguing essays by women from my generation was the emphasis on books.

The book reveals a pivotal moment or experience that converted each of these women to feminism. The majority of the contributors mention at least a few authors or specific works, and almost all of those works are monographs. Most are recommendations, but equally interesting are the contributors’ ‘anti-recommendations’, if you will (i.e., sources they find troubling). For example, Jillian Mackenzie laments that her female friends and acquaintances bought He’s just not that into you: The no-excuses truth to understanding guys (Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, Simon Spotlight Entertainment, 2004), hook, line and sinker. These Third Wave feminists persuade and dissuade the reader in the realm of TV, film, and music too, but that’s far less frequent than the references to monographs. Thus, I chose to call this post ‘Feminist’s advisory’; it’s a play on the library term ‘reader’s advisory’, the process of recommending sources to library users.

Below is a bibliography I’ve compiled. Why? Click does not include full citations, so if you’d like to do some summer reading, this list should expedite things. Also, I was curious what a quantitative analysis would reveal. The bottom line is that if you are considering becoming a feminist or are trying to convert someone, the most effective book is The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf, and the author not to be missed is bell hooks. Actually if you cross-reference the list of recommended books with the list of recommended authors, Gloria Steinem is equally popular as Wolf and hooks.

A few notes on my process: Some of the references are to books in the contributors’ parents’ personal library, but I’ve included them if they are mentioned with a hint of admiration. I’ve left out any works that are presented in a neutral or negative way, which has necessitated personal judgment, but for the most part, the endorsements are pretty clear-cut. A few of them, like the book on ADHD, only make sense in the context of the essays, so consider any confusion to be an enticement to read Click.

A Feminist bibliography gleaned from Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists


Online Sources:

Eds. Valenti, Jessica; Valenti, Vanessa; Mukhopadhyay, Samhita; Friedman, Ann; Martin, Courtney E.; Pérez, Miriam Zoila; and Merritt, Pamela. Feministing. 2004 to present, http://www.feministing.com (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click, who is also an author-editor of Feministing).

Articles:

Banks, Sandy. “A Younger View of Feminism”, Los Angeles Times April 10, 2009. Print. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

O’Reilly, Jane. “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth.” Ms./New York Magazine, December 20, 1971. Print. (mentioned in introduction as inspiration for the book title; also endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Quindlen, Anna. “Public and Private” (column), New York Times, 1990-1992. Print. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Rich, Adrienne. “Reflections on “Compulsory Heterosexuality,” Journal of Women's History 16.1 2004, 9-11. Print. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Magazines:

Ed. (founding) Pogrebin, Letty Cottin. Ms. , New York Magazine, Ms. Foundation for Education and Communication, Liberty Media, 1971-present. Print.(Endorsed by 3 contributors to Click)

Ed. (founding) Pratt, Jane. Sassy, Matilda Publications, Lang Communications, and Petersen Publishing, 1988-1996. Print.(Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Books:

*juvenile:

Lindgren, Astrid. Pippi Longstocking. New York: Viking Press, 1950.(Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Thomas, Marlo. Free to be…You and Me. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974.(Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

*adult:

Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid's Tale. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985. Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Baumgardner, Jennifer, and Richards, Amy. Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Bordo, Susan. Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Boston Women's Health Book Collective. Our Bodies, Ourselves: A Book by and for Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1976. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Brown, Rita Mae. Rubyfruit Jungle. Plainfield, Vt.: Daughters, Inc., 1973. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Collins, Jackie. Lucky. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Estrich, Susan. Sex and Power. New York: Riverhead Books, 2000. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Faludi, Susan. Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women. Publication: New York: Crown, 1991. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Fitzgerald, F. Scott. The Great Gatsby. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1925. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique. New York: W.W. Norton, 1963. (Endorsed by 2 contributors to Click)

Gordon, Mary. The Company of Women. New York: Random House, 1980. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Hill Collins, Patricia. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment. New York: Routledge, 2000. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Kelly, Kate and Ramundo, Peggy. You Mean I’m not Lazy, Stupid or Crazy?!: A Self-Help Book for Adults with Attention Deficit Disorder. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1993. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Moraga, Cherríe, and Anzaldúa, Gloria. This Bridge Called my Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color. New York: Kitchen Table, Women of Color Press, 1983. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Morrison, Toni. The Bluest Eye. New York: Plume Book, 1994. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Pipher, Mary Bray. Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls. New York: Putnam, 1994. (Endorsed by 3 contributors to Click)

Steinem, Gloria. Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1983. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Susann, Jacqueline. Valley of the Dolls: A Novel. New York: Grove Press, 1966. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Wallace, Michele. Black Macho and the Myth of the Superwoman. New York: Dial Press, 1979.(Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Walker, Rebecca. To be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism. New York: Anchor Books, 1995. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Walker, Alice. In Search of our Mothers’ Gardens: Womanist Prose. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. (Endorsed by 2 contributors to Click)

Wolf, Naomi. The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women. New York: W. Morrow, 1991. (Endorsed by 4 contributors to Click)

Book Chapters:

Higginbotham, Anastasia. “Chicks Goin’ At It.” In Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation. Seal Press, 1995: 11-18. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Chernik, Abra Fortune. “The Body Politic.” In Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation . Seal Press, 1995: 103-111. (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

Authors/poets mentioned (but not specific works by them):


Bella Abzug (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Simone de Beauvoir (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
James Boswell (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Patricia Hill Collins (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Andrea Dworkin (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
T. S. Eliot (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Ralph Waldo Emerson (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Susan Faludi (Endorsed by 2 contributors to Click)
Betty Friedan (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Nancy Friday (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Nikki Giovanni (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Nathaniel Hawthorne (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
bell hooks (Endorsed by 4contributors to Click)
Zora Neale Hurston (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Kumari Jayawardena (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Audrey Lorde (Endorsed by 3 contributors to Click)
Catherine MacKinnon (Endorsed by 2 contributors to Click)
Chandra Mohanty (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Uma Narayan (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Pat Parker (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Katha Pollitt (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Adrienne Rich (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Margaret Sanger (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Gloria Steinem (Endorsed by 3 contributors to Click)
Henry David Thoreau (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Mark Twain (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Alice Walker (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Cornel West (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Virginia Woolf (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)
Elizabeth Wurtzel (Endorsed by 1 contributor to Click)

The contributors aren’t arrogantly name-dropping these authors. They seem to genuinely appreciate the role of the written word in shaping their feminism. For example, Marni Grossman remembers reading prolifically during her recovery from anorexia and Jillian MacKenzie describes reading as revelatory.

That made me reconsider my own conflicted relationship with theory. Here’s my theory about theory: I feel that many people, myself included, misunderstand theory but they feel pressured to include it in academic essays. As a result, obscure theorists are touted more than they might be otherwise. Through a kind of skewed citation analysis, the theorist joins the canon. Although I don’t shirk my responsibilities to add theory to our library collection, personally, I’m more inclined to turn to Gilmore Girls than Guattari to contextualize my art. I feel there’s a more direct connection and that it’s more democratic (read: accessible). Before you say anything, GG fans, I acknowledge that popular culture and scholarly theory aren’t mutually exclusive, and that the show’s writers worked Betty Friedan’s death into the script immediately and impressively.

As to how all of this relates to my artwork, last week I updated my artist statement to incorporate theory so it would be better suited to an exhibition I’m applying to. I was researching the Other in a feminist context, which naturally led me to Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex. I found a few token passages, and reluctantly added it to my pile of summer reading, figuring it’s a classic I should be more familiar with. Only a few days later, I was watching The Truth About Cats and Dogs, in which the male love interest gives the unwitting female love interest a copy of de Beauvoir’s Letters to Sartre. I searched online to learn more, and I became captivated by the couple’s relationship, which is not unlike my own marriage, at least in terms of an unconventional living situation (I have a long distance marriage) and in terms of mutual support of creative endeavors (we’re both artists). Suddenly I was adding this tome of love letters to my summer reading, along with de Beauvoir’s autobiography, Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter. Once de Beauvoir went from being a theorist to a person in my mind, I felt more open to reading her theory. Maybe that’s why I enjoyed the stories in Click so much.

1 comment:

  1. What a freakin' amazing piece. You are just getting better in your postings. But, you are also making me realise, that while I would never say I am a feminist before reading your blog, I probably am one.

    And I totally agree with just how much books impact our lives and our thinking. A recent one that had such an impact on me was The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

    This book made me think about expectations others have of us and our positions in life and the expectations and personnas we adopt for ourselves. BUT, how things do change over time, regardless of what or how we construct our lives.

    Excellent post. Very thought provoking!

    ReplyDelete