Possibly the best thing to come from the 50 Shades of Grey tripe aside of the below Sinfest cartoon (relevant and related):
( http://www.sinfest.net/archive_page.php?comicID=4307 )
50 Shades of Feminism is a series of personal accounts from fifty different women – activists, professionals, mothers, sisters, lesbian, straight, from all cultures and walks of life. It raised interesting issues: brown women vs white in feminism, and the potential that women of colour can perceive such top-down approaches to helping as an attack on cultural autonomy, which can result in a knee-jerk regression into practices that might have been tapering off naturally within a culture, such as female genital mutilation.
There are some extremely hard-hitting personal stories in 50 Shades of Feminism. An account of the young woman raised in a conservative family whose son joined the Taliban; she was beaten to death by her father for daring to write poetry, and her mother committed suicide afterwards. Reading over the vast spectrum of different experiences reinforced to me how lucky I feel to live where I do, in a country where my personal freedom is a legal right, and reiterated throughout 50 Shades of feminism was that all the women’s voices ultimately expressed desire for the same things: personal autonomy, respect and equality.
The book isn’t just a skin-deep exploration of female experiences either; many of the personal accounts provide leads for investigating further the stories and information imparted. Linda Hilsum made a video in Afghanistan, about a project to train up young women as teachers, complete with interviews with the girls about their aspirations. Isabel Hilton raised an interesting topic in referring to a TED talk by a female executive in Silicon Valley – “(P)ower correlates positively to likeability in men and negatively in women.” This does link to the account in Women Warriors (a separate book by Robin Cross & Rosalind Miles)of Brunhilde, the Flemish queen tortured for days after her overthrow, more ferociously it seems due to her female impertinence in assuming the throne at all. Hilton focuses on female rulers through Chinese history and their postmortem vilification, contrasting this with the near-deification of some male rulers.
The entries are not all autobiographical; some women write of women they have known (a war correspondent, killed by shrapnel whilst sheltering from a bomb blast), others have imaginary accounts of conversations with influential historical women (such as Eleanor Marx, daughter of Karl Marx).
50 Shades of Feminism is also incredibly contemporary, having been conceived of, prepared, edited and published in the end months of 2012. Liz Kelly covers the sexual violence debates regarding Julian Assange, Jimmy Savile and the immortal horror of American Republicans with their ignorant references to “legitimate rape” (informative, shocking video mocking this term and its implications here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KtzqvqzBdUQ ), and their declaration that conception following rape being a “gift from God.”
A great mix of sincere, down-to-earth, inspiring, angering, thoughtful, provocative pieces from a veritable stampede of intelligent feminists. I am keen to see more books published in this vein.
K.L gives 50 Shades of Feminism 5 out of 5 pants-wearing, kicking and cussing suffragettes.
I just finished reading How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.
It’s hilarious. Breathtakingly funny, occasionally cringeworthy, and utterly sensible discussions of issues people face in everyday life; albeit this book is directed at those who (for the most part) possess a vagina.
It’s feminism defined as the right to be ‘one of the guys’, and a guide to picking out misogynistic or even our own sexist behaviour as ‘Dude. Rude. Would you say that or do that to another man?’ and ‘Is this something a guy would do, or is it just a bunch of bullshit we shouldn’t give a second glance?’
Reading How To Be A Woman is like sitting down with your favourite Disreputable Aunt – the one who’s still young enough to totally get you, who got drunk with Lady GaGa, writes columns on contemporary society, and speaks honestly and happily about both her two daughters, and about having had an abortion.
She’s so geeky, so upbeat, so clever and so unwilling to accept any of the facets or farces of life at face value – Brazilians? High heels? Having children? Not having children? Having to stay young? Sexism? Abortions? Menstruation? – that I want to be her.
And for the guys, who may be backing away from this post in fear, I say: “Dudebro. Read it. Read it now. This book may be the most honest conversation you will ever have with a woman, and you will understand so much.”
It’s an exhilarated, happy book. It’s not a rage, or a tantrum, or a sulk. I’m sure Moran, being human, has experienced all those things. But only briefly, and then she picks herself back up and jumps onboard the good ship HMAS Gosh, Isn’t This All Awesome? What Comes Next?!, and sails cheerfully off for warmer waters.
It’s inspiring, and makes me think that yes, we should have the lady-balls to say, ‘Yeah – I like the look of this world. And I’ve been here for a good while, watching. Now, here’s how I’d tweak it. Because we’re all in this together. We’re all just, you know. The Guys.’
If I could set a mandatory reading list for everyone, everywhere, I’m pretty sure this would be on it.
K.L gives How To Be A Woman 5 out of 5 tipsy friends dancing badly in public.