A Few Feminist Reads

by Cara on May 24, 2008

in blogging, books, feminism, fun, random

So I joined this meme thing called Weekly Geeks. Every week a different challenge/theme is chosen and participants go and do it on their own blog (if they wish). Dewey, who runs Weekly Geeks, is a good friend of mine, which is part of the reason I joined. The other reason is that I figured it could sometimes be fun. The catch is that it’s mostly book blog related, so I won’t be able to participate most weeks while still staying at least marginally on topic (and who am I kidding, I totally wouldn’t keep up with it if I could). But, this week I can! Hooray!

This week’s theme:

Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. Find several books addressing that issue; they don’t have to books you’ve read, just books you might like to read. Using images (of the book covers or whatever you feel illustrates your topic) present these books in your blog.

So, duh, I’m obviously going to choose feminism.

Books I’ve read:

The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf is one of my all-time favorite feminist books (review here). It wasn’t the world’s easiest read, but it was well worth it. It was one of those life-changing books for me. I was already a feminist, and already knew that the beauty standards placed on women were unfair, etc., but like many I still found a lot of that to be really hard to let go. The Beauty Myth helped me to let go. I can’t say that I no longer have “I’m ugly” and “I’m fat” moments, but I can tell you that they’ve been dramatically reduced in a way that I never could have imagined. Can’t recommend this one more.

Pregnancy and Power: A Short History of Reproductive Politics in America by Rickie Solinger is another favorite. It’s just what it sounds like — a condensed version of American reproductive politics. I personally learned a lot that prior to reading it (a year and a half, two years ago?), I didn’t know — from the sometimes ugly truth about Margaret Sanger, to how surprisingly recent it was that the government could outlaw contraception for some people, and the drastic differences between white and black reproductive histories, which leads us to the next selection . . .

Killing The Black Body by Dorothy Roberts was a hugely eye-opening book for me (review here). It’s also a really fucking smart one, and got me to think about all kinds of things that had never entered my privileged little brain before. It was also the first that I ever heard about the rather recent forced sterilization of (mostly) black women through the use of Norplant. I tend to reference this book a lot, and it’s for good reason.

We Don’t Need Another Wave is a collection of essays by feminist writers (review here). Thankfully, I found it to be very diverse in terms of authors and topics and thought that it had a little bit of everything. There’s some challenging material in there with regards to race, class, sexual orientation and gender and activism; you’ll find a fair bit to chew on. I’m often wary of collections, because the quality can be so inconsistent. But remarkably, I enjoyed virtually every essay.

Books I Haven’t Read: From My Massive “To Be Read” Pile:

Against Our Will: Men, Women and Rape by Susan Brownmiller is a classic with respect to writings on sexual assault. I have seen/heard some negative reviews (from those who are anti-rape) with regards to generalizations on many things and some racist ideas. I read a few chapters of the book in college for my Sex, Gender and Social Relations course, and it was very exciting for me at the time. It was some of the first feminist literature about sexual assault that I had ever read. I was also less “radical” in my views on rape at that time, so I definitely don’t remember anything particularly over the top. I don’t remember racism either, but I was admittedly far more stupid when it came to recognizing racism than I am now (or I may have not been reading the right chapters). So whether the criticisms are valid or not, I don’t know, but it is on my list.

Rape: Sex, Violence, History by Joanna Bourke is another anti-rape book that apparently covers a wide range of rape “types” (men of women, men of men, women of women, women of men, gang rape, etc.) and focuses on why rapists rape. I read an excerpt from it around the time it was released, and it was chilling and difficult but also made it a must-read for me. I’m looking forward to this one as much as one can look forward to a book about rape, not because it will be fun but because it looks to be very worthwhile.

Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism is another collection. It’s topic is apparently what the title suggests, and seems to have a focus on the way that feminism deals and does not deal with racism. I imagine that this book will be challenging but also eye-opening. The racism within feminist circles of both past and present is something that I’m trying to learn more about, considering recent events, and it looks like a necessary, engaging and important read. (Ironically enough, the collection is published by Seal Press. With regards to the boycott, I came to own both of these books long before this recent debacle, and fully support buying used.)

Virgin: The Untouched History by Hanne Blank looks so far up my alley, it’s ridiculous. It also looks like it will be a lot of fun. It seems to take my line of reasoning — that the general concept of virginity is complete and total bullshit — and back it up with a whole lot of bizarre, amusing and frightening historical facts. It’s also about the social obsession with virginity, asks questions about why people care so damn much and shows how for all our increased sexual liberation, the hysteria around virginity is still alive and well. Honestly, I think that when I’m not feeling outraged, I’m going to absolutely love it.

Alright then! Have you read any of the books on the list? Leave your thoughts on them if you have, or your own feminist book recommendations/wish lists.


1 Renee May 24, 2008 at 11:56 am

I have read the beauty myth, and I must say that it continues to be relevant. I think it should be read by every young woman as they enter puberty. I was never one for “dolling myself” up and this book reinforced all the reasons why I had made that decision. Finally someone who thought like me. I wasn’t crazy.

The book I would add to you reading list is ain’t I a woman by bell hooks. It was the first black feminist/womanist book that I ever read. While it openly criticized racism in feminism it helped me to understand that as a WOC I still needed to identify with feminism. It uniquely places WOC in a historical and social framework. If you have not read it, I highly suggest it.

2 Chayenne May 24, 2008 at 1:00 pm

I’m glad you wrote about this topic, since I’m not at all well-read in this area. Great recommendations. I’m especially interested in Colonize This! and Virgin: The Untouched History. :)

3 Rebecca May 24, 2008 at 4:04 pm

I read Virgin: The Untouched History last year and found it quite enlightening and interesting.

4 Heather May 24, 2008 at 8:46 pm

I actually just received “We Don’t Need Another Wave” and “The Beauty Myth” in the mail from Amazon… I’m pretty excited about both of them. :)

5 Jayme May 25, 2008 at 5:49 pm

I just read Virgin: The Untouched History for a summer research project I’m doing on virginity in contemporary American culture. It’s interesting and entertaining and rasies some great questions.

6 Lindsay May 26, 2008 at 12:20 am

I read Virgin last year on a long car ride with my parents and ended up reading several chapters aloud to them. It was fascinating, well-researched and a good read. Highly recommended.

7 Tracey May 26, 2008 at 3:49 pm

Before discovering the feminist blogosphere, I devoted nearly every free minute to reading feminist books. Can’t get enough of them. I’m not sure if this link works or not (I’ve been having problems with it from my blog), but I try to keep track of the ones I’ve read using Library Thing: http://www.librarything.com/catalog.php?view=Trrrracey

I of course don’t always agree with everything I read in some of these works, but some favorites I have to stand by include:

-How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved Amercia, by Cristina Page
-Backlash – Susan Faludi
-The Second Sex – Simone De Beauvoir
-Sister Outsider – Audre Lorde
-Feminism is for Everybody – bell hooks

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