Welcome to the very first post in my Beyond the Body feminist book series! I’m going to be spending the summer reading books of fiction, non-fiction, and essays that offer a fresh, encouraging, and intersectional perspective on feminism and writing about them here in my blog. I know that there are several of you who will be joining me in reading these books and I’m so glad to foster an environment of mutual discovery, conversation, and encouragement. Throughout the book series, I will give a (very loose) reading list and schedule for us to follow and offer my insights and questions for us to discuss in the comments section. Please feel free to give your opinions and reactions to the literature. That’s where this series is really going to come alive; when we bring all of our own experience, stories, and baggage to the table. If you disagree with me or the author, let us know! Voice your opinion! If it changes your worldview and completely rocks your world, let it out! This is going to be a lot of fun and I hope that we all learn something new to share.
So, with that. Let’s begin.
Feminism Is For Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
We’ve all been there. A person calls themself a feminist and everyone around them gets all weird and shifty. We kind of stare at them and then down at our feet wondering what in the hell that even means. A feminist. They must be very angry, dislike men, or at least have strong opinions about men if they’re going to publicly tell people that’s what they identify as. What I believe hooks does most astonishingly in her introduction is open wide the gap that is between popular understanding of feminism and actual feminist thought. That chasm is very deep and wide. The feminism that people believe it to be is far from what it actually is. It is not a group of hairy, man hating women. I mean, not entirely. Let’s just be honest here. Feminism is much more nuanced, complex and beautiful than most people have ever thought it to be. It has gone through many different phases over the years, or as feminist theorists call it, waves. We are currently in the transition towards 4th wave feminism. What feminism is today is vastly different from what it was a hundred years ago. The cultural needs of women have changed. The values of our culture have changed. More people have raised their voices and declared that feminism has failed to meet the needs of the myriad of values reflected in black women, post-colonial women, native women, muslim women, trans women, rural women, urban women, queer women, non-western women, and on and on and on. And feminism has loudly responded with an attempt to shift and change to address the various intersections of where feminism meets the female body. There are no two women who are alike. We all have different experiences and stories. All of our values are different. If feminism is going to do what bell hooks suggests that it does, which is to “end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression” than it must meet women and men in their physical, spiritual, emotional, and cultural space to address and enact change. To work towards peace. To freely be who were are. In this paradigm, men and women both benefit. Sexism and patriarchy are the bad guy, or, er, I mean thing. Men are not the enemy. Sexism and patriarchy are. Systems of institutionalized sexism are the enemy and feminism works to dismantle it. In this way, everyone benefits.
Here are some questions for you to think about. Feel free to discuss them in the comments:
1. What have you believed about feminism? How would you define it? Would you ever identify or describe yourself as being one?
2. How does our culture react towards feminists or portray them?
3.Why do you believe, or not believe, feminism is important? What can it do or not do for you personally? That can be either positive or negative.
4. How has sexism and patriarchy personally affected you? How have you benefitted from it? How has it harmed or oppressed you? You can think about this question personally, communally, familially, nationally, globally, religiously, based on gender, race, class, or your sexuality.
Finally, here is the schedule for Feminism Is For Everybody. We’ll take it slow, reading 25-30 pages a week. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts and to start the first chapters with you this week!
June 8: page 1-24
June 15: page 25-47
June 22: page 48-71
June 29: page 72-99
July 6: page 100-118