SO, I realized this week that last year I only read a total of 5 books, which is shameful!! Interestingly enough, the main topic that really got me reading was a sudden interest that I took in Feminism and media studies around feminism. I went through a phase where I decided I wanted to read as many books on this topic as I could. Here’s the list that I read through.
- Girl Zines: Making Media, Doing Feminism by Alison Piepmeier.
- Exactly what it sounds like, this book explored feminism as expressed through zines over the last two decades. I remember being a bit alarmed by how angry some of these zines felt. There was a palpable bitterness towards men and society, especially in the early 90s and late 80s. There was a very obvious shift, however, when second-wave feminism lost its steam and gave way to third-wave. I noticed there was less hatred towards feminine things, like bras, makeup, and high heel shoes in the zine pages.
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay.
- This was the first book that made me launch off into reading as much literature as I could find about Feminism. Roxane Gay published a collection of essays that explored issues of racism in a feminist context. Some of the later chapters in the book go into great depth about movies that try to portray the lives of black individuals and fail to do them justice. I really enjoyed Roxane’s account of feeling horrified by the film The Help. I hadn’t realized myself all of the problems that it had. I’m looking forward to reading more by Roxane Gay!
- Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen.
- Another book with plenty of cultural criticism about the way the media and our society seems to refuse to accept female celebrities who have become too strong, shrill, queer, pregnant, gross, and naked. This was a really fast read with only 266 pages but I found it interesting! It’s different accounts of celebrities who have been heavily criticized for not modulating their behavior and bodies made for a fun, gossip-column like read. I was happy that Anne would occasionally dip into stories about the men who also deal with similar issues. (I feel like this is a topic that affects men as well. Our culture is very critical of effeminate and nerdy men that don’t fit our perfect masculine ideal.)
- A History of U.S. Feminisms by Rory Diker.
- I wish that I had started off my feminist reading with this book because it created some much-needed context for everything else that I had read. This book gave me a much more fleshed out idea of how we have come to where we are today and why there is a ton of understandable anger towards the Feminist movement. Each wave of Feminism was spurned by a societal problem of inequality that needed to be addressed and fixed, starting with the First-Wave that tackled the fight for the vote. It agitated me to learn that these early suffragists were not especially empathetic towards black women. I’ve realized that many of the biggest feminists throughout our history have been privileged white women, who were most interested in tackling problems that only affected them. They seemed, at times, oblivious to the struggles of both men and poor women. Sometimes I think that feminists are still oblivious to the struggles of men and the poor.
- We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
- This is an incredibly short read, but well worth the few bucks it cost on Kindle! Chimamanda works to create a more clear-cut definition of what it means to be a Feminist in the 21st century and what it personally means to her as a Nigerian woman. This novel-length essay is filled with engaging anecdotes that demonstrate the need for the feminist movement in different cultures. It’s a book that I will go back and revisit again soon for its inspiring message about the importance of being true to yourself, as a man or woman.
My explorations of Feminism in 2017 left me, oddly, far more critical of it! I enjoy the fact that I’m now far more read up on issues of feminism and what drives their political pursuits, but it bothers me deeply that many feminists don’t seem concerned about the struggles that face men.
I find it strange that I can openly talk about the times that I’ve been sexually assaulted with the #metoo movement, but my male friends are unable to bring up these topics. I have male friends that have been molested in bars and taken advantage of when they’ve been drunk, yet we don’t empathize with their situation in the same way. I feel like our culture enjoys victimizing women but we are quite often incapable of seeing men as sexual victims. The idea that women can feel just as entitled to the bodies of men is a foreign concept in the feminist movement because historically women are framed as the ones that receive abuse and not the other way around.
I’ve seen my male friends treated very badly by women at bars as well and sometimes wonder if there are aspects of the feminist movement that have allowed many females to feel like it’s okay to be cruel to men.
It’s these types of feelings that make it difficult for me to see feminism in the same way that other liberal women sometimes do. Despite that, I have no regrets about exploring this topic, even if it changed my ideas about gender politics in a drastic way.