Friday, July 26, 2013

Feminist Reading List Part I

Since I've been moderating the Guerrilla Feminism page, I've found that there is some need for a Feminism 101 syllabus or primer.  As I am looking back on my own academic feminist education, I am recalling some fantastic (and not-so-fantastic) texts that I read.  I would like to start some reading lists on my blog that I can link people to when they ask for a primer on a particular subject.

Today I am going to tackle the Feminism 101 issue.

My very first feminist theory text was Feminist Thought by Rosemarie Tong.  This text lays out all of the different feminist movements.  She covers the history and context of each of these movements quite well as I recall.

I also took a Women's History course in which I read The Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner.  This book was simply fascinating.  I couldn't put it down.  This is one of those texts that you realize you've highlighted almost every line and, thus, decide to stop highlighting altogether since every word is so delicious and important.

To begin understanding that gender is a social construct, not a natural act, Simone de Beauvoir's canonical text, The Second Sex, is really the best. 

Sexual Politics by Kate Millet is another canonical feminist text.  My faculty advisor at UWM gave me her tattered, used copy when I graduated and I still consider it one of the best gifts I've ever received. 

Whenever I get asked for a recommendation for an introductory feminist text I invariable suggest bell hooks.  She has several texts that are easy to read and accessible that explain intersectionality and feminism.  I would start with Feminism is For Everybody: Passionate Politics and then move on the Feminist Theory From Margin to Center.  I also love Black Looks: Race and Representation and We Real Cool: Black Men and Masculinity.  I will definitely bring those up when I write about critical race theory, womanism and black feminism.  Really any text hooks has written is insightful and useful.   

To begin to understand the intersection of race, class, gender and sexuality I recommend Angela Davis' Women, Race and Class.  This is another book that I had to put down my highlighter with because it is just chock full of useful historical information.  This book made me look at feminism in a wholly different way and for that I am incredibly thankful.  Also, check out Patricia Hill Collins' Black Feminist Thought

Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider is a collection of essays on various topics that I just love to read and re-read.  Her writing is poetic, beautiful, powerful and healing.  Lorde also writes about the intersections of race, sexuality and gender. 

One of my all-time favorite feminist texts is Susan Bordo's Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the BodyThis text helped me to begin thinking about feminist media criticism.  It also explains how women have deeply internalized our own oppression and how damaging that has been for our physical and mental health. 

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women by Susan Faludi really helped me to understand the concept of backlash and the history of American feminist movements.  This book is very factual and well-researched. 

Female Chauvinist Pigs: Women in the Rise of Raunch Culture by Ariel Levy is a pop feminism classic that I actually think is very useful.  Normally I try to stay very far away from pop feminism but this is worth a read through.  It is definitely contemporary and doesn't take intersectionality or context in to account as much as it should but it is definitely useful in a feminism 101 series.

That is just a start.  I hope to keep updating this piece and adding different feminist reading lists.  A few topics I think I'll touch on are critical race theory, radical feminism, and queer theory.  Stay tuned!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Reddit Has a Sexism Problem

I really love Reddit.  It is a great way to learn new things, look at cute puppy pictures and chat with interesting people from all over the world.  I love finding new subreddits and joining new communities.  However, I have noticed that Reddit has a real sexism problem.  There are, in fact, a few subreddits created just to address the problem of MRAs hijacking feminist pages.  One of the biggest problems feminists seem to be talking about is how r/feminism is trolled by MRAs who downvote feminist content into oblivion while upvoting their own sexist crap onto the main page.  This is very frustrating when you go to a link to see comments and all of the top comments are full of hateful vitriol. Also frustrating is the simple fact that r/feminism has 19,000 supporters while r/mensrights has 67,000.  That just depresses me so much I almost don't ever want to return to Reddit.

It has gotten so bad that I generally avoid anything related to feminism on the whole website and just stick to news stories, puppy pics, knitting and other innocuous subreddits for my own mental health.  Of course, even then I still see a lot of sexism.  Which led me to an experiment.  I've posted lots of comments on Reddit and as long as they aren't overtly feminist they usually stand and even get a few upvotes.  Anything that clearly identifies me as a feminist has gotten downvoted until it disappeared from the page.  So just for kicks, I posted something kind of anti-feminist.  Not too overtly or offensively, just suggested that if a man hits a woman who hit him first, he isn't totally in the wrong.  I'm not sure I believe that, I just posted it to see what would happen.  To date, it has been my most highly upvoted comment yet.  What gives?

So, I assert, Reddit has a sexism problem.  It isn't as bad as 4chan or some of these other male dominated troll spaces, but it is still pretty bad and I think it needs to be addressed.  I've written before about using the internet as a space for feminist liberation and I still believe the internet has that potential.  And I haven't given up on Reddit because I still think there is hope.  I still believe that there are some people who don't want it to be an anti-woman, anti-feminist space.