This reading challenge is pretty simple: only read books by women writers for one year. Bonus: Review it in as many places as possible – blog, Goodreads, Twitter, smoke signals, whatever gets the word out about fabulous women writers. I’ll be using #womenwriters2017 on Twitter and Instagram
What counts? Any writer who identifies as a woman.That’s it. Books co-authored by men are ok, but a woman has to be one of the authors. If it’s a collection, one of the editors should be a woman OR at least half the entries should be by women.
Find a book by a man you really want to read? Add it to your TBR and read it in 2017.
Whether you are new to feminism or have been one for years, there are a lot of terms that get thrown around in the movement that you may not be familiar with. Here are 5 essentials:
1) Feminism is the idea that all people are equal and thus should have equal opportunities in life. Feminism seeks to identify and dismantle barriers to equality.
2) Intersectionality was coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s. Intersectionality is the idea that people have more than multiple identities that interact to create overlapping disadvantages.
3) Gendernorms are the socially constructed ideas of how men and women should behave, dress, and interact. Those who challenge or do not adhere to gender norms can face negative consequences such as bullying, shaming, or ostracism.
4) Mansplaining is when a man explains a woman’s area of expertise to her, particularly when he is less educated about it.
5) Patriarchy is the system whereby men (usually white men) hold the power and authority. Patriarchy usually excludes or discourages women from gaining any type of power. It interacts with gender norms to create a rigid system of behavior and roles for men and women that neither can escape easily.
Of course, these 5 terms are not an exhaustive list of feminist language. Share more below!
The Secret History of Wonder Woman, on the other hand, was disappointing. Jill Lepore found a fascinating, complex web of influences and family secrets. But the way the narrative was structured made it incredibly difficult to read. She jumped around in time and between characters with little to no transition or explanation. Given that the book is a biography of William Moulton Marston, Wonder Woman’s creator, and his polygamous family, more narrative structure would have helped immensely.
Marston was a con man who was entirely sincere. His life was full of lies and half-truths that he seemed to believe anyway. From the invention of the lie detector to the true author of various papers and books that he wrote, the truth was stretched in every way possible. He used this exaggerated credentials for publicity for himself and his creations.
Marston was an unusual man who believed in women’s rights and equality in a time when even many women did not. As an undergraduate at Harvard, he heard famous suffragettes like Florence Kelley and Emmeline Pankhurst speak. His feminism clearly influenced the creation of Wonder Woman and all she stands for. The Marston family was polygamous at a time when bigamy was incredibly taboo, although the family kept it hidden. His two wives, Betty and Olive, and their families also influenced Wonder Woman’s creation. The younger wife, Olive, in particular, was a model for Wonder Woman. She wore two thick bracelets around her wrists following their marriage. Her aunt, Margaret Sanger, was also an influence on Wonder Woman’s principles and activism.
Lepore discusses the changes to Wonder Woman following Marston’s death. The character remained popular, but her focus turned away from gender equality. The new writer did not agree with Marston’s vision of Wonder Woman as a women’s rights activist. In the 1970s, Wonder Woman, controversially, was on the cover of Ms. magazine, sparking a discord among feminists and conspiracy theories that Ms. and Gloria Steinem were trying to destroy the women’s rights movement. A superhero born to be a feminist icon became a point of division.
And, while the Redstockings’ consipracy theory really was crazy, they did have a point about Wonder Woman. Who needs consciousness-raising and equal pay when you’re an Amazon with an invisible plane?
The most touching detail of the book is that Betty and Olive lived together following Marston’s death until Olive died in 1990. Their decades of family life, with Betty earning to support the family and Olive raising the children and writing articles for extra money, made the two women close. All four children considered both women to be their mothers. When the children finally found out the truth about the family, one son was angry about the secrecy, but the rest took it in stride.
Overall, The Secret History of Wonder Woman has a lot of good history and facts. But the narrative structure is so difficult to follow that I really cannot recommend it. Lepore had unprecedented access to the Marston family and their documents, but unfortunately, that is not enough to overcome the reading issues. If you are interested in the feminist influences on Wonder Woman and her history, it’s hardly worth trying to read.
Well, Brexit is happening. As a recent immigrant to the UK, I’m interested to see how it will all play out economically and politically. I’m nerding out a bit to see how the process will actually work. The little details are fascinating!
Anyway, have a great weekend and enjoy these links! If you read anything good, share it, please!
(Also, as an aside, it bugs me that when I look for stock photos of women with tea it’s almost exclusively white women – even when I specifically search “African American woman” or “diverse women” *grumble*)
I did not enjoy Gordon’s memoir as much as I hoped. Gordon is an artist, a feminist, and a musician who lived through a formative period in modern American art and music. She name drops connections from modern art, the New York art scene from the 70s and 80s, and musicians from the No Wave and punk movements. I have no frame of reference for most of these things, and frequently she just assumes that the reader knows who she is talking about and moves on. Despite her great writing style, I struggled to connect.
I think my main problem with Gordon’s memoir is that it is tinged with regret and lingering anger over the breakup with her longtime husband and music partner, Thurston Moore. A lot of sections, particularly in the series of essays about their albums and tours and specific songs, where she talks about how she “should have known” or how Moore treated her badly are incredibly bitter and difficult to read. Her perspective of the albums and the band’s history is affected by the breakup. The focus on their failed relationship inhibits more than enhances the narrative.
Also, can we talk about the title? I know it’s meant to reflect what the music magazines were calling her (“What’s it like to be a girl in a band?”), but for a woman who is so invested in feminism, it’s an odd choice.
I really wanted to like Girl in a Band. I wanted it to be another on my list of great feminist memoirs. But it falls short.
I read Hideous Kinky for a book club meeting that I was, unfortunately, unable to attend. This autobiographical novel is well-written and absorbing. A young girl narrates the story of her move to Marrakesh with her mother, sister, and her mother’s boyfriend and his wife. Unlike some books with child narrators, Hideous Kinky sticks to the limited view of a small girl who doesn’t necessarily understand what is going on but accepts the world as it is, although her sister wishes for a “normal” life.
A lot of the reviews of Hideous Kinky revolve around the apparent flakiness of the narrator’s mother in taking her daughters to Morocco and then taking lovers and experimenting with extreme religion. I actually sympathized with the mother. Maybe I’m also irresponsible, but the move was a good opportunity for the girls to be exposed to a different culture. Sure, the mother was trying to “find herself” while having to take care of two kids, and they didn’t always have money, but she clearly loved them and wanted them to be happy. To the point where she let the older daughter, Bea, stay behind in Marrakesh to go to school while she went to stay at a Sufi monastery with the younger. I don’t think I’ll ever take off for a different country with my lover and his wife and two small kids, but I wouldn’t be opposed to a slightly better-planned adventure.
The mother character is intriguing to me. She was clearly well-off but left her wealthy family to become a hippie nomad. Her children’s father is merely an inconsistent source of money. At one point she jokes that her own mother wouldn’t know she had kids had a family friend not seen them one day on the street. The mother certainly has her own struggles throughout the story, particularly with men:
Mum shifted me off her lap. ‘He knew where to write when we were at the hotel for months and months…’ She sneezed and then she began to cry. ‘He knew where to write then.’
Hideous Kinky is short but complex. Overall, the novel is well worth reading.A film based on the novel, starring Kate Winslet, was released in 1998.