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review 2017-01-27 15:02
Sister Outsider
Sister Outsider: Essays and Speeches - Audre Lorde

his book is everything. It's been slow going to figure out how to review it or just talk about it. It just has everything in here from systemic issues in government and society to systemic issues within feminism itself.

I'd been meaning to read Sister Outsider for a while but kept putting it off until I made it my Letter S read for Litsy A to Z. That's the beauty of reading challenges, they make you actually sit down and decide that now is when I'm going to read this or that book that I'd been meaning to pick up.

I was a little underwhelmed by the first essay, which is mostly about a visit to Russia. What I did appreciate about this was the acknowledgement that communism isn't the answer either. Capitalism has many issues, but I'm hardpressed to consider them lesser problems to communism, but maybe that just where I lean right.

After the essay on Russia, every essay got me more pumped. It was the perfect book to be reading while gearing up for the women's march last weekend. There were so many lines and paragraphs that have given language to things I was seeing but not quite able to fully digest, like this one:

Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you, we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.

It is so powerful. And it's like this over and over again with different topics.

The essay about raising a son echoed many of my own concerns about my son, who is only 6 now. I took him with me to the women's march and I hope that he's glad he went when he's old enough to understand what we were doing there. It's a concern that he'll not see it when he gets older (unless we've somehow reached equality by then but I don't see it as likely) but I am certainly less worried about the things that she is. It's a contrast that must be remembered when we choose what to take a stand.

Much of the book brings about questions about how the treatment women of color. It makes me more aware of the fact that sometimes I could hurt things when I'm trying to help. It's a reminder not to speak for women of color but to find ways to propel their voices.

It did tweak me a bit that Lorde consistently neglected to capitalize America, but I get it. By tweak, I do not mean annoy. It's a style choice and it makes it's own statement. It did it's job to demonstrate the demotion in importance of the country as opposed to the black population, as she consistently capitalized Black when talking about the population. I understand it, though you can see that I can't quite bring myself to do it. It is one of the subtleties of an essay written by a poet.

As mentioned in my TTT on Tuesday, I already know that this is one of those books whose sentiments will not leave me any time soon. Since the first time I poked a toe into the world of what feminist politics mean and what they mean to me, the divide between white feminists and black feminists has been a point of contemplation and discussion. The terms perturb me and I more often call myself an intersectional feminist, since I am neither black nor completely white and my ideals don't completely line up with either. As Lorde indicates, though, we do not have to completely agree on all problems, how to handle them, or how to prioritize them in order for us all to work together as feminists. But we do need to remember both our differences and our similarities to do this adequately.

It's hard to have a "favorite part" in a book like this, but it is this paragraph that my mind keeps coming back to as the sentiment that I've seen in many places about integrating the rest of the population with the white feminists that seem to so often forget everyone else in their climb to parity with men:

You do not have to be me in order for us to fight alongside each other. I do not have to be you to recognize that our wars are the same. What we must do is commit ourselves to some future that can include each other and to work toward that future with the particular strengths of our individual identities. And in order to do this, we must allow each other our differences at the same time as we recognize our sameness.

Given the many women of color that I saw in DC on Saturday, I hope that we are already doing that. But I know in herstory that women of color help to propel the voice for the cause and then get shut out of it once the men are at the table to negotiate. We must not let it happen again.

This is one of those books that all feminists must read, that women in general should read, and that would be a great addition to any course, conference, or book club or anything on social justice in general or feminism specifically.

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review 2016-11-03 18:00
Men Explain Things To Me
Men Explain Things to Me - Rebecca Solnit

I expected the essay on men actually explaining things to women in the way they do that spawned the term "mansplain". It's one of my favorite words. I've even shared it with other men who love it just as much. They know the ones that are notorious for it, the ones who always try to shut down the women around them, the ones who think they know everything, who think they show intellect by silencing others. Sometimes all I need to do is explain what it means and I get a smile and nod and sometime later there begins to be support in shutting the mansplainer down.

The rest of the essays were a bit of a surprise. They took on a much darker tone. They draw the line between something like mansplaining and the more permanent or physically dangerous ways that women are silenced. While its easy to look around and see the price we pay for speaking up, it's much harder to see the pay price we pay for silence. The whole thing was great but it was the last two essays that I particularly enjoyed. Here's the list of essays:

  • Men Explain Things To Me
  • The Longest War
  • Worlds Collide in a Luxury Suite: Some thoughts on the IMF, Global Injustice, and a Stranger on a Train
  • In Praise of the Threat: What Marriage Equality Really Means
  • Grandmother Spider
  • Woolf's Darkness: Embracing the Inexplicable
  • Cassandra Among the Creeps
  • #YesAllWomen: Feminists Rewrite the Story
  • Pandora's Box and the Volunteer Police Force

It starts with something as simple and seemingly harmless as mansplaining and then draws a line to the violent ways women are silenced, the reasons we are silenced, and bigger picture effect of our silencing. It's a powerful set of essays that takes what we know and broadens it so show what we can be scared to see. At least, that's how I felt.

I got the updated edition, so  the last two essays #YesAllWomen and Pandora's Box are new in mine as opposed to those who read the original 2014 edition. Some other parts were updated as information had come out that wasn't available the year before. If you read the original, I still recommend picking this one up at the library or browsing through the last few in the bookstore coffee line or something.

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review 2016-10-27 19:39
Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do about It by Kate Harding
Asking for It: Slut-shaming, Victim-blaming, and How We Can Change America's Rape Culture - Kate Harding

 I knew this would be an informative book, but I didn't expect to enjoy it this much. It's the kind of book that should be read and analyzed and discussed in classes and prevention training sessions everywhere. 

 It's been on my TBR since about the time it was published but I just now got it together to read it. I usually hate talking about rape, particularly when I'm already talking about feminism. For years, I had viewed rape and abortion as the only two things feminists talked about and I hated that. That was when I was still in the primary target age and it terrified me to be reminded that often. As I've embraced the label of feminist in recent years, it's taken me a while to be okay with talking about rape. It took a while to find my voice in it, but this book would have helped me do that sooner.

See, I'm only slightly younger than the author, so I remember those times in the '90s when it almost seemed like people cared. I remember ingesting all the messages from television and schools that almost made it seem like it wouldn't have been my fault, except that everyone knew it really would have been because it's always actually about how not-cautious and unprepared the victim was. No one was saying yet that we should just teach people not to rape. No one was using the word consent, not around me.

Just as Harding contends, the landscape is changing now and it's changing in a beautiful way. The generation that is coming up now is amazing in its embrace of that the victim didn't invite it, couldn't have invited it. Harding writes beautifully about the problems we've seen in recent decades and the amazing things that were happening around the writing of the book and the things that look like they are on our horizon.

She writes with an entertaining style that was both friendly and firm. She does not let us delude ourselves about the world we live in but she does provide hope and paths to new understandings. Rape has been talked about and taught about one way for so long that changing the conversation isn't going to happen immediately, but her book is another in a line of books that are changing the conversation from "why was she there" "what was she wearing" to "why did he do that". But she doesn't miss the opportunity to stand up for men and that they can be victims too, of each other and of women. She doesn't miss the opportunity to talk about the fact that there are lots of men out there who are perfectly great and respectful partners that don't rape. But there are those who do and we aren't calling them out near enough.

There's lots of information in this book that I had before but there is lots that I didn't. Everyone should read the book, talk about it with others, and analyze it along with the world around them. It's important to talk about rape and consent.

Something not mentioned in the book, but that I would like to add to the conversation is that it is never too early to talk about consent because it is a part of everything at every age. We've been using that word in situations with my son since he was about 3 years old (he's six now). It came up when he expressed that he didn't like being squeezed when we hug him. Instead of using the kind of language that is usually reserved for children of this age, we made the conscientious decision to use the word consent. Hugs must be consented to each time and the appropriate level of squeeze is negotiated throughout. There must be enthusiastic consent to hug any one at any time and that is reinforced with visitors to our home. Or tickle. Or wrestle with. Or touch. Or smooch. Or help him in the bathroom. Or call him by any nickname. Or label him in any way.

I feel like part of the problem with talking about what affirmative consent is and looks like is that we reserve it for discussing sex. That may be too sensitive a topic to start with and it's definitely too old for them to just be learning the concept. By then, we have waited until they've gotten used to being able to touch without asking for it and being touched without giving it. We have waited until they have determined that we can't be that serious about it because they've already done so many things they weren't allowed to do. So we started using consent early.

Pick up this book. Read it. Talk about it. Talk about consent. Use it in everyday situations. Don't miss an opportunity to increase your knowledge of rape culture and your ability to be a part of changing the conversation and helping the next generation improve things.

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