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Fifty Shades of Feminism Hardcover – 28 Mar 2013
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Every contributor could silence a Twitter brigade of #IDontNeedFeminism in her sleep . . . insightful, broad and engaging (Drafted)
The antidote to the idea that being a woman is all about submitting to desire. There are many more shades than that and here are fifty women to explore them.See all Product description
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The book features short-form essays (the longest are only three or four pages long) from a variety of women across society, from novelists and journalists to comedians to politicians to barristers to doctors. All of them bring a fresh perspective and a fresh pair of eyes to the question of what it means to be a woman and what it means to be feminist: it really is the fifty shades of feminism promised by the front cover.
The topics covered range from domestic abuse, sexual violence and pay differences, down to women's football, the easy accessibility of violent pornography (which makes 50 Shades of Grey look tame) and the enduring power of motherhood.
The contributors are generous with their praise for others, elegantly angry when appropriate and relentless in their effort to establish the truth.
The essays are stunningly written (I suspect the hand of the editors in establishing a clear, elegant style that runs throughout the contributions) and the stories from women of today are generously interwoven with quotes from feminists and liberation activists from years gone by. Reading through, one is moved from tears to anger to laughter to deep reflection.
This book is well worth getting and reading through time and time again. Share it with friends and talk about the perspectives offered - then walk out from the book determined to do something about it.
I'm glad I did. The book has been edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach who put it together pretty quickly in a riposte to the `other' grey book. (Presumably the grey cover of this edition is a bit of tongue in cheek homage?) In a slightly anarchic way it has more than fifty contributions but as it doesn't number them when they pass fifty it doesn't really count...just think of it as added value.
I have been dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks; it's that kind of book. On the one occasion I did sit down and read several at a time I found it a tad jarring. Feminism is a very broad church and the contributions are varied; some don't feel as coherent when read in one sitting.
That said, I have been loving it and it has been reigniting my enthusiasm for all things feminist (OK, I didn't really need any reigniting, that's just a literary device...) My favourite to date purely for entertainment, is Sandi Toksvig's contribution:
"...I attended a degree ceremony at the University of Surrey. The academic folk there had kindly allowed me a doctorate without all the annoyance of having to study something first. Afterwards I stood on the steps of Guildford Cathedral, where the ceremony had taken place, and marvelled at the youthful beauty of the genuine graduates. A young woman dressed in her academic gown and mortarboard was being helped down the steps by her parents. In addition to being bedecked in educational success she was also wearing high heels; such high heels that she was unable to manage the stone steps on her own. Her mother and father supported her on either side. On the day in which her mind was being celebrated, her shoes infantilised her."
Brilliant, although these days even my quite short heels seem to set me off on a lurching gait... There are other references to feet binding in the book which also includes some neat drawings from Posy Simmonds. And just one more quote from Camilla Batmanghelidjh who ended her segment with:
"Women are often defined by what their boobs do, whether it's to titillate or to feed. But I reckon there's another kind of boob no one really talks about. It's when care is exchanged between two human beings. Concretely it's called attachment; symbolically it's about an exchange between the caregiver and care recipient, through which both are transformed and enhanced with kindness. Reciprocity is the limousine I sit in, and tangoing with compassion is the feminine principle I aspire to, while getting drunk on the thirst for excellence! So, in short, I'm a drunken whore with alternative boobs! Is that feminist enough for you?"
You won't agree with everything written; I didn't. The editors have given space to a variety of views. But I enjoyed it all; even when I was tutting slightly it felt good to be challenged in my complacency. Highly recommended. I shall be buying a few more copies for friends!
Post Script: The editors suggest that readers will use this book to go out and find their own fifty shades and I am inspired to do just that. I'm asking the question, what made you a feminist? Or, when did you realise you were a feminist? I think it will be interesting to know what age you were then realisation struck and what age you are now. Gender is irrelevant, my broad church of feminism allows that men can be feminists too, although not all the sisterhood agrees! Please send them to me marked `Fifty Shades' to email@example.com. I'm really looking forward to hearing from you and compiling our own Fifty Shades! I'll publish my 50 later on this year.