Tuesday, November 10, 2015

I Call Myself A Feminist

ABOUT THE BOOK

Title: I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty
Editors: Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Martha Mosse & Alice Stride
Published: November 5th 2015 by Virago
Add it on Goodreads

Is feminism still a dirty word? We asked twenty-five of the brightest, funniest, bravest young women what being a feminist in 2015 means to them.
THE REVIEW
“A male acquaintance of mine, with whom I have never had a dalliance, said to me, ‘You know what? If you lost a couple of stone…’ I said, ‘The rest of this better be a fucking equation.’ ‘If you lost a couple of stone, we could probably go out.’ I said, ‘Only if the couple of stone I lost was me fucking head.
—Sarah Millican 
For better or for worse, feminism is undoubtedly one of the buzzwords of the decade. 2015 alone has brought on a torrent of feminist literature. 

This is amazing. Yet.

Yet, up to now it has not been exactly easy to find a voice that I identified with. Until now. 


I Call Myself A Feminist is a collection of essays from diverse voices that explore what it means to be a feminist.

The essays are all succinct yet powerful. The book as a whole steers clear of being aggressively preachy and instead manages to truly engage the reader. On many occasions it even manages to coax a giggle or two.

Hajar Wright's Good For a Girl Isn't Good Enough: She starts her entry with a bold proclamation "I'm going to write this like a man" - I knew then that I was going love the hell outta of her piece. 
A writer raised in an Islamic household not too different from mine, Wright focuses on challenging the 'good enough for a girl' perception and how harmful this can be. Her essay also highlights the lack of women in top decision making positions. In a world where male writers continue to dominate literary criticism (CRAZY BUT TRUE), she asks 'Why does your voice matter?'. She urges female writers to fight harder at silencing not just the misogynists that we encounter daily on the streets but also our very own inner misogynists.
“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions, for safety in the streets, for child care, for social welfare, for rape crisis centres, women's refuges, reforms in the law. If someone says, 'Oh, I'm not a feminist', I ask, 'Why? What's your problem?”
― Dale Spender
Emily Prenn's Stand Up & Get Involved:
Having worked in bank (very much a male dominated environment) myself, her experience resonated with me. She highlights the lack of diversity (not just in gender but also ethnicity, culture and sexual orientation) of voices in the top positions. The imbalance of power in key roles is a glaring issue and although much has been done there is still a long way to go. 

Sophie Hagen's piece on Inclusive Feminism is an eye opener that brings up the false, damaging ideals of womanhood that the mainstream media perpetuates. 

Feminist activists are more often than not stereotyped as vegan, man-hating, bra-burning, unapproachable women. What a load of bullshit. Yas Necati's Silent Screamers brings a new breed of feminists to the table. Young people. Specifically, young adults in high school.
She points out that their voices are ignored and even outright dismissed in the discussions for equality. She points that mainstream media misrepresents young adults, women and non gender conforming individuals far too often. She talks about the damaging effects of white feminism and highlights that often cis men are given priority in media leaving 'non-cis male' individuals feeling dis-empowered.
“Feminism isn’t about making women stronger. Women are already strong. It’s about changing the way the world perceives that strength.”
― G.D Anderson
Jinan Younis's Manifesto for Feminist Intersectionality is a earnest cry for inclusiveness in our fight for equality. Our shared religious experiences coupled with her Asian upbringing made it easy for me to understand the importance of intersectional feminism. Because countless women not only have to fight everyday sexism but also religious and ethinical discrimination. Because every other day we find ourselves having to explain that our hijab does not equal oppression so no. No, I don't need to be saved. 
“It’s hard to be told to lighten up because if you lighten up any more, you’re going to float the fuck away.”
― Roxane Gay
This is not a Feminist Rant: The Language of Silencing Women - Alice Strind
We are constantly shut down. We are dismissed as the stereotypical 'angry woman'. We are forced to measure up to ridiculous ideals of femininity - Ideals that are highly reductive, highly sexist and damaging to both men and women. We are forced to pander to male entitlement and accept psychological abuse in form of catcalling and street harassment. We are expected to take this all in and just 'move on'. And if we dare call out their sexist bullshit? We are deemed hysterical because it's "just a joke" after all.
“I believe it's a woman's right to decide what she wants to wear and if a woman can go to the beach and wear nothing, then why can't she also wear everything?”
― Malala Yousafzai 
Islam is my feminism and feminism is my Islam - Maysa Haque
Haque perfectly captures the burden of representing Islam. While veiled, we are constantly conscious of our behavior because we fear adding to the untrue perception of Islam that the mainstream media's propaganda has created. We are constantly being forced to counteract the stigmata surrounding Islam. We are sick of the parabolic wrapped candy arguments. Despite various misinterpretations, Islam is an inclusive theology that promotes feminism, equality and social justice. It is not the patriarchal, extremist religious cult that media  loves to portray. Haque's journey as both a hijabi and a non-hijabi brings to attention society's prejudices against minorities, Muslim or not.

Isabel Adomakoh Young's Women Should Get To Be Rubbish Too looks at the strong female character trope in modern literature - 'Strong' female characters who are put on a pedestal and lacking severely in depth. Again this literary trope is a reflection of the fucked up societal expectations that women have to fulfill.

Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius. Female characters get to be Strong.

As a reader, I could understand her need for more multi - dimensional female characters in modern literature. Girls who are badass but also interesting, shy and insecure. Female characters who have meaningful relationships (and conversations) with other women. Women who sometimes cry and require a helping hand. Women who are whoever the fuck they want to be.

She also talks about the latest buzzword in publishing - Diversity. Hell, I'm all for diversity but I can't help but agree with Young's accusation that writers are often writing in characters who are POCs (Peope of Color) and women just to fill up some crazy quota of representation in their novels. 
“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft
As the title suggests Reni Eddo-Lodge's What Can Men Do to Support Feminism explores what men can do to help accelerate change in the feminist movement because misogyny not only hurts women but men too.
She implores men to listen, increase self awareness, actively educate themselves and fight ignorance in their social circles. She requests women to be given space and a platform to voice their thoughts without fear of retribution.

Matson-Phippard's Staring at the Ceiling was a heartbreaking personal account on sexual violence, consent and self esteem while Samira Shackle's Roti Kamana is a heart-rending yet profound salute to the survivors of acid attacks.

I Call Myself A Feminist is a compelling and powerful narrative of the struggles that women around the globe face. It is brutally honest and unrestrained in it's delivery of the undeniable truth about inequality. These essays interspersed with quotes on equality succeeds in proving exactly why  feminism matters.

Pay gap, criminalization of sex workers, rape, body shaming, victim blaming, street harrasment, hyper-sexualization of women in pop culture, the glaring lack of female representation in literature, workplace, parliament, art and music, messed up ideals of femininity - No stone is left unturned.

Whether you identify as a feminist or not, there is hardly any doubt that this book will leave a mark.

THE RATING

5 Stars

FINAL VERDICT:

No reader will be able to dispute the need for feminism after reading I Call Myself A Feminist.
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OVER TO YOU:


Are you a feminist? Do you believe that feminism is still relevant today? 




5 comments :

  1. I am really, really interested by this book. Thank you for bringing it to my attention. I love the different approaches on this topic.

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  2. This sounds like a well written book. I like the sound of how it's written by mutliple authors and isn't preachy as I don't like reading preaching books. It must be interesting to see all the different aproaches about the topic. I don't read a lot of non-fiction, so I don't think I'll read this one.

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  3. Wow, this is going on my to-read list immediately. It sounds like a fantastic collection of essays.

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