Book: Reading Women: How the Greatest Books of Feminism Changed My Life
Author: Stephanie Staal
Published: 2011 (PublicAffairs)
I finished this book about revisited feminism right before I unwrapped a new dress and pulled it on over tights to go over to my boyfriend's house.
I spent the whole clothes time wondering who, exactly, was I wearing this for? Me? My boyfriend? Because I wanted him to think I looked cute? Because I wanted to look cute for myself? But what if looking cute for myself is subliminal code for looking cute in a way that he and society think look cute, so there's not actually any of me in this decision at all? ...How the hell am I ever supposed to know what's me and what's for him and what's Western societal pressure on the female bits of me?
Reading about feminism always makes me wonder that without giving me any answers.
This book charts the experiences of a lady who revisits her Fem Text class at Bernard when her professional and family lives are doing that thing where they don't work together. Classic feminist dilemma that--say it with me now--she never thought would happen to her.
And I loved reading about it. She writes in the perfect deft balance of understated confessional personal narrative and academic research. Her readings make her think about her real life and where she's at now in her real life makes her understand the readings in depths she couldn't get close to when she was a 20-year-old undergraduate immersed in an all-girl's college. And y'all, she's incredibly insightful about the vague, impractical, and hypocritical points of feminism while still being firmly in favor of the movement because, come on. Women are people too.
She doesn't come to any more solid a conclusion than I ever do, though. She's glad she took the class during a whole new generation of thought, and she's glad it's made her appreciate how hard her life balance is and that it really might be worth it in the end, but she's not changing anything radical in her life because she read Vindication for the Rights of Woman again. I was sort of hoping there'd be an Awesome Gentlelady Who Doesn't Give a Fuck About Gender Roles No Seriously magic formula somewhere in there, but alas.
Welp. I don't want to end on "alas" because I really liked this book, so I will tell you that after a good boyfriend visit I decided that I do dress for myself first but angle for outside appreciation. At least when I'm going out in public.