Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Year of Feminist Classics

One of my long-standing "goals" is to become better read in terms of feminist literature and theory. The goal burgeoned in response to an annoyance: When I was active in Mormonism and actively commenting on Mormon feminist blogs, I frequently felt that "feminism" was being redefined and twisted to fit into the Mormon true-believing paradigm. The fit always seemed contrived to me. It just seemed strange that anyone who would happily submit themselves to a unapologetically patriarchial society could, at the same time, say they were feminist. Furthermore, whenever I asked for suggestions for reading material in feminism, the books recommended were always on Mormon feminism. And while I enjoyed reading Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism by Maxine Hanks and relished posts at The Exponent, I felt like I was missing the big picture.

Enter the Year of Feminist Classics blog.

Four book bloggers started the site as a way to jump-start conversation about classic literature in feminism. While their finalized list didn't include Friedan's The Feminine Mystique, a host of other Western-based feminist classics are being studied (many of which are available free of charge at Project Gutenburg):

A Vindication of the Rights of Women by Mary Wollstonecraft
So Long a Letter by Mariama Ba


The Subjection of Women by John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor Mill


A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman


A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf


God Dies by the Nile by Nawal Saadawi


The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir - Iris


The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston


The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf

Ain’t I a Woman? by Bell Hooks
Third World Women and the Politics of Feminism Anthology


Gender Trouble by Judith Butler

Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde

I'll be reading the books for January once my Kindle arrives. I'll be posting my thoughts here, and participating in the discussion at the Year of Feminist Classics site as time permits. In addition, I've also subscribed to Ms. and Bitch magazines this year, which should make for some interesting (non-Mormon) thought-provoking feminist reading.


Lisa said...

I haven't read any feminist books nor do i have the plans to in the near future, but that doesn't mean i wouldn't be interested.

But my comment is geared more toward the idea of the mormon feminist. i just want to scream to these girls "GET OUT." i love them, i love what they're trying to do and I certainly don't judge, but being a mormon feminist strikes me as more a function of fitting a square peg in a round hole. it doesn't work.

now what i'm about to say i don't say lightly. i know how hard it is, but seriously:

girls! get out. it's not worth it. you can have your god outside the church. promise.

amelia said...

Two things:

1. I'm totally jealous I didn't know about this project at the beginning of the year. So much fun to read all these great works! I've read a few. I love _A Room of One's Own_. It's really interesting. and Woolf is just fantastic. And _The Beauty Myth_ was fascinating. However, _Gender Trouble_? Just be prepared for somewhat impenetrable prose. It's not a joy. There are probably better options for contemporary feminist theory, but Butler is important.

2. On Mormon feminism: I can sympathize with the feeling that Mormon feminists redefine "feminism"; Mormons of all stripes have a terrible habit of trying to fit other philosophies and theories into their own perspectives (though this is a problem that is not isolated to Mormons). At the same time, I think it's not necessarily true that Mormon feminists simultaneously proclaim themselves feminists and "happily submit themselves to a unapologetically patriarchial society." I certainly don't. I have been redefining my own practice of Mormonism for as long as I have been a feminist and have never been exactly "submissive" in any regard; I pretty actively refuse to submit myself to the church in any fashion but instead insist on living by my own conscience. And I know this is true of quite a few of my feminist Mormon friends. Though perhaps I misunderstand your meaning. I totally sympathize with your frustration at having only Mormon works recommended as reading about feminism. There's a wealth of other material that is much more interesting and important if you want to read about feminism, even if the books and publications you were sent to are important in terms of Mormon feminism. It looks like you have a good list for this year, but if you ever want other recommendations of either feminist theory or literature, feel free to drop me an email on facebook or at x2ameliaATgmailDOTcom.