There are some topics I find extremely difficult to write about because to me the truth is just so obvious that I don’t even know how to explain or argue for it, and one of those topics is feminism. I don’t know how to say, other than DUH, that every woman should be a feminist. To me, feminism is the simple belief that women should have equal rights as men. And it’s not just rights under the law – women should have the same societal rights as men, things like … let’s see, the freedom to walk down a public street without getting harassed, the freedom to work at a job where your boss doesn’t sexually assault you, the freedom to have a few drinks at a party or bar without the constant vigilance to not get raped. Things like that. But since this is so obvious to me, it’s hard for me to discuss it with any measure of intelligence because I just want to throw up my hands at anyone who disagrees and walk out of the room in anger. Since that’s not productive, usually I just don’t discuss it. But I do like reading about it, I like books that enrich my understanding of where the feminist movement has been, where it’s going, and what feminists young and old can learn about those who came before us. So here are two such books.
The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used Against Women by Naomi Wolf
Published by Harper Perennial
Alongside the evident progress of the women’s movement, however, writer and journalist Naomi Wolf is troubled by a different kind of social control, which, she argues, may prove just as restrictive as the traditional image of homemaker and wife. It’s the beauty myth, an obsession with physical perfection that traps the modern woman in an endless spiral of hope, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of “the flawless beauty.”
I wanted to put that short synopsis there because for those who haven’t heard of this book I wanted to give a little snapshot of what Wolf means by the beauty myth. This is one of those books I’ve been meaning to read for years and somehow never got to. It’s exceptionally well-written, which is what you’d expect from someone like Wolf. She uses facts to prove her arguments and her research is extensive. Much of this book fell into the obvious category for me, but the way Wolf lays out her arguments and explains the intricate layers of the beauty myth, and how it affects woman at so many different levels, deepened my understanding of it. This is a must-read for anyone interested in feminism.
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction, and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts
Published by Vintage
I am ashamed to say that before picking up this book, I hadn’t read a book that dealt with the intersection of race and gender. This book rocked my world, opened my eyes to so many things I hadn’t even considered before, and is generally one of the best books on feminism I’ve ever read. It’s incredible to understand how much my white privilege has kept me from even thinking about the issues Roberts presents in this book. Roberts does such a fantastic job tracing the history of black women’s bodies being used for purposes other than what the women themselves actually want all the way back to slavery. Her research is impeccable and the timeline of the book makes a lot of sense – it makes what could be a dense and difficult read very easy to follow and instinctual in its getting from start to finish. Killing the Black Body is an incredible read that is a MUST for anyone who cares about feminism or racism. (Which should be everyone, but sad to say it’s not.) Please read this one.