Rainy sundays are perfect. All your ambitious, outdoorsy, fitnessy plans get canceled. There’s nothing left to do but be perfectly content putzing around your house, baking, crafting, cleaning, reading, watching ESPN documentaries, and never once changing out of your sweatpants.
On Sunday, I finished Caitlin Moran’s feminist memoir How To Be a Woman. As I often do when I finish a good book, I went to jot down the lines or paragraphs I had admired and flagged along the way.
And that is the story of how I spent two hours on Sunday re-typing half of Moran’s book. It is just that good.
If this were a book review, it would go like this: Read this book.
If I ever teach a class to anyone, ever, for any reason, even a cooking class, I will undoubtedly assign this book. I’ve written before about feminism as big tent movement, with unwieldy waves, dissenting pockets and a long history of ostracizing queer women, women of color, and male allies. It is a movement often devoid of humor, making us easy targets for lame comedians and late night hosts. It is imperfect, we are imperfect, but goddammit we are trying.
My feminism is not my mother’s feminism and her feminism isn’t the feminism of my grandmother (who would probably spit at the word, but who, in my opinion, should wear the badge proudly.) My feminism isn’t even necessarily the feminism of my peers, the men and women who shared classrooms and roundtables and reading lists with me for years. The next time someone asks me what feminism means to me, this is the book I will give them.
My feminism is not anti-sex. My feminism is not anti-man. My feminism is not anti-stay-at-home-mom, anti-Cesarean, anti-pornography, anti-bra, anti-queer, anti-marriage, or anti-child. It is not anti-razor, anti-celebrity, anti-faith, or anti-family. It is certainly not anti-humor.
This post would be 300 pages long if shared all the passages from Woman that I loved, so indulge me while I choose just a few:
On why pornography is not inherently sexist:
“The idea that pornography is intrinsically exploitative and sexist is bizarre: pornography is just some fucking, after all. The act of having sex isn’t sexist, so there’s no way pornography can be, in itself, inherently misogynistic. So no. Pornography isn’t the problem. Strident feminists are fine with pornography. It’s the porn industry that’s the problem.”
On why body shaming by the media, while admittedly not life and death, is a crucial feminist issue:
“It is the ‘Broken Windows’ philosphy, transferred to female inequality. In the Broken Windows theory, if a single broken window on an empty building is ignored or not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Evetually, they make into the building and light fires, or become squatters. Similarly, if we live in a climate where female pubic hair is considered distasteful, or famous and powerful women are constantly pilloried for being too fat or too thin, or badly dressed, then, eventually, people start breaking into women, and lighting fires in them.”
On why childlessness is not a female tragedy:
“No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer and crippled by it. Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Newton, Faraday, Plato, Aquinas, Beethoven, Handel, Kant, Hume, Jesus. They all seemed to have managed quite well. Every woman who chooses–joyfully, thoughtfully, calmly, of her own free will and desire–not to have a child does womankind a massive favor in the long term. We need more women who are allowed to prove their worth as people, rather than being assessed merely for their potential to create new people.”
On why feminism is for everyone:
“Seeing the whole world as “the guys” is important. The idea that we’re all, at the end of the day, just a bunch of well-meaning schlumps trying to get along is the basic alpha and omega of my worldview. I’m neither “pro women” or “anti men.” I’m just “Thumbs up for the six billion.”
Related Post: Why I believe men belong in the feminist movement.
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