Sunday, November 1, 2009

Women Unbound: Meme & Recommended List

A group of women have taken on the task of hosting a challenge that examines and celebrates women in literature and non-fiction. There are 3 levels of participation. The challenge will run one year including memes and other fun activities. For details visit Women Unbound. The first meme asked participants to address the following questions:

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act? 2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Do you mean to say that you don’t believe in working in the interest of women? That’s what feminism is: It’s working to assure that women are not limited in their options and opportunities by virtue of their gender.~Faye Wattleton

I am a feminist. I am committed to speaking out against all forms of oppression. I believe the personal is political. I believe writing is political and a form of activism. I believe in a woman’s right to decide what is done with and to her body, her right to equal opportunity in employment and representation. I speak out for the liberation, protection and empowerment of all women especially those who are marginalized and disenfranchised. I argue that all people deserve access to health, safety, food, shelter, education and the opportunity to pursue the means necessary to support them without regard to gender or station.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today?

Is there ever a single obstacle when discussing a complex issue? Major obstacles include but are not limited to:

1) Restriction or non-access to education, employment, mobility.
2) Threats of physical harm, lack of safety and protection
3) Restricted or non-existent legal rights/protections and legal representation.
4) Second class status
5) The psychological onslaught of misogynistic and sexist behaviors and attitudes that compromise a woman’s ability to become a fully self-actualized human being.

Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

The question is very broad and therefore difficult to answer with a single response. It depends on what obstacle we're talking about, what time period and what culture. There are too many places and too many obstacles facing women worldwide. There is more wrong than right.

We were also asked to share our reading lists. I haven't finished my list but I do want to share a list of recommended titles as others have done.


In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (historical fiction) This is a fictional account of the Mirable sisters who lost their lives rebelling against an oppressive regime. Told in alternate narrations from each sister. This is what hooked me on historical fiction and its power to teach.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (speculative fiction). I can't think of any other writer who challenges a reader like Butler does. All of her work is a critique and examination of accepted social mores and behaviors. All of her women leads and all of her books I've read have women leads are complex, flawed and often problematic. They refuse to conform to convention.

No Laughter Here by Rita Williams Garica (YA) Young girl suffers the cultural practice of FGM.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (YA). A fantastic look at culture, gender and family.

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott (YA) an impressive blend of historical and speculative fiction. An accessible, noteworthy examination of race, racism, history and terrorism.


The Skin Between Us by Kim Regusa (memoir) Moving, well-written work about 3 women of 3 different generations, cultures and race.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. One woman's criticism of Islam, multiculturalism and her campaign to bring attention to a myriad of issues including female circumcision.

The Other Side of Paradise by Stacy Ann Chin (memoir) A young artist describes her difficult years and triumph. Chin is a writer, activist, lesbian poet.

Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja One woman's detailed account of seeking asylum in America to escape the horrific practice of FGM.

The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde. (essays) One of the most important and respected intellectual among her peers. She was brilliant, an iconic figure. You don't have a full picture of feminism without reading the Lorde.

Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving by Betty Dodson (sexuality) I think this should be required reading in Women's Studies.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday (sexuality) A classic. For the progressive woman and for the woman who wants to explore who she is.

Why do we have to wait until we're young adults before we discover women's studies? Wouldn't it help if we educated our young girls about their bodies, body image and biology before they go off to college?

Body Drama Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd Give me a 'V' for vulva. Say it like you're proud.

33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems and Smart Talk edited by Tonya Bolden (self-esteem)

Things I have To Tell You: Poems and Writings by Teenage Girls edited by Betsy Franco and Nina Nickles (body image/identity/self-esteem)


Flying West by Pearl Cleage. I think plays are Cleage's strength. This volumes contains plays that center on strong women if different places and different time periods. Strong emphasis on migration and place. Solid work.

For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enuf by Ntozake Shange I don't a woman or girl who has read or seen a production of the seminal work that was not moved by it. Another work that should be required for any serious women's studies program.


Like The Singing Coming Off The Drums by Sonia Sanchez. A true poet/activist. Sanchez embodies what it means to tap the feminine energy and power.

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1995 by Nikki Giovanni Ms. Giovanni is old-school, the real deal poet/activist. She's been penning about social, political and feminist issues her entire writing career.


Eva said...

Your recs are great Susan! Thanks for sharing. :)

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Fabulous post! (not that I would have anticipated anything less!)

Helen's Book Blog said...

Great list and answers. In answering the third question in particular, I got so overwhelmed! Education, political access, food for our families, access to health care, etc. There are so many obstacles for women throughout the world. It overwhelms me sometimes!

Zetta said...

Wow--did that roll off your tongue, or did it take time to think it through? I identify as a feminist, but rarely write about the reasons why...nicely done, Susan! And thanks for the mention of Wish!

Jessie Carty said...

Great post! I wish I had come to Women's Studies much earlier in life and I would love to go back to school for a Master's Degree but what would I do with it? Enjoy it? But is that the only reason for education?

Great rec's. I'm particularly glad you included Kim Regusa and Nikki Giovanni ;)

Anonymous said...

good list! love Sonia Sanchez. i'm thinking of adding Infidel since my husband finished it a year ago and it's still sitting on the shelf waiting for me to read it. and Parable of the Sower is excellent.

susan said...

Zetta, I struggle to be succinct but for the most felt I wrote what I felt. While I didn't have to think it through, I did have to edit.

BrownGirl, I read Infidel for a book club and folks were not happy. Me, I could appreciate how she felt even when I didn't necessarily agree with her position.

Jessie, I feel the same way. For me education is for learning and growing foremost. And that is why I will likely work till I'm 70. lol

H, I get depressed when I hear women talking about feminism and women's issues solely in terms of their own experiences. It is short-sighted to believe there is no need for a collective and active effort towards empowering women.

Thanks Eva and Jill, you know I'm stoked that you are in my world.

Elizabeth said...

AMEN! to everything you said. Your list is fascinating - can't wait to read your thoughts on those books. Also - Love Nikki Giovanni. She's amazing. Saw her perform some of her poetry live one - wow.

Unknown said...

Susan -
I agreed with your reasonable answers and loved your list so much I am now a reader!

I am dying to read anything by Octavia Butler, so it will be great to get your perspective...
Infidel I have half read... its a tough read. You have to be in a strong place to read her story...
Shellie said...