Books that make me think: Feminist books

Hello all you lovely people, having a good weekend? I am; I have mostly been sleeping, visiting friends and staying up late reading. Because I’m a grown-up and I can do that sort of thing if I want.

Actually, reading into the early hours is my default state and has been for about twenty years. There’s a reason I’m always tired…well, in truth it’s one of the reasons I’m always tired.

Anyway, I wandered in to write reviews, not discuss my sleeping habits. Originally, that’s what I planned to do, but the post has grown. I’m going to talk about a couple of books that triggered the writing if this post and discuss my thoughts on the subject covered in them – feminism.

It’s one of the joys of the internet, the blogosphere specifically, that I can stumble across different perspectives and learn. The self-education thing is important to me. The two books that triggered this post were discovered because of internet reading. I should probably tell you what those books were, shouldn’t I?

The first is Laura Bates’s book ‘Everyday Sexism’ which is a must read for everyone. Utterly fascinating, utterly heartbreaking in places; I couldn’t put it down and learnt so much. The second book, which I read in to the early hours of this morning because I found it so interesting was Kira Cochrane’s ‘All the rebel women: The rise of the fourth wave of feminism’. Again, I recommend, if like me, you are unfamiliar with the idea. Cochrane puts the waves of feminism in context and the fourth wave specifically.

I found my way to these books while floundering around in the blogosphere trying desperately to understand what everyone was talking about.

I wonder, would a bit of background be useful? Why should a mostly intelligent woman in her thirties be struggling to understand feminism and the specific terminology used by feminists? It’s a fair question.

I always considered myself a bit if a feminist even before I knew the word; unfortunately, I live in a cultural backwater. Actually, it’s more like an oxbow pond, one of those ponds that are formed when a river changes course; if an adequate supply of fresh water is unavailable to replenish it with oxygen the pond stagnates and slowly fills with sediment. Immingham, when I was a teenager needing an intellectual outlet, was the manky, gooey black gunk at the bottom of the pond. No fresh water, new oxygen, since Wesley decided that desenting was a good idea (that’s a reference to the founder of the Methodist church; he was a Lincolnshire man. So was Isaac Newton. What happened to us?).

I know, I’m horrible about my home, but seriously I had such a narrow upbringing in this culturally closeted community. So, I love the internet. All this information, just sitting there waiting to be read. All those stories, all the different experiences. It’s wonderful and fascinating. The blogosphere has helped me deal with my depression, by giving me a place to write about it, information and the general feeling that I am not alone in this. It has also helped me understand other people better, and given me information that I’d have difficulty accessing in the offline world.

What has all the above ramblings have to do with feminism, and late night/early morning reading?

Like I said, I’ve always been a bit of a feminist; I was one of those irritating little girls (at least as far as my grandmothers were concerned) who didn’t care about being a ‘lady’, got mucky and found dolls dull. I preferred Lego and trains. It never made much sense to me that I shouldn’t play with trains; yet train tracks and Lego are boy’s toys. I just didn’t understand why some toys/activities were for boys and some for girls. I still don’t.

Adolescence hit and I got distracted by other ‘stuff’; school was hell, depression reared its ugly head some time in my early teens and I dove into reading fantasy to escape this world. I still argued for equality, but didn’t make use of teenage rebelliousnous to dig for information. I think I probably, outwardly at least, presented as a ‘nice person’, very bookish and shy but generally harmless. Other than my eccentric refusal to wear skirts from the age of eleven, and mostly wearing black – I was a big girl, black blends in to the background, also, you try finding flattering clothes for fat teenage girls that don’t cost a fortune – I was ‘normal’. If anything I was so conformist and narrow minded about some things, partly to fit in and to repress aspects of my nature, that I was the opposite of the rebellious teenager.

It’s possible that, had the internet been the ‘thing’ it is now, my adolescence would have been lot different, if I’d had the information available to me. The internet wasn’t that extensively available in the late nineties. It was out of reach for me. I think the first time I went online was in 2001, at, or just before I went to, university.

How times have changed! I’m typing this from my phone, I bank, shop and pay bills online, I have a laptop and tablet, read ebooks search for jobs and houses on the internet.

What I’m trying to say is that the internet has opened up information to a wider audience, and that it has helped kick start my latent feminist tendencies.

Just in time for the forth wave of feminism. I didn’t know this was happening until I started reading the blogs. I’ve been trying to get to grips with all the terminology that I had never heard before .

My brain has been feeding and it has learnt. I bought myself Laura Bates’s book about the Everyday Sexism Project and ‘All the rebel women’ to try to understand these new ideas. I found out about them because I saw a reference to the Everyday Sexism book on their Twitter feed, and went to look for other books on Amazon.

What I have learnt is probably obvious to old hands

Fourth wave feminism is a thing, and it’s been brought about by the internet connecting disparate groups and individuals. Organisations like the Everyday Sexism Project, built by a woman sick of street harassment who started compiling evidence that sexism still exists despite the protests that ‘we’re all equal now’, are only possible because the internet allows people to connect across the world.

Intersectionality stumped me for a while until I read more about it. Put simply, to me it means that some people are discriminated against for more than one reason and these intersect. Feminists need to be aware of that and acknowledge that everyone has different experiences. Those who are subjected to, for example, racism and sexism, regardless of sex, will have a different perspective from those dealing with sexism and ableism.

Describing a person as ‘cis’ as opposed to ‘trans’ confused me for a while too; I’d only ever come across these prefixes with reference to molecular chemistry before. I have since learnt that in the social sciences and associated areas the term cis means a person whose assigned gender is the same as the gender they feel they are, while trans* refers to people who don’t e.g. Transgender and agender people. I was not so ignorant as to be unaware of trans people and have been witness to transphobia but I hadn’t heard cis used in the context of gender. The recent development, in which some women are repudiating the prefix cis- because of its connotations of ‘conforming to traditional female stereotypes’ and is thus sexist, has been interesting to watch.

The definition of feminism always seems to be up for debate, despite the fact that it is simply the belief that women are not less than men, we’re all equal. Feminist are not misandrist, bra burning, hairy legged lesbians determined to bring in Matriarchy to replace the Patriarchy. Although there might be some, somewhere, who fit that description. Everyone who believes in equality and equity of opportunity no matter your sex gets to call themselves a feminist. Even middle class hetero white men.

Scrambled brain for breakfast

I’m really, really hacked off. Why the hell are we still having to fight for equality? Why do people think it’s okay to treat another person with less respect based on our differences?

I’ve become aware that compared to others I have a relatively privileged social status. While I do have to deal with cultural sexism, body shaming and stigmatized mental health disorders, I do all right in the grand scheme of things. I’m a white European; I’m well-educated and people assume I’m a middle class, Christian, straight cis-woman from my appearance. Not all of those assumptions are wrong, but still I have so much privilege, compared to the majority of the world’s females. It makes me angry that an accident of birth means I was able to get an education and can chose how to live my life, while others are denied basic rights.

It’s utterly wrong and utterly unfair. People are people, treat each other with the respect and dignity with which you expect to be treat yourself.

I don’t understand how people can be ignorant and cruel to each other, ignoring our common humanity.

Can we all just stop being idiots?

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