Feminism 102?
January 3, 2012 1:30 PM   Subscribe

What books, articles or online resources would you suggest to introduce a well-intentioned guy to feminism?

I've been trying to think about the best ways to introduce my boyfriend to feminism. He's expressed an interest in learning more about it from me, but frankly I don't know where to start. Feminism is something I almost organically imbibed from the atmosphere in my home growing up and I can't remember a time before which I didn't call myself a feminist.

Where he's coming from: In actions, he's pretty feminist. He seems supportive of feminism and equal rights in general and is basically a very nice guy, in the true sense of the word. He listens patiently when I talk about my feminist beliefs and asks good questions. He was raised by very strong and independent women -- his mother and grandmother, so he respects women and treats them as people beyond whether he finds them attractive or not. He believes in sharing chores equally and, since he values neatness more than I do, probably does more cleaning than I do (actually we live apart for the moment, but he does the dishes, reorganizes my room for me etc. whenever he comes over). He's committed to sharing parenting duties equally, and moreover, seems to look forward to becoming a father. He's supportive of my career aspirations. When we talked about me not changing my name if we get married, his response was: do people still do that? He then said that he really likes my last name and would never expect me to change it. He never jokes about rape or mine or other women's appearance.

At the same time he reacts with more dismay than warranted if I jokingly place a pair of pink bunny ears on his head and pulls them off immediately. He played with toy soldiers and tanks and legos as a boy and considers them the right playthings for boys. I don't suppose he would mind if a daughter of his played with them too, but he might be a bit dismayed if a son was given a doll, for example. Occasionally he'll scoff at female sports, for example dismissing the women's soccer world cup as not "real soccer." At the same time though, he's not dismissive of the real life women players on his coed soccer league team.

Little things crop up from time to time, and I don't really want to sit down and give him a lecture. I feel that, while his heart is in the right place, there are a lot of things he just doesn't get, because he hasn't been exposed to them. What can I give him or show him that is a good explanation of the basic tenets of feminism, perhaps directed at men (though that's not necessary)?

I read many feminist blogs, including Feministe, Feministing and Pandagon, but I feel that their focus on current issues, somewhat fractious politics and sometimes intimidating jargon might put him off. He eagerly picked up Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex at a used book sale but never quite managed to get through it -- which I can sympathize with. I've been recommending Backlash to him, which I just picked up myself, but it does seem aimed at someone who already knows the basics of feminism, being a commentary on society's reaction to the feminist movement. It seems that most materials are either directed at the completely clueless, or are a bit too advanced.

He reads a lot, especially non-fiction and can probably take a fair bit of theory, though I don't want to make this too dense. Thank you for your recommendations!
posted by peacheater to Writing & Language (12 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
I read it like a decade ago, but Listen Up: Voices from the Next Feminist Generation was a good intro in that it had lots of varied essays with many points of view.
posted by ifjuly at 1:40 PM on January 3, 2012

Best answer: Women and Socialism might be interesting for both of you; it presents a lot of frankly astonishing info, stats, etc. about the nuts and bolts of women's oppression, and it also presents a pretty strong critique of mainstream feminism (including the fractured politics and jargon that you mention).
posted by scody at 1:43 PM on January 3, 2012

I liked Manifesta when I was first getting into feminism, but it might be a bit dated now.
posted by naturalog at 1:46 PM on January 3, 2012

Here's one essay from that comp, to give a taste--but they are super varied.
posted by ifjuly at 2:17 PM on January 3, 2012

I wouldn't actually start by introducing him to any sort of feminist rhetoric or theory, which will probabaly be alienating. (It's alienating to me, and I'm a feminist!) Instead, have him read biographies of famous women in the recent past and learn about all the struggles they faced trying to make it. Justice Ginsburg comes to mind. Learning about the objective facts of things like salary disparity would also be good. I think the idea is to inculcate him in the understanding of the discrimination women faced, rather than the theory about it. Once he has a feel for this, then he can start understanding why, for example, calling women's soccer "not real soccer" is sexist (in addition to just plain rude!) Theory follows facts, I think.

I wouldn't place too much emphasis on his personal aesthetic reactions (eg, bunny ears) and his beliefs about things like toys. That's too personal.
posted by yarly at 2:20 PM on January 3, 2012 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I know you said 102, but even if he's not starting from square one it sounds like there are some things he missed on defining masculinity and all that fun stuff so maybe these will help:

Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

Shakesville's Feminism 101 page linking to relevant posts within that blog. (Also, Shakesville in general.)

And if he wants something by (and for) dudes, there's Michael Kimmel's work on masculinity and feminism. And I just discovered that Kimmel has a new book out called The Guy's Guide to Feminism, which has my new favorite book trailer.

I would actually steer away from theory, to be honest, at least at first -- it's really easy to understand things theoretically and not in practice.
posted by camyram at 2:21 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

I can't recommend the Pervocracy enough. (A sex-positive, and in fact kinky, angle.) This FPP has links to some of her important and 101 type posts. (Some of her very old posts are not very feminist, in both my opinion and hers.)

I gained a lot of awareness and articulation of feminist ideals from reading Sociological Images. It also deals with issue-of-the-moment type things, but in a sort of contextual / cohesive way that makes it easier to get the difference between "this product / idea / stereotype / trope, regardless of the intent with which it was produced, is problematic and part of a pattern of sexism / rape culture" and the way that is often interpreted, which is, "this product / idea / stereotype / trope is EVIL and the people it are EVIL MISOGYNISTS who did to HURT WOMEN and is CAUSING RAPE" etc. It sounds like your bf gets that difference, I just mean that it's generally good that way. Unlike Pervocracy, I find older SI posts to be better. The newer ones are okay, but there are a lot of poorly-thought-out guest posts in my opinion, and I guess as a longtime reader it can get repetitive or seem like they're running out of (comparatively) interesting topics. I can try to dig for some of my favorites / specifically 101-ish posts if you want. SI is also sort of obsessed with that gender double-bind you mention (where our culture finds it great for little girls to do boy things, but abhorrent if boys do girl things) and how this is sexist toward, and bad for, everyone. They have toooons of posts with many concrete examples. They have some great posts on salary disparity, overall and in various fields, as well.

And seconding Finally A Feminism 101 Blog.
posted by fireflies at 2:29 PM on January 3, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would recommend The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolfe and Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy. I have suggested both books to boyfriends / male friends who wished to learn more about feminist / gender issues.
posted by omarlittle at 2:48 PM on January 3, 2012

Really, omarlittle? I find both of those problematic (though I loved Beauty Myth when it came out and I was just beginning to be a feminist).

Levy in particular seems to have a problem with sex and purity.

Instead I would recommend He's a Stud, She's a Slut by Jessica Valenti. It's a quick read and covers a lot of useful ground.
posted by emjaybee at 5:10 PM on January 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Jean Kilbourne's most recent version (2010) of her documentary Killing Us Softly (part one here and part two here) is an interesting examination of gender stereotypes in advertising. I frequently show this to students with little to no background in gender studies or feminism, and an overwhelming majority, even the more resistant ones, find it genuinely engaging--it tends to really open their eyes to the stereotypes many of us take for granted. I also like how Kilbourne looks at intersections of racism, sexism, and heteronormativity.

Your bf might also be interested in the doc Tough Guise by Jackson Katz, about the oppressive nature of society's expectations about men and masculinity. It's a little dated (and the Google video link is not great quality, so if you can get it from a library it's much better), but like Killing Us Softly, it's engaging and thought-provoking. Just as Kilbourne does in her film, Katz examines the additional, different (and equally problematic) pressures facing people of colour.

And although this last one is an academic book, Allan G. Johnson's The Gender Knot is still accessible, well-written, and mindful of where men are coming from in its explanations of how men (and women) fit into the patriarchy.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 5:23 PM on January 3, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: My introduction to feminism was via bell hooks' "The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity, and Love", followed by "Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics". What drew me in was hooks' genuine empathy and love for the men in her life, but she doesn't mince words about how she has been hurt by male-dominated society. She's very clear about her premises: patriarchy is the cause of our problems - and this allowed me to see that I wasn't necessarily a terrible person for being male, but that I did exist as part of a system that systematically oppresses women, along with other groups.

Also would recommend "Yes Means Yes" - both the book by Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman, and the blog, along with "Men and Feminism" by Shira Tarrant.

I would wholeheartedly recommend that your boyfriend steer clear of both reddit and tumblr discussions of feminism.
posted by baniak at 5:27 PM on January 3, 2012 [7 favorites]

(male here) I found Germaine Greer's The Whole Woman an enjoyable, well written book that introduces ways of looking at the world very well. However, she's quite idiosyncratic, and there are bound to be things in there that you (and your boyfriend) will find disagreeable.
posted by Gomoryhu at 7:43 AM on January 4, 2012 [1 favorite]

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