What is a good reading list to bring me up to speed in modern feminism?
February 24, 2013 10:21 AM   Subscribe

I am a white gay dude. My goal is to bring myself up to speed on feminism (and important streams in gender and whatnot). What books should I read? What blogs should I be reading? I want to be able to speak more coherently to these issues with an understanding of the history, and of the current theory.
posted by wooh to Education (15 answers total) 57 users marked this as a favorite
You might want to join this class on Coursera, which is about to start and is provided by the University of Maryland.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:26 AM on February 24, 2013

Check out Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender for a pretty current takedown of the idea that women and men are inherently, overwhelmingly different.
posted by littlegreen at 10:38 AM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

The biggest concern I can think of in feminism is intersectionality - how does feminism (or how can feminism) be a useful framework for all women, especially including women of color, native women and trans women? The biggest internal issue in feminism is making feminist theory more reflective of the various, various experiences of women globally and the ways that women are not all legally and socially equal to each other - that's been, like, a thing since the seventies. Beware of feminist theory that does not explicitly talk about this stuff. (Also, there are some schools of thought kind of related to feminism that center women of color - womanism, for example. When you say you want to learn about 'feminism', you probably mean "I want to learn about theories that center women and women's experience in seeking social transformation - so you probably want to keep an eye out for stuff like that.)

Some older but currently important feminist books I like: Ain't I A Woman (bell hooks); This Bridge Called My Back, anything by Audre Lorde, anything by Aurora Levins-Morales, Skin: Talking About Sex, Class And Literature by Dorothy Allison. I think Yes Means Yes is also a good book. I rarely read "feminist" blogs; I tend to read blogs that are informed by a feminist sensibility - Colorlines, Racialicious. Also Crunk Feminist Collective.

In some ways it seems pretty weird for me, a white person, to be recommending all these books - it's just that I think that if you read work by women of color, you get a better and more useful understanding of feminism than most of the work by white women I've read.

Also, there's just so many feminisms - like there's "choice" feminism (Margaret Thatcher is the sixth spice girl!) and so on. There's reform/legal oriented feminisms, there's cultural feminisms...
posted by Frowner at 10:47 AM on February 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

bell hooks's "Feminism is for Everybody" gets recommended a lot as an introduction. One of its selling points is that it talks pretty honestly about places where feminists have screwed up or gone barking up the wrong tree (in hooks's opinion) in the past. So in it you can see one modern feminist woman's take on the history of the movement, and on how modern feminism does (or should) differ from previous versions, which is pretty useful for figuring out how other authors and thinkers fit into the big historical picture.

Also, yeah, Audre Lorde is fantastic.
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 10:51 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Whipping Girl by Julia Serano, for one take on trans women's narratives, and the de-valuing of femininity more generally.
posted by ActionPopulated at 11:04 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you want to understand the history, and you haven't read The Feminine Mystique, read The Feminine Mystique. When I read it in the eariy 1990s it remained shockingly contemporary and relevant, and it's hard to imagine that's not still true now.
posted by escabeche at 11:13 AM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I liked an earlier edition of Rosemarie Tong's textbook, Feminist Thought. It could reasonably be accused of being an extended encyclopedia article, so I'm not sure about the later, "more comprehensive" editions' readability, but if you pop open the little plus sign by the paperback edition, you can get the old ones starting at a penny.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 11:16 AM on February 24, 2013

Patricia Hill Collins: "Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness and the Politics of Empowerment". Gives you one of the earliest and most-referenced overviews of intersectionality.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:32 AM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir should be at the top of your list. One of - if not the - defining texts of second-wave feminism.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 1:12 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

- Feministing
- Feministe
- Incite
- Bitch
posted by jammy at 2:21 PM on February 24, 2013

No Turning Back: The History of Feminism and the Future of Women by Estelle Freeman is a great general overview of feminist history and thought.

Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology

This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color

This Bridge Called Home

When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: My Life As a Hip Hop Feminist by Joan Morgan is one black feminist's exploration of race and gender

Books I haven't read but might be interesting:
The Guy's Guide to Feminism by Michael Kimmel and Michael Kaufman. Michael Kimmel is pretty good, he usually focuses on masculinity.

Seal Press also has a series of books about feminist issues: Men and Feminism, Girl Studies, Women of Color and Feminism, Motherhood and Feminism, Feminism and Pop Culture, Women and Violence, A History of US Feminisms, and Transgender History.
posted by Misty_Knightmare at 5:50 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog is a good place to start.
posted by catalytics at 6:19 PM on February 24, 2013 [2 favorites]

I am 47 (white female, former homemaker for two decades). In my twenties, I checked out a lot of stuff from the library on this topic. I am sure I do not recall most of the titles. Below are some titles I do recall, which are important works:

The Second Shift: About how women take "pink collar ghetto" jobs which preserve their energy for "the second shift" of housework and childrearing, thus they tend to remain in less demanding, lower paid jobs.

Having It All: One of Helen Gurley Brown's books. She promoted sex for the single girl (another book by her has the title "Sex and the single girl"), which was revolutionary for her time. She never had kids and never wanted them. Her idea of "all" was career and money and sex/romance.

Mom, I need to be a girl: Available online for free. It is a quick read. It represents a more positive experience for a trans person than most sources. Trans people seem to routinely get abuse heaped upon them. I did not get far into "Whipping Girl." but read and watched plenty of other stuff. I recommend this because I think it is clear evidence that the ugliness so many trans people endure is not "necessary." The girl's mother and siblings handled the situation with a great deal of thoughtfulness and she seems to have never learned to behave in a way which triggers the king of extremely negative reactions which some trans people seem to think are inescapable. So please realize this book shows kind of an ideal outcome, not what most trans people go through. But I think it should be promoted as a model for how to deal and something which is acheivable, not a pipe dream.

More Work For Mother: A history of 300 years of housework and how "labor saving devices" mostly saved male labor and shifted housework onto women so men could go do more paid work. I like it in part because it documents this trend without being venomous, man-bashing or blaming. The author draws some very positive conclusions about the trend while also suggesting that women can free up some of their time and energy by being a little less picky about housework.

I cannot think of any titles, but I have read some things which compare European trends and tactics to American ones. The short version is that American women embraced the American political tradition of saying "don't tread on me" and have generally taken the position that they don't need a man and can compete with men just fine if you just stay the hell out of their way. European women have generally pursued more support for their burden of childbearing and childrearing, which globally tends to fall disproportionately on female shoulders. European women have generally fared better, seeing more gains in earned income while maintaining lower divorce rates and more support from extended family than is typical in the U.S. I highly recommend looking at any information which compare the two approaches and their respective outcomes.

I will second suggestions to look at information about black American women and women of color. One strength of the black community is that they kept some aspects of certain tribal cultures. Like a lion pride, black families tend to be organized around related females. This has been a source of strength for the black community in the face of high rates out of wedlock births, high male unemployment, etc. The other thing common in the black community is that since black men (compared to white men) relatively rarely make enough money to support a nonworking wife as a fulltime homemaker, women have always worked and generally have more say in how the money gets spent than is typical in white couples. Upon searching, "Ain't I a Woman: Black women and feminism" sounds like a familiar title that I probably read.

Women and Children Last: About how American policy has helped create institutionalized poverty for the very people it was supposed to help. The same author also wrote "On her Own: Growing up in the shadow of the American dream." My recollection is that it documented the disconnect between our upbeat cultural messages and the harsh reality young, single women typically faced (from a certain era -- maybe the 80s?).

Also upon searching: Beyond the double bind.
posted by Michele in California at 6:20 PM on February 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shakesville is awesome, and has been a great entry point for me (a feminist white straight dude).
posted by rossination at 7:50 PM on February 24, 2013 [3 favorites]

For more heavy and cutting edge feminist theorizing check out the area of feminist technoscience studies which troubles the boundaries not only between genders, but between human and nonhuman subjects, objects, and agencies.

In a similar vein, check out the work of Rosi Braidotti and Karen Barad, the work of new materialist theory, the Posthumanities Hub, and the European Journal of Women's Studies.
posted by rumbles at 2:07 AM on February 25, 2013

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