What Would Kathleen Hanna Read?
April 6, 2015 8:31 AM   Subscribe

Who are some actually-radical feminists and what (and where) are they writing these days?

I admit it: I'm not remotely close to the center; I'm not one of those who can do feminism 101 educating; many so-called "fringe issues" and "edge cases" in popular parlance are not so in my worldview. I'm looking for unapologetic, "radical" feminist works -- I want to be challenged by the ideas presented, possibly feel uncomfortable or think that the writer may be overreaching. Or at least feel like we're not just beating the same "Yes, Virginia, there is a patriarchy" drum. Much of what I've read recently is on the level of "well, yes, obviously [to those who have any exposure to this topic at all]."

For example, while I liked Lean In and I think it was an important work, it was way too concerned with ruffling feathers and prefacing every statement with pages of #notall[insert_group_here] for my tastes. I want to read the writings of women (or men) who don't care if their writing offends*; who aren't writing for the masses but for the already-pretty-aware allies; works that understand the concepts of intersectionality and microaggressions.

I'd prefer nonfiction recommendations, though fiction on the order of The Handmaid's Tale would be ok too. Books, long-form blogs, articles, pdfs are all fine. Thanks!

*Though I am not interested in anything TERF or similar
posted by melissasaurus to Society & Culture (14 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Are you on Twitter? That's a good place to start.
posted by josher71 at 9:12 AM on April 6, 2015

Response by poster: Are you on Twitter?
Yes, in that I have an account, but not really because I never log on. I'd prefer things longer than 140 characters, though if there are particularly-awesome Twitterers (???) who link to things that would fall under the above description I'd take those recommendations as well.
posted by melissasaurus at 9:18 AM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: Laurie Penny has a new book out. I own it but haven't read it. In general, I like her work.

I feel like it's weird and potentially appropriative of cultural capital for me, a white person, to recommend books by women of color, but I also feel that it's important to recommend them and while others might have better recommendations you might find Black Girls Are From The Future of interest.

Also, Roxane Gay's essay collection Bad Feminist.

Have you read all the canonical stuff like Ain't I A Woman: Black Women and Feminism and This Bridge Called My Back and Black Feminist Thought? Conquest:Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide by Andrea Smith also comes to mind.

Again, as weird as this sounds coming from a white person, I think the most important feminist writing has almost always been focused around race and class, so I think that a lot of feminist writers who are not writing A Book Of Feminism also end up writing feminist books just because - Angela Davis's work really comes to mind. Some of it is directly "about" feminism, but all of it is feminist in outlook. Also, I think that any general-purpose feminist book - especially anything written after This Bridge Called My Back - that does not talk specifically intersectionality (and race) just isn't likely to be especially good.

It's old now, but I think it's still relevant: Dorothy Allison's Skin: Talking About Sex, Class and Literature was really important to me back when I was a mere slip of a thing.

It might also be worthwhile to check out some feminist theory anthologies from the library - I don't remember the particular ones I own, but this one looks decent - and just have a read and then pursue the specific concerns that resonate with you.

I feel like more sophisticated feminist theory starts getting pretty specific pretty fast - like, are you interested in issues around food justice? Domestic labor? Immigration (and then from where? with what status? to where)? Film theory? (I like film theory!)

Most of the feminist stuff I read is pretty scattered - it's more like "here is a feminist essay on n+1, here is another at Jacobin (occasionally at Jacobin)". Also, I tend to read literary and film criticism from a feminist standpoint (mainly at Strange Horizons and Aqueduct Press stuff).

You might also want to read some histories of feminist organizing or some older work because that would give you a sense of where people writing today are coming from.
posted by Frowner at 9:18 AM on April 6, 2015 [13 favorites]

Best answer: i know you didn't mean literally but this is a pretty great interview that covers her thoughts on some feminist literature.
posted by monologish at 9:21 AM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Cheryl Hanna was a professor at Vermont Law School who taught a Women and the Law Seminar, co-authored Domestic Violence and the law: theory and practice, and wrote a variety of op-eds and legal analysis before her untimely death. Some of her radical work is described here.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:29 AM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: Additional links to Cheryl Hanna's writing are available at the Constitutional Law Prof Blog, including this:
Her essay, Gender As A Core Value in Teaching Constitutional Law, 36 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 513 (2011), available in draft on ssrn, reminds us that while it may seem as if there is "ample opportunity to discuss gender when teaching equal protection and reproductive right" in Constitutional Law courses, ConLawProfs need to do more to "keep gender alive" throughout the semester.
Other works available online include:

The Paradox of Hope: The Crime and Punishment of Domestic Violence

Somebody's Daughter: The Domestic Trafficking of Girls for the Commercial Sex Industry and the Power of Love (2002)

The Violence Against Women Act and its Impact on the U.S. Supreme Court and International Law: A Story of Vindication, Loss, and a New Human Rights Paradigm (2014)
posted by Little Dawn at 10:05 AM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: Also, the never underestimate the power of tenure Feminist Law Professors blog includes "lists [of] law professors (by law school) who self-identify as feminists, and provides links to their professional or personal web pages."
posted by Little Dawn at 11:16 AM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: I'm looking for unapologetic, "radical" feminist works -- I want to be challenged by the ideas presented, possibly feel uncomfortable or think that the writer may be overreaching.


As (one of?) MeFi's resident radical feminist(s?), I must begin by issuing a hearty recommendation for the one and only S.C.U.M. Manifesto, the full text of which is available online here.

On a related note, check out the original Sisterhood is Powerful anthology. (It's been updated a couple times since the 1970s but I haven't read the sequels yet.)

Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men's Violence, and Women's Lives by Dee Graham (see also) is likely to leave you feeling uncomfortable at best and secondarily traumatized at worst.

Anything by bell hooks, particularly Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and the aforementioned Ain't I A Woman.

Shulamith Firestone FTW: The Dialectic of Sex.

Anything by Andrea Dworkin, natch. She's not exactly renowned for beating around the proverbial bush, but if I had to narrow it down to what I might personally consider her most unapologetic work, I'd probably pick Intercourse or Woman Hating.

Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis.

The Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer.

Audre Lorde's Sister Outsider.

On that note, you'll want to read Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism by Mary Daly, but you'll REALLY want to read Lorde's subsequent open letter to Daly.

On a further related note, the main link from this FPP from last year rocked me to the core of my being: Revolutionary Hope: A Conversation Between James Baldwin and Audre Lorde.

Against Our Will: Men, Women, and Rape by Susan Brownmiller is a painful and absolutely necessary read.

And finally, I'd recommend spending some time with "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence," an essay by the inimitable Adrienne Rich.

NB The above list is intended to be neither comprehensive nor academic; I never went to college so I have no idea if any of this is what people are assigned to read in, like, women's studies 101 or American history or whatever. I also have no idea what goes on at Twitter, Tumblr, &c., so a lot of it might seem (or be) woefully outdated. This is just a bunch of stuff that has been very meaningful and important to me as I've continued to discover that my personal belief system is best expressed by the philosophies and philosophers of radical feminism. Hope you find something useful in there, too!
posted by divined by radio at 12:59 PM on April 6, 2015 [14 favorites]

Best answer: Divined by radio's list overlaps a lot with what I read in women's studies in the 1980s/90s.

Ariel Levy has been writing some great articles in the New Yorker about the history of the radical lesbian separatist movement. There was also a great profile of Shulamith Firestone in the New Yorker a few months ago.
posted by matildaben at 1:21 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You should check out Emily Books
posted by raisindebt at 1:55 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: I like bell hooks' Killing Rage: Ending Racism and Julia Serano's Whipping Girl.
posted by bile and syntax at 5:18 PM on April 6, 2015

Best answer: If you haven't read much socialist feminist theory, this is a great primer: 21st Century Socialist-Feminism by Johanna Brenner. I definitely identify as a socialist feminist, and one thing I like about this perspective is its emphasis on intersectionality. I find it's not a stance that receives a lot of attention in mainstream American feminist writing, so you may find it refreshing.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:32 PM on April 6, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Also, fiction-wise, check out Ursula LeGuin's novel 'The Left Hand of Darkness' to see a novel grappling with gender & gender expectations, informed by LeGuin's feminist, taoist perspective - it's wonderful. And her essay 'Is Gender Necessary?', which she wrote in the 70s then revised in the 80s, is also well worth a read.

There's loads more feminist science fiction around if you like 'The Handmaid's Tale', but LHOD is a great place to start.
posted by considerthelilies at 6:06 AM on April 7, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Are you familiar with queer, intersectional, transnational women of color feminism? I'm deep in the current "radical feminism" scene. It's so radical to the point where now some people stay away from using the term radical feminism, because people who self-identify as trans exclusionary feminists are now co-opting the term radical, and people are calling it out. It is an interesting time.

Feminist Africa is a wonderful public access journal. Feminist Wire has fantastic, mindbending interviews with some of the most intense feminist scholars out there. Black Girl Dangerous is currently very popular. Also, look up Darkmatter, Virgie Tovar, Spectra Speaks, Kim Milan Crosby, Mia Mingus, Andrea Smith, Angela Davis, Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, etc. I also like Reappropriate.co

I lean heavily towards queer women of color feminism because that's how I self-identify and those are my politics, and there are some intense and wonderful critiques of liberal feminism that come out of those communities, which I hold close to my heart. I will probably come back and post more since I need to chase down my FB feed.
posted by yueliang at 11:38 PM on April 7, 2015 [2 favorites]

« Older Windows questions I should know the answers to but...   |   Can I grow tomatoes in my yard? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.