breaking out of the boyzone
February 7, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

What resources do you suggest for someone who wants to learn more about feminism?

There has been a lot of discussion about feminism on various parts of this site, which has inspired me to do some searching and reading.

While what I've found so far has been fascinating, it has more importantly been convicting.

I've always thought of myself as a gentleman to the women that I know and work with, a kind, generous boyfriend, and all-around good guy. And be that as it may, I'm beginning to uncover some disappointing beliefs and attitudes about women that I didn't realize I held--to the point where I am seeing ways in which I have been (and am) manipulative and controlling in my relationships with women.

What resources can you recommend for a mid-20s man living in the San Francisco Bay Area who wants to challenge his misconceptions and raise his consciousness regarding issues that women face such as sexism and equality? Books, magazines, blogs, shows, movies, documentaries, and events are all welcome.
posted by sambosambo to Human Relations (28 answers total) 67 users marked this as a favorite
I really like reading the blog Feministing. I don't always agree with what they say, but the posts on there give a really good idea of what (some of) today's feminists are concerned with. It's definitely aimed at young women who don't identify as Feminists.
posted by carolr at 3:51 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]




These blogs are all over the place, but they're spun in a generally-feminist direction. Remember that not all women, or even all feminists, will have identical beliefs. If you're feeling really crazy, go find a showing of The Vagina Monologues next week.
posted by almostmanda at 3:53 PM on February 7, 2008


Heather Corinna - who has just started a month-long project to post photos instead of words, but that's great because it gives you a good while to catch up on something like 8 years of writing.
posted by DarlingBri at 3:54 PM on February 7, 2008

I read and recommend all of the blogs linked thus far.

If you're looking for a magazine, Bitch comes out quarterly.

This entry at One Good Thing has an extensive list of books to read. Check out flea's blogroll, too -- there's a ton of feminist blogs.
posted by sugarfish at 4:01 PM on February 7, 2008

There're about a zillion kinds of feminism. Some books from my women's studies classes in college include:

Sister Outsider
The Yellow Wallpaper
A Room of One’s Own
Sisterhood is Powerful
The Second Sex

All are first- and second-wave books, so they'll give you some historical perspective. Google around in some .edu sites for syllabi for women's studies and gender studies classes - a lot of the lit will be very academic and theoretical, but a lot of it won't.

In blogland, check out Bitch PhD, especially her posts Feminisms, Do You Trust women?, Feminism 101, and Misogyny in Real Life (read the comments especially).
posted by rtha at 4:05 PM on February 7, 2008

Well, you might want to start with wikipedia and the entries they have on second-wave feminism. That's probably the best place to start, and you can't really have a credible conversation or start questioning social attitudes towards women without it.

I spend a lot of time on Jezebel, but in all fairness, there is a lot of complete fucking bullshit on that site that masquerades as feminism, so don't take that as the last word, especially when you're reading the commenters comparing breast size and asserting how they're totally not fat, you guys and whatever.

Seriously, I know it might seem like a copout, but wikipedia's the best place to go, because you can almost follow a chronological bibliography of the second-wave movement, and then branch off from there into radical feminism, third-wave feminism, black feminism, etc., etc.

I can't imagine there being a dearth of feminist activities in San Francisco. Try your local library and get your helpful local librarian to direct you to some good stuff.
posted by mckenney at 4:05 PM on February 7, 2008


"Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions" -- a collection of essays and articles by Gloria Steinem.

"Crazy Salad Plus Nine" -- now in print again but I'm not sure whether with or without the extra nine, a collection of articles by Nora Ephron. She was working for, I think, the Daily News in the 1970s and explored some of the more wacky stuff, such as a movement in which women taught one another to do gynecological self-exams and to "extract" their menses in something like 15 minutes, thus shortening their periods.

"The Feminine Mystique" -- Betty Friedan's opus is a bit dated, yes, but it is absolutely essential reading.

You may also consider reading "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich, which, while not technically a feminist work, shows a good deal about the state of pink collar workers in the US.

And finally, I highly recommend the 1972 article "Welfare is a Women's Issue" by Johnnie Tillmon, available here.

If you can find a copy of "The First Ms. Reader," published in 1972, you won't regret the purchase.
posted by brina at 4:08 PM on February 7, 2008

Nthing Feministing, and heartily seconding mckenney's criticism of Jezebel. I wish I could like Jezebel, but they've been overly catty/assy/just plain wrong enough times that I stopped reading altogether. (I think the straw that broke the camel's back was when one of the writers insisted that eating disorders could be "gotten over" by "growing the fuck up.")

I'm glad you're asking this question, by the way. I wish more guys would take an active interest in feminism. Doing so takes real gonads (of whatever your biological sex).
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:22 PM on February 7, 2008

There was a great question asking for feminist blog recommendations not too long ago. I like Bitch Ph.D., though her focus can be a bit academic.

This is a matter of taste, but it was getting to know my body better that was the starting point of a feminist perspective for me, and I often find that sort of literature much more compelling and concrete than cultural analysis. The reference book Our Bodies, Ourselves did more to teach me about female anatomy, sexuality, and general health when I was a young woman than any other resource. In the edition I first read, there was a graphic image of a woman who'd died of a self-inflicted abortion. Later, she was identified as Gerri Santoro, and a truly great documentary was made explaining the life and circumstances that lead to her terrible death on a motel floor. It's called Leona's Sister Gerri and I highly recommend it if you want to understand what life before Roe v. Wade was like for women.

In addition, Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier is already a classic. I have never read a better book about female physiology and biology. It is feminist, but also deeply grounded in science.

Finally, the most persuasive and elegant feminist literature I have ever read is A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf. It's mostly about female artistry but beyond that, it's about longing for autonomy, and how it is to be shut out of the most serious and well respected cultural conversations and traditions. That manages to make it sound deadly dull, but it's not. It's where the famous parable about Shakespeare's sister comes from.
posted by melissa may at 4:31 PM on February 7, 2008

How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ is an essential book, I think, for some of the Boyzoney Metafilter discussions - it talks a lot about how it's very much sexist, albeit in an indirect way, to privilege some things as Worth Talking About (which just happen to be the things men do) and some things as Not Worth Talking About (which just happen to be the things women do).
posted by Jeanne at 4:37 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I read Backlash in college, and it had a profound impact on my perspective.

Seconding Nickeled & Dimed.
posted by mkultra at 4:37 PM on February 7, 2008

You'll probably either love or hate Cunt by Inge Muscio, but it has been one of the most popular feminist books of recent years so that might count for something. It's got a modern and fairly populist perspective, while remaining pretty ideologically intense. Personally I don't love the writing style, but I love that this information and attitude is getting out there.
posted by lgyre at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2008

I spend a lot of time on Jezebel, but in all fairness, there is a lot of complete fucking bullshit on that site that masquerades as feminism

Amen. Jezebel veers drunkenly from the amusing to the randomly insightful to the totally horrifying. (The frequent "skinny bitches aren't real women" rants are especially dismal.) It's a guilty pleasure for the gossip and schadenfreude, but the first (or last) word in feminism it most certainly ain't.

I'd recommend Sharon Smith's Women and Socialism for a Marxist take on women's issues, as well as a critique on non-class-based feminist theory and strategy. (The classic Marxist approach is Frederick Engels' Origin of the Family.)

Back Rooms is a graphic, moving collection of stories from women who had abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized it; even if you already consider yourself pro-reproductive rights, this will drive home the urgency of women's access to safe, affordable medical abortion (not to mention birth control).
posted by scody at 4:52 PM on February 7, 2008

Wikipedia is actually a good place to start, as is most of the stuff already recommended.

Feminist blogs are great, but not unproblematic. Like, Feministing is good, but trends toward superficial and the comment threads drive me nuts. Feministe is a favourite of mine. (Also, for really beginner-y stuff there's Finally, A Feminism 101 blog. That tends to respond to oft-held misconceptions, but if you're on board with the whole feminism thing, it might be too basic for you.)

(Also, there are some great blogs by women of colour that deal with feminism, some of which were mentioned in the previous questions: brownfemipower is a favourite of mine; she has a pretty comprehensive links list as well. Good to add to your feeds if you pick up the more mainstream blogs, just for a different perspective; I've rethought a lot of stuff since I've started reading her.)

For paper periodicals: I read every Bitch cover to cover. They're a "feminist analysis of pop culture," but they interpret "pop culture "really broadly and also include interviews with prominent feminist writers who are doing stuff right now.
posted by SoftRain at 5:12 PM on February 7, 2008

Start with the women who defined the concept:

Simone de Beauvoir The Second Sex
Mary Wollstonecraft A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (Wollstonecraft's daughter Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein). This is an amazing book, especially considering that it was written in 1792.

Then, you can't understand feminism in the 21st century, without understanding its mid-20th century roots. Read the books that my generation wrote, please, and then you will understand our screaming impatience on this site with the young feminists, or worse, young women who think feminism is a lot of shrill bullshit. (You know, the ones who think they got into law school because they're smart, and not because an entire generation marched in the streets for their right to do so.)


Bette Friedan Feminine Mystique (you must read this book. To say that it is "dated" is like saying that the constitution is "dated" because it was written so long ago. This is what life was like folks. It's not "dated" it's history.)
Germaine Greer The Female Eunuch (Greer actually is pretty shrill, but this is also a seminal book. You might dip into other Greer as well. She's not a terribly good scholar, but she's a very very creative thinker, and not afraid to stick her neck out.)
Marilyn French The Women's Room Betty Friedan fictionalized, not terribly well-written, but one of the first mainstream books that really got it.

rtha's list is excellent as well.

Just for fun, throw in Fat is a Feminist Issue (I had totally forgotten that this was written by freakin' Susie Orbach.)
posted by nax at 5:17 PM on February 7, 2008 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I actually found Bitch PhD recently by following links from occhiblu's comment here and have been reading it a lot lately.
posted by sambosambo at 5:39 PM on February 7, 2008

Jeanne, thanks, I just ordered a copy of How to Suppress Women's Writing after reading the excepts at your link. Cheers!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:42 PM on February 7, 2008

I second going to see your local V-Day production of The Vagina Monologues. First off, Eve Ensler makes a special V-Day edition of her script available for free to groups who will use the earned proceeds for groups working to protect women from sexual and gender-related violence. Second, it was written after a set of interviews with various women, and is at turns profane ("My Angry Vagina"), hilarious ("The Flood"), touching ("I Was There in the Room"), joyfully defiant ("My Short Skirt"), and very sad ("My Vagina Was My Village"). It's not men-bashing, it's women- and life-affirming.

(Disclosure: I will be participating in our local production for the third time. For the first two times, I did "The Flood". I'm reading "My Vagina Was My Village" with a friend this year.)
posted by lleachie at 5:43 PM on February 7, 2008

Woman Hating
by Andrea Dworkin, I know she is pretty hardcore but it opened my eyes.

I gave a copy to a would be feminist friend of mine once and she dissed me just because of the title.
posted by Max Power at 5:45 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm surprised this hasn't been mentioned yet but I love the feminist blog Feministe. Also nthing Feministing, Pandagon and Bitch PhD.
posted by peacheater at 6:22 PM on February 7, 2008

Besides everything else that's been nthed, I'd like to heartily second brownfemipower/La Chola (I just went over there and there's been a name change, it looks like), and bring up Angry Black Woman.

Oh, and welcome to the club, dude.
posted by bettafish at 8:02 PM on February 7, 2008

I'm a huge fan of Catharine Mackinnon and recommend Feminism Unmodified, especially if you have an interest in law. She's pretty controversial, and she makes you think.

Generally I would recommend starting from whatever angle interests you, otherwise. There's good feminist material written about all kinds of subjects, psychology/psychiatry (Harriet Lerner), law (above), literature/writing/academia (Carolyn Heilbrun), motherhood (Adrienne Rich), language (Deborah Tannen), etc etc, the ones above are all thinkers I adore, but there are huge realms I barely know about. Pick one where you already have some familiarity/comfort level and you'll find your way through the rest.
posted by Salamandrous at 8:29 PM on February 7, 2008

I highly recommend Allan G. Johnson's book The Gender Knot. It offers a very useful analysis of the ways in which systems of privilege are obscured and denied in society. It also offers concrete, helpful ways to work against systems of oppression.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:49 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

I entered my Gender class in graduate school ready for a fight. I had my arguments for why men have it so bad, and how I had been raised by women and so I had a legitimate argument, and blah blah blah. The professor gave us one book: The Gendered Society, by Michael S. Kimmel, and my little mind exploded. In 294 pages, I got it. This book then made it on a Very Short List of books that I can say changed my worldview substantially.

Susie Bright (blog) tackles more feminism and sexuality, but her book Full Exposure was one of my Most Highlighted and Margin-Noted of all time.

Good luck!
posted by cheeken at 10:56 PM on February 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Will nobody speak for Olympe de Gouges?
posted by Wolof at 12:08 AM on February 8, 2008

Just a question. I might be misunderstanding your question, but you say "I am seeing ways in which I have been (and am) manipulative and controlling in my relationships with women." To me, being "manipulative and controlling" is less about feminism (women can be manipulative and controlling toward men, too) and more about having a good sense of boundaries and a good respect for the other person as separate from yourself. A good book about this (which also happens to have a feminist tilt) is Dance of Intimacy, but I bet there are others. (How to Be an Adult in Relationships? I haven't read that one).
posted by salvia at 9:44 AM on February 8, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try anything by Audre Lorde, bell hooks, Alice Walker, or Adrienne Rich.

Here's a feminism 101 blog.

Also, try googling "male privilege"

Hope that helps.!
posted by lunit at 12:28 PM on February 8, 2008

Cool! I wish there were more guys like you out there! :)

Gender and Women's Studies major here...there are a ton of great suggestions thus far!

I love Feministing, and also check out Jessica Valenti's (the woman who started the site) newish book "Full Frontal Feminism" - haven't read it yet, but I met her at the National Women's Studies Association conference last summer and she was amazing. I love her take (and third wave feminisms in general on making feminism accessible outside the academy).

"Feminism is for Everybody" by bell hooks
"Sister Outsider" by Audre Lorde (actually, anything by her. She is amazing)
Bitch and Bust magazine.
Judith Butler is an always cited, but super dense theorist who writes a lot about gender. Important, but somewhat boring. I named my fish after her, because I found myself starting at the fish while I was supposed to be reading her....
"Sisterhood is Forever" ed. by Robin Morgan is an interesting compilation of feminist writings, I also really like "Reconstructing Gender" ed. by Estelle Disch for writings from more of a sociological perspective.
Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua's writing and poetry.
Adrienne Rich -- prose and poetry
"The Straight Mind" by Monique Wittig
"The Sex Which is Not One" by Luce Irigaray

Also check out the Men Can Stop Rape website! Oh! And Jackson Katz website and writings -- an amazing guy and amazing feminist! :) Good luck!
posted by gleea at 9:58 PM on February 12, 2008 [1 favorite]

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