Let’s Read About Feminisms

I don’t really know how it happened exactly, but somewhere along the line I became a Sociology major. Believe me, I have no idea what exactly prompted that decision. Nevertheless, I became a Sociology major and was taught by a lovely lecturer whose real gripe with life is gender inequality.

She really encouraged the class to think critically about feminisms. The plural, she told us, is for sure necessary. And with so much diversity in the realm of feminism, it does make sense.

I’ve picked up and read a number of books on feminisms since that first class with her and decided to share my thoughts on three that I picked up last year.

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O’Toole is a personal account of how the author came to realisation that gender is all about performance. She talks about all the ways you can act like a girl or boy, even talking about her own experience playing the part of a male on wild nights out.

Emer O’Toole writes in a provocative and humorous style. It’s very conversational, but with just enough academic backing to give it a little bit of oomph. While everyone knows that personal anecdote doesn’t make no fact, I thought the Emer O’Toole’s personal touches gave this book a really special something. And I loved that she didn’t stick those personal stories in on their lonesome. She also drew on other stories and concepts from around the world, including different ways of looking at gender in different cultures.

I liked this book. I’d recommend to it to all my friends who are tired of acting feminine but feel like they don’t have much of a choice. Hell, I’d recommend it to all my friends who are tired of acting masculine but feel like they don’t have much of a choice.

So why did I only rate it three stars? To be fair, three stars isn’t such a shabby rating, but the way I’m talking about it probably makes you wonder why I didn’t rate it five. Truthfully? It was just because this is all stuff I’ve heard before. Gender as performance as an idea has been around for yonks and this didn’t add anything to that idea for me.

But for those of you who haven’t had much exposure to those theories? Then hell yeah. I think you’d enjoy this book.

The Geek Feminist Revolution is a collection of essays from accomplished sci-fi and fantasy author, Kameron Hurley. And, well, I just didn’t get what I thought I was going to get with this book. I’d imagined that all of the essays were going to be feminist-directed, and they definitely weren’t. Not the book’s fault, but there we go.

The essays are actually quite varied, covering the author’s opinion on how to make it in the industry, hard work, science fiction, the online world, and (of course!) feminism. They were all very well-written and interesting. It just wasn’t what I expected, and I think that really detracted from my enjoyment of reading this book.

Since this book did end up covering several aspects of Kameron Hurley’s personal life and life as a writer, I would have liked to have known a little more about her and her books before jumping into this. Sci-fi and fantasy are probably my least read genres, so I have to admit that I hadn’t actually heard of her before I was gifted this book. If I had and been a little more invested in her, I probably would’ve liked this book more.

So if you’re already a fan, I’d recommend this. Or if you want to read a little about feminism but not feel overloaded? Perfect!

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society and Neurosexism Create Difference by Cordelia Fine was my favourite of the three. Probably simply because it brought something new to the table for me. For the most part, my feminist reads have always focused on things like gender as a very abstract notion. Feminisms always come from a very cultural and societal place.

Cordelia Fine, however, approaches feminism from a psychological and neuro-scientific perspective. First of all, although this book is clearly extremely well-researched and more hard science-based than I usually read, make no mistake: Cordelia Fine does a wonderful job in her description and explanations, making it very easy to understand.

She takes some our favourite myths about gender (the first one popping to my mind right now is that men are inherently better at mathematics than women) and forces you to think critically about why we believe that and how that belief may skewer reality just a little bit. She does so by introducing the reader to a number of different experiments and their results, all in an incredibly witty tone.

This book is convincing. It’s fun to read and it makes you think. I absolutely adored it and would recommend it to anyone who’s interested in gender, but really wants that scientific backing to impress them.

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And there you have it! Three of the feminist books that I read last year and my thoughts. Next on my list are two that have been on my shelf for an insane amount of time that I absolutely need to get to: The Bitch in the House by Cathi Hanauer and The War on Women in Israel by Elana Maryles Sztokman.

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