Monday, November 2, 2009

Women Unbound

A group of women have taken on the task of hosting a challenge that examines and celebrates women in literature and non-fiction. There are 3 levels of participation. The challenge will run one year including memes and other fun activities. For details visit Women Unbound. The first meme asked participants to address the following questions:

1. What does feminism mean to you? Does it have to do with the work sphere? The social sphere? How you dress? How you act?
2. Do you consider yourself a feminist? Why or why not?

Do you mean to say that you don’t believe in working in the interest of women? That’s what feminism is: It’s working to assure that women are not limited in their options and opportunities by virtue of their gender.~Faye Wattleton

I am a feminist. I am committed to speaking out against all forms of oppression. I believe the personal is political. I believe writing is political and a form of activism. I believe in a woman’s right to decide what is done with and to her body, her right to equal opportunity in employment and representation. I speak out for the liberation, protection and empowerment of all women especially those who are marginalized and disenfranchised. I argue that all people deserve access to health, safety, food, shelter, education and the opportunity to pursue the means necessary to support them without regard to gender or station.

3. What do you consider the biggest obstacle women face in the world today?

Is there ever a single obstacle when discussing a complex issue? Major obstacles include but are not limited to:

1) Restriction or non-access to education, employment, mobility.
2) Threats of physical harm, lack of safety and protection
3) Restricted or non-existent legal rights/protections and legal representation.
4) Second class status
5) The psychological onslaught of misogynistic and sexist behaviors and attitudes that compromise a woman’s ability to become a fully self-actualized human being.

Has that obstacle changed over time, or does it basically remain the same?

The question is very broad and therefore difficult to answer with a single response. It depends on what obstacle we're talking about, what time period and what culture. There are too many places and too many obstacles facing women worldwide. There is more wrong than right.

We were also asked to share our reading lists. I haven't finished my list but I do want to share a list of recommended titles as others have done.


In The Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez (historical fiction) This is a fictional account of the Mirable sisters who lost their lives rebelling against an oppressive regime. Told in alternate narrations from each sister. This is what hooked me on historical fiction and its power to teach.

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (speculative fiction). I can't think of any other writer who challenges a reader like Butler does. All of her work is a critique and examination of accepted social mores and behaviors. All of her women leads and all of her books I've read have women leads are complex, flawed and often problematic. They refuse to conform to convention.

No Laughter Here by Rita Williams Garica (YA) Young girl suffers the cultural practice of FGM.

Secret Keeper by Mitali Perkins (YA). A fantastic look at culture, gender and family.

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott (YA) an impressive blend of historical and speculative fiction. An accessible, noteworthy examination of race, racism, history and terrorism.


The Skin Between Us by Kim Regusa (memoir) Moving, well-written work about 3 women of 3 different generations, cultures and race.

Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. One woman's criticism of Islam, multiculturalism and her campaign to bring attention to a myriad of issues including female circumcision.

The Other Side of Paradise by Stacy Ann Chin (memoir) A young artist describes her difficult years and triumph. Chin is a writer, activist, lesbian poet.

Do They Hear You When You Cry by Fauziya Kassindja One woman's detailed account of seeking asylum in America to escape the horrific practice of FGM.

The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde. (essays) One of the most important and respected intellectual among her peers. She was brilliant, an iconic figure. You don't have a full picture of feminism without reading the Lorde.

Sex for One: The Joy of Self-Loving by Betty Dodson (sexuality) I think this should be required reading in Women Studies.

My Secret Garden by Nancy Friday (sexuality) A classic. For the progressive woman and for the woman who wants to explore who she is.

Why do we have to wait until we're young adults before we discover women studies? Wouldn't it help if we educated our young girls about their bodies, body image and biology before they go off to college?

Body Drama Real Girls, Real Bodies, Real Issues, Real Answers by Nancy Amanda Redd Give me a 'V' for vulva. Say it like you're proud.

33 Things Every Girl Should Know: Stories, Songs, Poems and Smart Talk edited by Tonya Bolden (self-esteem)

Things I have To Tell You: Poems and Writings by Teenage Girls edited by Betsy Franco and Nina Nickles (body image/identity/self-esteem)


Flying West by Pearl Cleage. I think plays are Cleage's strength. This volumes contains plays that center on strong women if different places and different time periods. Strong emphasis on migration and place. Solid work.

For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Was Enuf by Ntozake Shange I don't a woman or girl who has read or seen a production of the seminal work that was not moved by it. Another work that should be required for any serious women's studies program.


Like The Singing Coming Off The Drums by Sonia Sanchez. A true poet/activist. Sanchez embodies what it means to tap the feminine energy and power.

The Selected Poems of Nikki Giovanni: 1968-1995 by Nikki Giovanni Ms. Giovanni is old-school, the real deal poet/activist. She's been penning about social, political and feminist issues her entire writing career.


J.T. Oldfield said...

"is there ever a single obstacle when discussing a complex issue?" How true is that!

You sure have put together an inspiring list!

Care said...

Great quote by Wattleton. Thank you for this list; I've enjoyed checking on a few of these titles and have added them to my options list. oh, so many great books to read!

Niranjana said...

Hilary Mantel on feminism: "I think for a woman to say ‘I’m not a feminist’ is [like] a lamb joining the slaughterer’s guild. It’s just empty-headed and stupid."

I love this challenge, your responses to the questions, and your reading list. Thanks!

Nymeth said...

Unsurprisingly, I love your answers!

Though I failed to get to it in time for the heritage month, In the Time of Butterflies is currently at the very top of my tbr pile.

Rebecca Reid said...

Oh thanks for mentioning Nikki Giovanni! I read some of her poetry in high school and I really should read more now that it's been 10+ years! I remember really liking it.

Jade @ Tasting Grace said...

Wow, this is a great list! I might 'steal' some for my own to-be-read list. :) Thanks for sharing! I look forward to reading and discussing with you.

Neesha Meminger said...

Thanks for sharing this challenge, Susan. It's terrific.

Shellie (Layers of Thought) said...

I am finally here to look at your wonderful list and your eloquent meme answers.

I have Octavia Butler on my list so will be particularly interested to see what your think about her book.