Feminism for Real reminds me of This Bridge Called My Back: Writings of Radical Women of Color (1981) edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa and the book is now sadly out of print. This Bridge was written by activists, writers and scholar/activists. And, many were in the early part of their careers. Some had never written before and sure enough the anthology has fielded commentary about the quality of the writing. It was not an academic tome, but as a classic text was used in many Women’s Studies and Feminist Theory courses. I have assigned it in both Women’s Studies and Political Science courses over the years. Feminism for Real is also uneven. Some of the sections offer an important rant and others offer more depth to the section. I would classify Feminism for Real as a must read for the general audience, friends or advocates of feminisms, and for people who actively feel a certain level of distrust or angst with feminisms.
I am a long-time Reader of Racialicious, so I was not surprised at how the Latoya Peterson chapter, “The Feminist Existential Crisis (Dark Child Remix)” was my favourite and the most dog-eared in my book. What does it mean to be a professional feminist? What does it mean to understand something like feminism and also admit to the heavy baggage that comes with it? Peterson wrestles with this in her section. These are important conversations to have. All of the chapters have some merit to them–regardless if they made me walk away from the book for a few weeks. Having a visceral reaction is a good thing.
Students in Women’s Studies or Social Justice Studies have high expectations for the faculty and their classmates. I sense that they might not understand the ways in which faculty (especially pre-tenure) faculty need to balance pedagogy and climate issues in departments and on campus. And, after re-reading certain sections I am convinced that some students will still accuse me of being a Radical Feminist (these students do not know their feminisms) and others will accuse me of being an Asshole Academic, but then another set will note that I challenged their ideas and made a difference. Then, I am doing my job as a self-identified feminist educator. I will add that that the two authors I always go back to for my feminist politics are hooks and Anzaldúa–for whatever that is worth. They are my feminist tome home. I do think that many of us in this line of work–professional feminism, activist politics, higher education–you name it–have certain ideologies that frame our understanding of feminisms. While it’s easy to think about a monolith, I try and argue that there is not.
While some of the chapters of my copy of Feminism for Real is filled with my angry notes or mere comments, I am still grateful to the amazing, Jessica Yee for this anthology. My feminisms is wide enough to know that I can agree with Yee on some counts and then agree to disagree with her in other cases. If a book instills anger, hiding the book for weeks, writing in it, talking about it with students, and friends, then the book is really worth reading. Read the book. It will rock your feminist world (whatever that is for you). The book will also make you think twice as you put your syllabus together—trust me. I revamped one syllabus while reading the book and then took a good look at the other syllabi.