The following is the first installment of a semi-regular blog highlighting books in Bitch Media's new Community Lending Library.
Lillian Hellman was a handful. She was the first female playwright on Broadway, one of the first women screenwriters in Hollywood, a controversial memoirist, a boozehound and a socialite, a Leftist sympathizer who gained fame and was subsequently blacklisted for her refusal to testify against her friends during the McCarthy hearings (she famously responded to a subpoena with, "I refuse to cut my conscience to fit the fashion of the times"), and an all-around tough cookie. This collection of plays showcases Hellman's best talent: hard-nosed storytelling full of wit and style.
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature filmmaker Therese Shechter, creator of the documentary I Was a Teenage Feminist, on Woman: An Intimate Geography, by Natalie Angier.
My feminist inspiration came from an unlikely place: the world of science. Natalie Angier's book Woman: An Intimate Geography is all about women's bodies—from the smallest component, the single-celled egg, to great big concepts, like female sexual desire.
Angier describes what she does as "liberation biology," mixing hard science, personal stories, and sharp analysis of so-called conventional wisdom in a totally readable style. She wants us to love our bodies—but not in an Oprah way. She wants us to be exhilarated by our XX chromosomes and all that comes with them. Her question is simply, What makes a woman? The answer is a revelation.
I came across the book in an airport bookstore at an especially rough time in my life. I had just left a lucrative job in Chicago journalism to try my luck at being a filmmaker in New York. Approaching 40, single, childless, insecure in a challenging new career, alone in a new city, not exactly looking like a supermodel, I felt totally unmoored. It felt like everything about me was wrong.
It's the well-worn, short-yet-storied line that's become nearly cliché: "I'm not a feminist, but…"—one that's now some kind of standard midpoint in our culture's endless wrangling about the F word. Now "I'm not a feminist, but…" is being re-examined via comics in the forthcoming anthology The Big Feminist BUT, edited by Suzanne Kleid, Joan Reilly, and Shannon O'Leary. The anthology, which has a website, features comic artists' takes on what the editors call the "contradictory 'post-feminist' playing field" we're (apparently) living in today.
Page Turner interviewed O'Leary to learn just what it is about that big but that irks her and her co-editors, whether she thinks we really are living in a "post-feminist" playground, her picks of the best comics for comic-obsessed feminists, and (yes, it exists) sexism in the comics world. Read on for more!
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature musician and singer-songwriter Joan Wasser, of Joan as Police Woman, on Outlaw Culture: Resisting Representations, by bell hooks.
Outlaw Culture taught me to change the way I thought about everything. I first read it when it was released in 1994 because it had a chapter about Madonna and how she turned her back on her original, daring woman image and ultimately gave into the little-girl, sex-kitten status quo.
I had written essays on Madonna when I was in high school, horrified because my ideas of empowered women were Siouxsie Sioux and Exene Cervenka. I was already a massive music fan and felt confused by Madonna's brazenly sexual image (and unshaven underarms) in combination with her music, which I considered, at the time, totally useless fluff. I was thrilled to find someone else who shared my distaste for her, like hooks did, albeit in a completely different way.
When I was growing up, one of my very favorite things was to have books read out loud to me. My mother (a total bookworm, thank goodness) read to my little brother and I every night, and it was the best thing ever. We'd beg for her to read just one more chapter of My Father's Dragon or From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and I loved to fall asleep guessing what was going to happen next.
However, I am now a bit older and I no longer live with my mother (knock on wood). That is why, for this installment of BiblioBitch, I would like to make a case for the mighty audiobook. Audiobooks have replaced my mother when it comes to reading out loud to me at bedtime, and they usually feature celebrities (something that was missing from my childhood listening experience -- sorry Mom, but it's true).
"YA Lit Bitch" is the new Page Turner series about my ever-so-slight (or ever-so-obvious) obsession with young adult literature that's not only good, but represents a wide-open range of teenagers' lives with a feminist heroine (or 2, 3) thrown into the mix. The series features interviews with YA authors about their work as well as feminism, gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and other issues.
This week we talk with author Laurie Halse Anderson, who's written five YA novels, including the New York Times best-seller Speak, one of the most compelling depictions of the trauma of the interior space of a teenage sexual assault survivor. Anderson has been getting letters from teen rape and incest survivors ever since she published Speak, which was her first novel, ten years ago. Her latest,Wintergirls, covers the well-worn, adolescent terrain of eating disorders through the lives of two 18-year-old girls, Lia and Cassie.
Page Turner talked with Anderson about growing up feminist, what she loves about the teen audience, personal power in a consumer-driven culture, and how Wintergirls brought to light her own issues with disordered eating and body image.
We all know that feminist guy, right? The one who successfully sideswiped years of Neanderthal behavior to forge a path to guyville uniquely his own. And I'm not talking about the guy who wears a "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like" T-shirt and calls it a day. I'm talking about the men in our lives who acknowledge the feminine within them every day, without shame, and who stand up for women's rights as easily as they stand up to pee greet you. These are men who understand the value of feminism and of doing feminism to better girls' and women's lives in a culture as waywardly misogynistic as ours can be.
Author and women's studies professor Shira Tarrant, Ph.D., has written a book to celebrate that guy and to indoctrinate all men into understanding why feminism is not just about girls and women. Her book, Men and Feminism, is part of Seal Press' academic Seal Studies series and covers not only the history of men and feminism, but gender theory, constructing masculinity, masculine privilege, and how all men can—and why they must—get involved in feminist action.
Page Turner interviewed Tarrant about what led her to become an expert in masculinities, why feminism is relevant to men, speaking plainly about men's violence, and what men lose in pursuit of the "hypermasculine ideal." Read on for more!
What happens when a popular columnist and writer pens a "refreshingly honest--and brilliantly witty--celebration of the joys of getting wrinkly?" Nothing good.
Don't let the advance billing fool you--Virginia Ironside's new memoir is a misogynist, anti-sex turd wrapped up in fancy gift box of faux-empowerment.
What's an office with over 800 page-turning books to do? Lend them out to the public, of course! That's what we here at Bitch Headquarters decided to do after we realized that our 13-years-in-the-making book collection, covering topics such as feminist theory, media studies, art, queer and gender studies, history, and sociology, was too impressive to hoard to ourselves. So last summer, an admirable group of radical librarians offered to come into the office and catalog our books for us so that we could start lending them out. We got ourselves an account on LibraryThing.com (which you can use to view our online catalog by clicking here), designed some library cards, and now we're up and running. And don't worry--even if you're not in Portland, there are still ways to get involved.
"Rave On" is the Page Turner series that asks feminist writers, artists, musicians, activists, leaders, and scholars to talk about a book that completely rocked their world. Today we feature illustrator and writer Cristy C. Road on Assata: An Autobiography, by Assata Shakur.
I'm originally from Miami, where I felt frigidly alienated for a billion reasons, many of which were ignited by the republican Cuban-American community, which seems to run the social consciousness of every Cuban community there—despite class, neighborhood, etc. I left when I turned 18 and hung out around northern Florida in the punk rock community, and I felt very alive, but sincerely in denial about a lot of the new prejudices I was seeing in this new territory.
When I was about 20, I began feeling completely isolated from the punk rock community as well. I used a lot of denial-based tactics to feel "sane" back then, because I was so romantic about this community since it had salvaged me from preteen turmoil. As I grew older, it was becoming clearer that there was still sexism and racism clouding the positive effects of punk rock.