"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).
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.
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.
Most of us have that album in our lives, the one that's the instant open doorway to our core. (Mine is Joni Mitchell's Hejira…or is it P.J. Harvey's Dry? Never mind—what's that album for you, Bitch readers?)
Our ardent devotion to that watershed CD is the theme of the new anthology Heavy Rotation: Twenty Writers on the Albums That Changed Their Lives, edited by Peter Terzian. The collection includes fine essays by Sheila Heti (on the Annie soundtrack), Stacey D'Erasmo (on Kate Bush's The Sensual World), Asali Solomon (on Gloria Estefan's Mi Terra), and Colm Tóibín (on Joni Mitchell's Blue).
It also includes Alice Elliott Dark's stunning essay, "The Quiet One," which chronicles her obsession with the Beatles' Meet the Beatles! and George Harrison that intensified at a pivotal, tragic point in her girlhood. Page Turner interviewed Dark about writing "The Quiet One"; truth-telling in fiction versus nonfiction; sexism and the boy bands; Beatle wives; and why she abandoned her belief in pop culture.