Bibliobitch: Feminism For Real for sale at BitchMart!

The Feminism for Real cover, featuring a nude brown torso with arms crossed defiantly over the breasts against a red background. Bitch is super excited to be selling Feminism for Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism, edited by Jessica Yee, a self-described "Two Spirit multi-racial Indigenous hip hop feminist reproductive justice freedom fighter," who founded The Native Youth Sexual Health Network. This anthology takes on the feminist academic industrial complex, asking and answering questions such as, "When feminism itself becomes its own form of oppression, what do we have to say about it?"

In Feminism FOR REAL, Yee and more than twenty contributors take on academic and mainstream feminism, exposing ways that "capital F" feminism has failed. Many of Feminism FOR REAL's contributors use their own experiences in feminist academia as a framework for their critiques of mainstream feminism. Several contributors write very specifically about their alienating experiences within women's studies departments. Shabiki Crane writes about a time when a women's studies professor "announced to the class that when white women like Britney Spears presented themselves in a sexual manner it was because they were asserting their sexuality; however, when black women, like Beyoncé did, they were simply being puppets and degrading themselves." Megan Lee tells us about sitting in a women's studies class where a white blonde girl raised her hand to complain about how uncomfortable she felt talking to black people because "they" might act hostile towards her. Lee writes, "There were a couple of black women in the room, and I wish to god that I could transcribe their facial expressions because their faces said it all."

Many women's studies students have been in similar situations, sitting in classes where white students have commented on a person of color as if they weren't sitting right next to them, where white women have been praised for doing the bulk of feminist work, where race has only been discussed as a footnote. Feminism FOR REAL asks academics to rethink their experiences in academia and to begin thinking about how to build a feminist classroom that is less oppressive. Some of the book's contributors are college drop-outs, some of them have lots to say about their experiences working towards master's degrees, and a few of them are still in high school. This book does not require you to have studied feminist theory in academia, and explains to us that mainstream feminism shouldn't either.

Feminism FOR REAL breaks many of the rules of "capital F" feminism, in addition to breaking many academic literary rules. The anthology begins with a conversation between Krysta Williams and Erin Konsmo in which they list the titles they pondered naming their piece in a bullet pointed list (potential titles include "Young Native Women Ragin' it up with Feminism" and "Fuck the 3 waves—We are the Ocean!"). In another contribution, titled "This Shit is Real: Deconstructing dialogue in feminist education," Krysta Williams and Ashling Ligate transcribe a conversation they had critiquing women's studies for not seeing personal conversations as a legitimate form of academic discourse. Ligate writes, "As an academic in Women's Studies, I often feel as though I am required to climb mountains in order to have peer-to-peer learning experiences recognized and appreciated as legitimate and grounded sources of knowledge...I should be able to cite a conversation I have with Krysta in a paper focused on decolonization, just as I should be able to draw upon my own lived experiences of homophobia in a seminar course on Feminist Theory."

As a whole, Feminism FOR REAL questions and challenges widely accepted feminist and academic discourse, from the varied writing forms of each chapter to questioning words like "marginalization," defying rules of both typical anthologies and mainstream feminist expectations by writing not from the margins, but on a different page altogether. In a recent interview with Vancouver Cooperative Radio, Yee was asked to talk about the audience she had in mind when editing the anthology. She said she certainly had a younger audience in mind, "people who haven't engaged with feminist dialogue or academia," as well as a second audience:

I think the other audience would be feminist scholars...and institutions, and folks who think that they've done the work or that we're just ungrateful twenty-somethings. I think that there's a particular response that has to be said to people who think that we're ungrateful or that we're just ranting, particularly because so many of the contributors of the book are Indigenous people and people of color, trans people, sex workers...so many different peoples that feminism itself has questioned—whether our participation in the movement is OK, or whether the way that we choose to live our lives is OK either.

Yee describes the policing of feminism, something which is discussed quite often in Feminism FOR REAL, and says that she finds feminists who police others as more oppressive than people who say that women have already gained equality. She tells Vancouver Cooperative Radio, "This is about so much more than just women's rights and I think that the book really pushes those boundaries. But you have to come to terms with reality if you're going to understand what's going on in the book."

This anthology will resonate with people who have felt excluded from feminism, and will shake feminists who haven't dealt with this exclusion—demanding that we wake up, come to terms with reality, and begin to work for a radical shift within mainstream feminism. Feminism FOR REAL refuses to be ignored, and demands that readers confront uncomfortable truths: that many of us are part of the oppressions that exist within feminism, and that if we want a more fair and real feminism, we need to begin to hold ourselves accountable for the fact that so many have been excluded from mainstream and academic feminism.

We're pleased to announce that BitchMart, the online store for Bitch Media, is going to begin selling more books. Feminism For Real is the first book we are adding to the store. Browse our selection here!

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Comments

26 comments have been made. Post a comment.

After reading this post, I

After reading this post, I can honestly say that this is one of the first times that I have been disappointed by Bitch. I haven't read this particular book and will not comment on something I am not familiar with. I do want to say that there are a lot of feminist "academics" who work incredibly hard to push feminist theory forward into productive dynamics. I'm not sure I appreciate a general middle finger being waved in the general direction of "academics". This seems to be more entwined with the current anti-academic/education fever sweeping through our country.

Free samples of the book

Dallandra, if you take a look at the book you will see that it isn't anti-academic or anti-education. It's accessible to people who aren't academics, and it's deeply critical of issues of class and race and gender that are part of academic institutions. From what I've seen of it so far, it's well worth reading.

Dallandra - I didn't feel

Dallandra -

I didn't feel like Feminism FOR REAL was sticking a middle finger at the academy (in fact, Jessica Yee writes, "It is not a hate-on of academia" in the very first page of the introduction). Many of the people involved in this anthology are academics who are actually coming from a very conflicted place of loving but also feeling disappointed by and excluded from academia. While a lot of important work has been done in feminist academia, there are also a LOT of problems with it, and this book addresses those. I think anyone involved in feminist academia will benefit from reading it!

Ashley McAllister, Outreach Coordinator

But it seems you did comment.

I agree that anti-academic sentiment is always around out there. However, there may well be very important critiques in this book (which I also have not yet read, though I have requested it for my university's library). And if the critiques are framed in the way described by this article, they have to be taken seriously. These challenges are clearly not coming from an anti-feminist, or, say, extremist right-wing position.
I have witnessed a few (probably) harmful classroom moments where issues related to race were not handled well by the prof in question. And some moments when trans issues were not respected.
I agree that many women's studies profs work very hard against these tendencies, but feminism in the academy is always under pressure by the larger institution. And sometimes these pressures do affect programs, departments, and profs. So this particular struggle, among many, many others, continues...

But exactly whose feminist

But exactly whose feminist theory is being pushed? I think that's the point of the book, which I look forward to reading. Pushback means it's working!

Feminism = Critical Engagement

As a graduate from a Women's Studies program, I have had a very difficult time making sense of academic feminism outside of the classroom. While I am very grateful for my education, I think there are many issues the academy can and should continue to improve on.

Critical engagement and dialogue is the cornerstone of feminism - and the only way to keep the feminist movement/politics/theory relevant and growing. Jessica Yee offers us an entire anthology of different perspectives doing just that - please don't discount the knowledge held in this book before you have opened it.

If you feel yourself bristling at the critique of academia - ask yourself: why are you so invested in this system? This book is not discarding everything of value from academia - it IS pointing to some issues and calling for improvements.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who has ever struggled with feminism - and let's be real, isn't that everyone?

As a queer feminist scholar

As a queer feminist scholar who's minoring in gender studies and taking classes like French Feminist Theory and Feminist Philosophy, I'm similarly troubled by anything that sets itself against the "academic industrial complex." I think "real life" has a place in feminism, but so does theory--and it's no good for feminists to turn against thinkers like say, Judith Butler, because they're difficult and abstract and (perhaps) divorced from real life. Being excluded from the theoretical domain is important, but I don't think the solution is to try to eradicate the theoretical domain of feminism altogether, which at times feels like what the reviewer is stating the book's intent to be.

The premise of this book makes me a bit unsettled, but perhaps that just means it is something I should read.

Unless someone thinks

Unless someone thinks marginalized voices shouldn't have a space at the table, the only reasonable response to this review is YAY, more voices. But that's just me.

You're spot on with "this

You're spot on with "this book makes me a bit unsettled, but perhaps that just means it is something I should read." I went into the book thinking that I was decent at applying intersectionality and being inclusive. A few chapters in, I was feeling REALLY defensive, particularly about academia. At that point, I made myself slow down my reading, gave myself time to digest every section. By the end, I found that the book really got across some points/perspectives that I thought I understood, but I now realize I only grasped superficially. It also really spoke to the love/hate relationship I have with academia and, more specifically, women's studies. Was it an uncomfortable read? Heck yes. Am I glad I pushed through? Absolutely, it cause some deep-down consciousness shifting and uncomfortable but much needed reflection.

LOVED THIS BOOK!!!

I have read this book and thought it was great. I highly suggest it to everyone. I wish I could buy hundreds of copies and hand it out to people on the streets! And I really wish every comment here was a bit more positive! (new feminist literature is good for us all).

It was already said that on the first page Yee says it is not about hating academics. However, the idea that people who are studying feminism, immediately get defensive about this is exactly why you need to read it. It should make you uncomfortable at times, I was uncomfortable reading a lot of it.

I cannot understand why you would be disappointed in Bitch for covering a book about feminism? Some pretty awesome women never went to school and never studied feminism, some pretty awesome women did. I think many women feel frustrated at being left out because they didn't attend school, or they didn't attend a good enough school. The book puts this into words much better than I can. I hope you can get over your disappointment with Bitch and pick up a copy.

To anyone who feels that

To anyone who feels that these criticisms of academia are unfair or unsettling - if it isn't about you, don't make it about you. Of course theory is important to feminism. Of course there are wonderful people doing wonderful work within academia. It's also true that mainstream feminism tends to be centred around the most privileged groups of women, and that academic feminists do have a certain educational privilege.

As someone doing a graduate degree in critical theory, I can appreciate that there are extremely valid critiques of mainstream feminism in this book, and that everyone who is able to should read it so that we can make sure we're doing the best job we can of being inclusive and anti-oppressive. The book is a very good read and I'd encourage everyone to buy it.

Of course academics have

Of course academics have certain educational privilege, it's what they've spent their lives working for. That doesn't mean they're not people of colour, of lower socio-economic class or trans. Equally, it doesn't mean that if they do suffer from a double, triple, hell even a quadruple disadvantage in their 'everyday life' that they have to be writing about it within the academy. Academics, in my experience, are no less part of the 'real' world (whatever that may be) as a result of their educational 'privilege'. If anything, feminists within the academy are incredibly reflexive of their positions, locations and flaws.

Given the range of feminisms we are working with I am struggling to see how a book can tackle such a vast field. I think each feminism is acutely aware of its limitations.

I guess I'll have to give it a go and see. But this review really isn't making me want to run out and see how wrong feminism is getting it.

I can't comment on the book

I can't comment on the book itself as I haven't read it, but I can say that in Canada Women's Studies (from the uni's I know) is intersectional in race and class from the intro level onward, and it would be unheard of if something like that Britany/Beyonce comparison was raised, especially by a prof. And it's ridiculous to think that students/academics’ should be widely using personal conversations in their work, standards must be kept in place to ensure research is properly conducted, you can't do it in any other discipline, why should you in women's studies?
I understand there are elitist issues surrounding feminism in academia, but any theory in this field from feminist to Marxist is going to be complicated and inaccessible to many.

Canadian Women's Studies

Um, yeah. I took Women's Studies for three weeks at the University of Toronto, and was totally disappointed by it, so much so that I switched to a whole new course of study. From the first tutorial on, when my blonde, spray-tanned, blue-eyed, stereotypically physically perfect TA told us she was writing her Master's thesis on how Playboy is good for the development of women's sexuality (I just about threw up), to the last class I attended, where the prof explained how any woman who gets married is participating in her own oppression, I lost respect for the whole field. Apparently these academics are not looking at current statistics when they talk about North America. How can we work for change if what we're being taught is so firmly caught up in dealing with issues that are so blatantly past? Time to deal with race and class as forerunning factors.

You had a blonde, blue -eyed

You had a blonde, blue -eyed TA - you poor thing. Next time just tell the university that all TA's in your classes need to be Teaching Assistants of Color so you can take them seriously. Must be hard to attend university when you hate white women so much. I feel bad for you. Much difficult. So hard.

You had a white, blonde TA?

You had a white, blonde TA? You poor thing. Next time just tell the dean that all TAs in your classes need to be "TAs of color" because you can't be expected to respect or take white, blonde women's opinions seriously.

I'd like to look into this

I'd like to look into this book. Having not read it, I obviously can't give an opinion of it. It disturbs me, though, that so many people seem to conflate "academic" with "white." Obviously there is a history that supports this association, but I for one would like to see "academia" grow to encompass more than the stuff-white-dude stereotype. I'm glad that someone has taken the time to talk with people from all walks of life and given them a chance to tell their stories, as well as look at the many facets that make up or are lacking from "feminism" in the traditional sense.

The universities have allowed

The universities have allowed critical theory too much free reign. It's a one trick pony discipline: all you have to do is bash "ebil white people" and you are good. So a lot of critical theorist just label things "white" and whine that it is just a travesty that whites are allowed to speak and do things because their very existence threatens "people of color".

So if you want back pats from the critical theory crowd, just take any topic, call it "white supremacist", throw some snarky comments about something a "white person' said and make sure you imply the white person has no right to speak because they are "unconsciously racist", say something about "marginalized people" feeling "marginalized" - rinse and repeat and get a degree. It requires no actual scholarship and you get to make big, nasty generalizations about race AND pat yourself on the back for being progressive at the same time. I've been around academia for a long time and the only people who are into CRT seem to be insecure women with big chips on their shoulder and no respect for method or scholarship.

I'm pumped!

Personally, I'm really excited to read this book! It's near the top of my list for fun summer reading. I'm a women's studies minor and I enjoy reading dense academic stuff, but more than anything I loooove stuff that breaks down the barrier. Feminism is for the people!

Don't get defensive, get busy reading.

It's disappointing to me that so many people who have never read the book are commenting about it in the negative. Go read it and decide. i've read it, and thought it was great, fresh, smart, to the point, accessible to me, much needed. It wasn't a hate-on for academics. It was so not about you actually. It was about folks, many with direct experience within academia, talking through some tough shit in regards to their personal experiences and perspectives on that experience; it was young folks of colour speaking some truth about an institution soaking in racism. Don't get defensive, get busy reading.

mixed feelings & self-awareness

I read Feminism FOR REAL and greatly appreciate the purpose behind it. The sentiments expressed are necessary and wholly valid criticisms of the academy and feminist thought in general. That said, the form of most of the chapters didn't appeal to me and it was difficult for me to get past that in order to appreciate the content. THAT said, reading this book caused me to be self-reflexive in the process BECAUSE the form wasn't really the vibe/style I prefer. I found myself interrogating my own condescending reactions to some of the pieces, particularly because I knew I agreed with the POV of the writer, which was ultimately a really interesting and engaging way to read this book.

Did anyone else notice

Did anyone else notice how this cover seems to be a direct assault to the white, skinny woman midsection of a woman on Jessica Valenti's Full Frontal Feminism? I haven't read Valenti's FFF, but I think I want to track down Feminism FORE REAL and read more accounts of inclusive feminism. I appreciate the dialogue here.

The fact that so many people

The fact that so many people are getting defensive in the comments above about a REVIEW of the book without having actually read it speaks volumes, and indicates that they should probably be running out to grab it even faster.

"And it's ridiculous to think

"And it's ridiculous to think that students/academics’ should be widely using personal conversations in their work, standards must be kept in place to ensure research is properly conducted, you can't do it in any other discipline, why should you in women's studies?"

^ AGREED.

(However I haven't read the book so I can't comment on it yet.)

I did womens studies in the

I did womens studies in the 80s and as one of only two heterosexuals in the class of 15... both blond, blue-eyed girls low SES backgrounds, 18 years old, OUTRAGEOUSLY had boyfriends we actually liked as human beings. It never stopped...endless tirades about trans, lesbians being the only real feminists...we were fooling ourselves, we were dominant, we were slaves, we were stupid. we rarely even spoke after first days'quiet little introductions. way too scared. they were a bunch of bullies totally ridiculous. and WTF - personal conversations between peers as an academic document????? as an academic now, in my dreams!!!

I know can you believe white

I know can you believe white women had the gall to actually speak in class? She should have walked in and got on her knees and licked each black woman's asshole in the class to atone for being a member of the dirty white devil race, before she dared open her mouth in a modern "feminist" space. Don't you know white bitches are nothing but oppressors and their opinions are to be ridiculed (by black female students of course)? Maybe next time in class they can just let the black women spit of the white devil girls so they can feel better about slavery. After all white women ARE the problem!

sarcasm...academic feminism is fucking anti-white racism runloose, and it's bullshit. This white woman would have reported this racist behavior to the dean's office. you can't build black students up, by subtley or overtly by disrespecting white students who are ALSO PAYING TO GO TO "COLLEGE" NOT "reparations camp for angry black feminists".

Feminist academics need to be held accountable by the university system for pushing racism against their white students. Discrimination is discrimination - and white students are not paying for school so they can be treated like whipping posts for angry "feminists of color". You can't bully white females in the name of making classes better for black females. This is why feminism is a joke. If you think white women are going to tolerate being abused by their professors in the name of "feminism" , you have another thing coming- we will fight back, and I will not tolerate a university condoning anti-white bullying IN ANY DEPARTMENT.

White students are NOT your racial whipping post and they need to start REPORTING this type of behavior to the dean and omsbudsman.