First in a series: feminist writings that have influenced us

From Sass:

The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action
Audre Lorde

“I am not only a casualty, I am also a warrior.” This was the sentence, written by a black lesbian poet, that set the heart of this straight white girl on fire as a college student first reading this essay some 20 years ago. The perfect  encapsulation of what I knew to be my own truth, not either/or but both at the same time. Re-reading it today, I am struck by Lorde’s description of the ways women “rob ourselves of ourselves and each other” by refusing to either speak or listen past difference (hello, identity politics!) Whenever I feel like giving up on feminism, I go back to this piece.

Coalition Politics: Turning the Century
Bernice Johnson Reagon

I wish this talk – given by a black woman singer and civil rights activist at a women’s music festival 34 years ago – was required reading for anyone wishing to “do feminism.” Preaching to the choir will not change the world. The work of change is messy and hard and exhausting. Build your “barred rooms” to which to retreat – they are necessary – but never expect the world outside to politely bend itself to your expectations.

Carnal Acts
Nancy Mairs

Nancy Mairs is a disabled woman who writes about embodiedness honestly and lovingly. She writes about subverting the power of shame “by raising what was hidden, dark, secret about my life into the plain light of shared human experience.” As a young woman with an embarrassing chronic medical condition (ulcerative colitis), her words lifted my own shame and allowed me to relate to my body in a much healthier way.

Writing Against Culture
Lila Abu-Lughod

Some of the best writing on the self/other dichotomy I’ve ever read, from a feminist anthropologist with both Palestinian and Jewish ancestry. I see a strong case for viewing transsexual people as “halfies” whose “ethnographies of the particular” – if both honest and contextualized – can be a tool in our fight against the culture of gender.

Loving to Survive: Sexual Terror, Men’s Violence, and Women’s Lives
by Dee Graham, Roberta Rigsby, Edna Rawlings

Graham et al. make a powerful case for understanding feminine  socialization as an induction into Societal Stockholm Syndrome, in which women are bonded to men as prisoners are to their captors.  “[U]nlike theories of female masochism or of codependence, this theory blames male violence against women, not women, for the occurrence of women’s seemingly irrational behaviors.” This book enabled me to leave an abusive relationship and subsequently choose spinsterhood as a lifestyle that is not only valid but full of joyful freedom.

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