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7.Feminism: Issues and Arguments by Jennifer Mather Saul

When I last tried to read a proper book on feminism, it didn't work out so well. That book seemed to assume a solid background in academic literary/film criticism that I, as a failed CS student, lack.

In the preface to this book, Saul writes

For several years I have taught feminism to students with (in many cases) no background in feminism or philosophy, and no prior commitment to feminism. I found it extraordinarily difficult to find an appropriate text for this group. Because much feminist philosophy begins from a critique of more traditional philosophy, feminist writing tends to assume a familiarity with the basic philosophical literature.

In other words - this is a text on feminism written, more or less, for someone exactly in my position.

It's very much an introductory text, each section covering a broad topic (such as porn) in about 30 pages. This was just the kick start I needed.

The book has nine chapters:
1. The Politics of Work and Family
2. Sexual Harassment
3. Pornography
4. Abortion
5. Feminine Appearance
6. Feminism and Language Change
7. Women's 'Different Voice'
8. Feminism, Science, and Bias
9. Feminism and 'Respect for Cultures'

The chapter on porn gets credit for finally presenting Dworkin and MacKinnon in a way that didn't immediately get me so defensive I couldn't pay attention to the message. I still disagree with them, but at least I feel I have given their position half a chance. A question for my readers, especially the women: Did you, upon first viewing porn, immediately understand it as something that encourages men to be violent towards women and viewing women as exclusively sexual objects? I can certainly think of porn that doesn't seem to me to project that image, but then, I grew up in a world where Dworkin and MacKinnon were already published.

I had a hard time with "Women's 'Different Voice'", primarily because I have Issues with Essentialism - any time someone says "boys are like X and girls are like Y", I will bristle. I recognize that some of that is my Issues while still fighting the point.

There are some fantastic quotes in chapters 5 and 8, but I am not up to retyping them all just now.

I strongly recommend this book for folks who want to get started with feminist theory. mycrazyhair is first on the list to borrow it, followed by neeuqdrazil. The author's brother, of course, would like to encourage everyone to buy their own copy. :)

8.World War Z by Max Brooks

The future history of the zombie war. A sort of documentary novel set about twenty years in the future - mankind has had ten years of being at war with the living dead, and ten years after the war to recover. A creepy book to be reading during The Swine Flu Apocalypse. It starts stronger than it ends, but I suggest all zombie fans read this book - it is essential in discussing anti-zombie survival plans.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 4th, 2009 01:28 am (UTC)
Did you, upon first viewing porn, immediately understand it as something that encourages men to be violent towards women and viewing women as exclusively sexual objects?

Nope. I thought, "mmmmmm..... sex! *drool*" Completely disregarding the notion of representation and social messages, etc., all I could think of was 'Hot Naked Chicks I'm Not Supposed To Be Looking At! *drool*'
May. 4th, 2009 04:21 am (UTC)
Violence, no, objectified yes
I've been fortunate not to experience sexual violence, and didn't feel a deterministic connection between porn and violence. As a non-lesbian woman, I definitely feel that pornographic images geared toward men definitely do not have me as the target audience; treat women as objects in a way that can contribute to sexist behavior; and in the wrong context make women feel very unwelcome. I was a kid in a conservative community in the 70s and was aware at a very young age that there was prejudice against women, and that there were plenty of ways that women were stereotyped as less than human agents.

Hope I'm not violating livejournal etiquette in any way by commenting - I'm the author of a blog post that's linked on your page.
May. 4th, 2009 07:30 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure my first reaction was "ha ha ha another 'test' of how cool I am by putting me up against something where I either accept something you think I shouldn't/won't and am cool but socially subordinate or don't accept it and get to be a shrewish killjoy who is uncool". Because it's not like I happened across porn, someone specifically had it on while I was around. And all the time there are those fucking bully-boy tests. So... Socially violent at least, certainly not supposed to be for me, supposed to put me into a certain social place that is yes lower than the male place... I don't see Dworkin as you present her here as wrong. She's got a shade of meaning that is within the realm of the meanings there are.

I also hate gender essentialism with a firey passion.

World War Z: Yes! It was in places facile and poorly constructed, but I really liked it nonetheless.
May. 4th, 2009 01:59 pm (UTC)
Gender essentialism irks me too, and I view it as damaging to men and women alike.

I grew up thinking that porn was a Very Bad Thing, and I wrote a long research paper for my Grade 13 sociology class about the dangers of pornography. The only problem was, I'd never seen any porn. I had only read about how bad it supposedly was, and I also understood very clearly that this was the position that my teachers and parents wanted me to take. Eventually, I decided to see for myself was porn was all about and make up my own mind.

Can porn be damaging and exploitative to women? Yes. Is it always? No. That's why I love the Feminist Porn Awards - guilt-free porn that's also seriously hawt. Unfortunately, the first porn I ever rented starred Ron Jeremy. o_O Then I discovered Tristan Taormino and life was good.
May. 4th, 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
*waves hand frantically* Ooooh! Ooooh! Can I get on the list?!?!
May. 5th, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
So glad you liked it! One of my main goals was to make all the various views make a kind of sense even to those who don't ultimately end up agreeing with them, so I'm very pleased to hear I managed that with the porn chapter. And yeah, I pretty much hate that gender essentialism too.

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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