Kernel Morgan reviews I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST, a selection of views from twenty five women under the age of thirty on what being a feminist means to them. Is it unshaved underarm right wing anti-man hating or is it pro-human with a continuing push for a better planet through equality for all? Kernel Morgan is the right person to answer this, my two cents worth though: limiting this to views from women about feminism is not about equality. The Dalai Lama himself calls himself a feminist. Anyways, perhaps I should have left Morgan to write the opening, I am all about equality but not including others in this book defeats this purpose in my opinion so I will just shut up :). Morgan loves the book and her thoughts are below. I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST is out now from the wonderful folks at Hachette Australia, it is sold out on their website so you will need to track this one down at bookstores. All the best…………..JK.
I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST is an essay anthology from twenty-five women under thirty. There are a smorgasbord of young women writers – some of them still teenagers – sharing ideas and perspectives on sex, body image, identity, science, religion, suffragettes, and language, and how these things tie in with feminism. This is very much a collaborative project. There are five editors, three of whom wrote the introduction, which says “We felt rallied together by this experience … we are all united by feminism. We know that young feminists are out there in droves. We ARE you. This one’s for you. This one’s for us.”
This collection addresses some serious issues but it isn’t bogged down in academics. It is first-hand accounts of young women from different walks of life explaining why they think feminism is important and how they came to identifying as a feminist. Each essay is only 4-6 pages long, it’s a great length (1,000 to 1,500) for young people to engage with. The essays speak directly to the reader, involving them in a train of thought.
Between each of the twenty-five essays are three quotes about feminism, either quips from celebrities and noteworthy people or excerpts from books. Tina Fey, Katharine Hepburn, Ellen DeGeneres, Roseanne Barr, Malala, Jenny Éclair, Maya Angelou, Gloria Steinem, Amy Poehler, Annie Lennox, Margaret Atwood, Mae West, Michelle Obama, Amy Schumer, Doris Lessing, Erica Jong, Virginia Woolf, Naomi Wolf, Jane Austen, and Judi Dench, just to name a few.
My personal favourite essay was:
ARE YOU A STRIPPER OR A SHAVER? by Bertie Brandes
(columnist for Vice, co-founder of Mushpit)
“Clearly this is not simply a question of a few leering old men. We are living in a culture which actively encourages the idea that female bodies are a form of visual currency from an ever younger age.”
“It’s hardly surprising then that on the street we are understood as innately exhibitionist; an object to be judged, whistled at, heckled, grabbed – worse.”
As a 34 year old female civil engineer, I have often been the ‘first female’ or the ‘only female’ at workplaces and in classes and courses. I found the perception of progress by a younger female engineer to be uplifting, but the slow rate of progress shown by hard figures ultimately sad.
A TYPICAL ENGINEER by Naomi Mitchison
(MEng MIET electronics, senior hardware engineer)
“The gender mix was a bit unbalanced, being only 10 per cent female, but 10 per cent is enough – I was rarely the only girl in the room.”
“Being in a profession with so few women might mean that you are seen as a bit of an oddity, a pioneer of some sort. Luckily, I’m not, It was the generation of women before me who had to cope with being the only girl in class, the first female engineer hired by their company, the first woman in the lab.”
“While there are many ways in which engineering could improve its diversity, the most striking is the gender divide. Women, while making up 50 per cent of the population, make up only 6 per cent of the engineering workforce in the UK.”
This review is a little quote heavy already, but I think the best way to give you an idea of the poignancy and relevance of this collection of essays is to let them speak for themselves:
CONNECTIONS ARE EVERYTHING by Laura Bates
(Everyday Sexism Project)
“The same sexist slurs hurled at women who are told ‘not to make a fuss’ are also used by a man abusing his partner behind closed doors.”
“Separate inequalities aren’t experienced in conveniently neat, individual ways, but intersect and combine to have a cumulative impact.”
“There is so much we could change if we unite and support one another – to fight injustice and prejudice of every kind, on every level – and to see sexism and sexual violence not as a ‘woman’s issue’, but as a human rights issue.”
I CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST by June Eric-Udorie
(#YouthForChange, @juneericudorie, Integrate Bristol, sixteen year old campaigner against female genital mutilation and child marriage)
“I vowed to never be a feminist and I rejected the label. I stopped asking too many questions and I stopped talking ‘too much’, and family and friends congratulated me because men didn’t like women who talked too much.”
“Growing up in Nigeria, I was surrounded by institutionalised sexism and misogyny. Women experiencing domestic violence in their marriage were told they were ‘lucky’ to have husbands.”
“I want all girls to be immodest, disobedient rebels because the only way to win the battle for our liberation is if we collectively break away from the profound shitness of the expectations of ‘womanhood’ in our world.”
SILENT SCREAMERS by Yas Necati
(No More Page 3, eighteen year old activist for sex education)
“I was seen as The Feminist. Bra-burning, man-hating, angry feminazi, extreme, radical, unapproachable, easily picked on.”
“Feminism seemed to me like some weird alien cult that existed in theory, but no everyday person was genuinely a part of it. Feminists were all either a lot older, incredibly academic or already dead.”
“Feminists are often isolated from the people around them, for believing in something as controversial as equality.”
“I’m fed up with female and gender non-conforming teenagers being silenced because mainstream media, wider society and the feminist movement itself are telling us we shouldn’t have a voice.”
WHAT CAN MEN DO TO SUPPORT FEMINISM by Reni Eddo-Lodge
(Journalist, author of Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race)
“Can the feminist man respect that a woman might resist being sexually objectified when the act of objectification takes place without her own sexual agency? Is the feminist man taking up women’s space to show his dedication to the cause, or is he using his influence to change his own social spheres in order to make them more feminist?”
“While girls are told that housewifery is no longer our only destiny and we are free to reach for the stars, boys aren’t being taught to pitch in and do their share.”
“We’re not agitating for a matriarchy, but a feminist man must consider care work as important as waged work.”
If you are a dad, buy this book for your teenage daughter. And then secretly read it yourself after she goes to bed at night. Be a good guy. Embolden the fairer sex. We will all be better for it.
Kernel Morgan is an author of short fiction, an anthology editor, and a technical writer. Her debut collection was SNIGGERLESS BOUNDULATIONS. She enjoys scowling at children and bursting bubbles. She can be tweeted and stalked at @queenboxi.