Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cool Feminisms

Recommended reading by women's studies profs as excellent introduction to feminism and making it real for students.

Victoria Bromley, Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism (U. Toronto Press 2012)

 INTRODUCTION: As you sit on the bus, in the library, at home in the living room, or in a commons on campus, you might find people looking over your shoulder and asking you what you’re reading. When you respond, “I’m reading Feminisms Matter: Debates, Theories, Activism,” they might ask you why. Why indeed? Perhaps it’s because you’re interested in feminisms or because the book has been assigned as part of a course you’re taking. The word on the street, on the other hand, is that feminism is dead, so what could possibly be important about feminism? The short answer is, “Everything!”...

CHAPTER ONE: DON’T CALL ME THAT! FEMINISM AND OTHER “F-WORDS”
When you hear the word “feminism” or “feminist,” you might find yourself in a quandary. You might be curious, furious, or you might just want to run for cover. Feminism is a word that is frequently used and often abused. Where you hear it, who says it, and the context in which it is used often influences your reaction. How can the “F-word” stir up such emotion?

CHAPTER TWO: WHAT’S FEMINISM DONE (FOR ME) LATELY? FEMINIST CONTRIBUTIONS
We made it! We are equal. Feminism is no longer necessary. And, of course, feminism is dead. The struggle is over and we can put our concerns to rest. These are some of the tenets that we often hear. It makes us feel good to think that things are not as bad for women and other marginalized groups as they were in the past. Social commentary of this brand is often paired with the familiar preface for gender equality assertions: “I’m not a feminist but…” What follows is a laundry list of values or aspirations that most people can agree...

CHAPTER THREE: HOW DO I KNOW WHAT I KNOW? EPISTEMOLOGY AND THEORY
In the last chapter, we discussed the complex and interconnected histories of feminist and social justice movements. Feminism, however, is not simply a movement. It is also a theory. So, to understand feminisms more fully, we must also understand what theory is and why we need it. Yes, theory. OMG! Don’t run for cover just yet.

CHAPTER FOUR: MAKING MY HEAD SPIN: CRITICAL INTERSECTIONALITY
Intersectionality is a conceptual tool for analyzing differences. It allows us to think about multiple identities and how they may be interconnected in complex ways. It is also a tool for understanding how multiple systems of oppression may be interrelated. Feminists use the concept of intersectionality, a term coined by legal scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, to consider how interlocking systems of oppressions, complex identities, and social inequalities affect people’s lives (Crenshaw 1989). The concept of intersectionality has long been used by black feminists to explore the lives of racialized women.

CHAPTER FIVE: SO MANY DETAILS AND SO MUCH READING: FEMINIST THEORIES
Thinking through the intersectionalities of identities, the complexities of people’s lives, and the very real struggles that people face every day is not simple. Nor is it easy to understand how people confront and resist oppressions, exploitations, and marginalization. Yet resistance on multiple fronts continues and theories help us to understand not only the struggles towards social justice but also the triumphs of achieving justice. Feminist theorizing, then, is an ongoing process. It does not assume that one theory can address all the complexities of women’s and men’s lives in vastly diverse social, political, economic, and geographic spaces or across...

CHAPTER SIX: FROM UNIVERSALIZING TO QUEERING AND GLOBALIZING THEORIES
In the previous chapter we noted an ongoing dialogue among feminist theorists and activists. The dialogue continues in this chapter with the exploration of postmodern, “Third World,” postcolonial, queer, and transnational feminist theories. The purpose here is to introduce some current feminist debates and discover some of the key questions and arguments being raised in these debates. We will also reflect on some of the limitations and critiques of these theories as a way for us to think about feminisms. We will question how different theories, feminist and otherwise, might influence the way we think, not only about theory but...

CHAPTER SEVEN: TAKING FEMINISM ON THE ROAD: FEMINIST METHODS
Theory is all very well, but what is the point in theorizing if we have nothing concrete about which to theorize? Where is the evidence? Where is the research? How do we collect it? Feminist research draws on insights from the struggles and lived experiences of women and marginalized people. Feminist perspectives, informed by theory and practice, encourage feminist researchers to ask different questions. It makes sense that the evidence to answer our questions must also come from different places. Feminist research is complex and sometimes, rather than just answering the research questions posed, it leads us to more and...

CHAPTER EIGHT: IT’S NOT DEAD? CONNECTING THE DOTS ACROSS THE WAVES OF FEMINISMS
The link between feminist theory and women’s movement is not always immediately visible. Nonetheless, doing feminist theory means you have to be grounded in lived experiences. It is this connection to women’s lives that gives meaning to feminist theory. Feminist activists have long been struggling to increase the value of women’s experiences in order to achieve women’s equality and their inclusion at all levels. However, it is through the process of theorizing these activist practices and the lives of women that activism becomes more effective. This means that theory and practice must become praxis. 

CHAPTER NINE: DON’T MEN COUNT, TOO? FEMINISMS AND MASCULINITIES
As a feminist, I know it is important to think about men and masculinities. However, to write about them with a sense of authority is a challenge. This is not because I have no understanding of the issues, debates, and research—I do. Men are important in my life; they are my family members, my friends, and my colleagues. Still I struggle. Perhaps this struggle is related to my identity as a “woman” and all that it encompasses. 

CHAPTER TEN: THE STRATEGIES THAT EMPOWER US: FEMINIST ACTIVISM            Feminists today have entered a new era of thinking about and doing feminism. We continue to struggle and succeed, but we are still committed to ending oppression and advancing social justice. As feminists, we need to continue to ask new questions and develop new strategies to meet our goals. We must learn from our past, rethinking past actions and strategies, so that we don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time a new challenge emerges. Re-examining what we think and how we know about our world is critical. These are not easy tasks. 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: STILL STRUGGLING: MAKING CHANGE
Just when we thought we had equality, reality sets in. While feminism has been struggling for equality for well over a century, we have yet to meet this goal. When we look at the world in which we live, we know that we cannot abandon our struggles. We must continue to fight for social change to end exploitation and oppression in all its various forms. In this chapter, we will look at some of the ongoing struggles in which feminists are engaged. We will explore what is at stake in the struggle for equality and social justice in the area

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