Feminism: How Far We’ve Come, How Far We Need To Go

The 2017 Women’s March on Washington. Image courtesy of The Guardian.

By Liv Serio (‘23)

Over the past month, I have listened to two books on feminism. If that word makes you want to click off of this article, I implore you to stay. Feminism is not a topic only for women. Many people believe that feminism is only about a woman’s right to choose, and equal pay. Though those topics are staples of the feminist movement, the ideals of feminism are far more vast. The word feminism in my mind can be defined as a group of people who stand against sexual violence for ALL, the wage gap, hate crimes of all kind, microagressions, rape culture, homophobia, misogyny, racism, xenophobia, and more. A group who stands up for a woman’s right to choose, the importance of consent, representation for all in politics, and more. A group who stands together with all genders, all races, all sexual orientations, all people fighting for equality. Not all people believe in this feminism, and I can see how damaging mainstream feminism has been to so many. Mainstream feminism can sometimes overlook the complexities of race and how women of color are a huge, important part of the fight. In discounting or comparing one’s struggle to another, we are not making the world a better place for anyone, but as Roxanne Gay says, “We play the oppression Olympics”. One example of a self proclaimed “feminist” discounting people from the femisnist movement is J.K. Rowling. Rowling believes that trans women should not be a part of the feminist movement, which is utterly ridiculous. Rowling poses a narrow minded view of who a feminist should be, and in a slowly progressing world, I sincerely hope that the bigotry and transphobia of her type of “feminism” will be rooted out in the near future. Though we all have our own views on feminism, I would like to recognize the privilege I hold as a white woman, and recognize that for a long time, white women were, and remain, the primary people who want the exclusive mainstream feminism of people like Rowling. Though I do not believe in this form of feminism, I want to continue to read on feminism from people with different experiences from my own, and I urge you to as well.

Book Review #1: Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay         

Though I call myself a feminist, as does the author of the first book I am reviewing, I would like to label myself a “bad feminst” as well. Bad Feminist is about how all of us differ from the stereotypical picture of what a feminist is. Gay writes a collection of essays discussing sexism, racism, sexual violence, representation of black people and women specifically in film and television, and some of the novel discusses her life, challenges she has faced and what she has learned over the years. Gay is a brilliant writer who is powerfully raw and incredibly articulate. Though these topics can be very heavy, her story is tremendously important and I loved this book. Gay is older than me, but I felt that I really related to her and at times, she wrote out things I had felt but had never known how to say. Bad Feminist actually brought me close to tears a few times, for sad and happy reasons. Though Bad Feminist seems to be sadly very realistic, and it often is, Gay is also very funny when talking about the Fifty Shades series, as well as being a die hard member of Team Peeta, the male protagonist from the Hunger Games series. The audiobook for Bad Feminist is also great and only eight hours long. The reason Roxanne Gay says she is a “bad feminist” is because feminists are portrayed as women who hate men, never shave their legs, and are revolted at the sight of the color pink. Gay sometimes sings songs she knows are degrading yet catchy, she likes dresses and men, but she still stands for gender equality where all people are included. Truly, Bad Feminist is one of my favorite collections of essays I have ever read and a solid 5 star book. 

Book #2: We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adapted from a Ted Talk by the author, We Should All Be Feminists is an incredible essay on Adichie’s view of what a feminist is and blatantly revealing the discrimination women face around the world. Adichie is a great writer and her novel includes a lot of humor in addition to the heaviness. Due to the fact that the audiobook was only 45 minutes long and it was one essay, I could not connect to the author and the material as much as Gay. Seeing the point of view of a woman who has lived in Africa and in the United States was very interesting, as well as seeing the definition and goals of the feminist movement in both nations. Adichie is incredibly articulate and I learned a lot in her novel. A solid 4 star read that I would recommend to many.

I really enjoyed reading these feminist books and further educating myself on a topic that I am passionate about. This article was a bit shorter than my romance article because these books had fewer faults. If you want me to do a part two of this article or read different genres, shoot me an email at serio.olivia92@bloomfield.org. I hope you enjoy and happy reading! – Liv Serio

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