by Jarrah Hodge
Here’s what I’ve been reading since my last book list post in January:
1. Missed Her by Ivan E. Coyote
If you’re in the Vancouver area consider checking out Feminist Book Club, an open and friendly group that meets monthly at local cafes and bookshops. This book was our selection for March – the first month I attended. Like the other book clubbers, I found Missed Her really moving and helpful in better understanding the barriers queer people face at various stages of life. We all found Ivan’s personal narratives the most resonant, but were unsure about whether this collection of stories and columns in particular appeals as much to the current younger generation of feminists and queer activists. That’s part of the reason I was happy to see Coyote’s call for queer and trans youth to audition to perform at an upcoming Vancouver book launch. Sounds like a cool event.
2. Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
Orenstein’s indictment of the rise of pink, pretty, princess culture for little girls created a lot of buzz last year and got rave reviews across the feminist blogosphere, so I was really happy to receive it as a Christmas present. Orenstein’s narrative and interesting interviews with people behind princess marketing at Disney and other major companies make a strong case that the “girlie-girl” culture American girls are growing up in hurts their body image, independence, and self-esteem and makes it more difficult than ever to escape from the virgin/whore dichotomy when they hit puberty. But I had a reservation or two about specifics of Cinderella Ate My Daughter. Read more
by Jarrah Hodge
This is a response to the February book selection for Feminist Classics Book Club: Christine de Pizan’s The City of Ladies (1405). Here’s some of the background from their site:
Christine de Pizan (1363-c.1430) was quite a well-known poet in her day. She was born in Venice, but her father accepted a position at the French court soon after[...]In her book, Christine builds an entire metaphorical city out of noble, heroic, or righteous women. She creates three allegorical women, Reason, Justice, and Rectitude, who engage in a dialogue with her about why women are slandered and how to show that women do not deserve this reputation.
There are two aspects of Christine’s treatise that I want to examine: the basis for her defense of women, and the attacks she identifies against them. The former – her defense – was no doubt revolutionary at the time. Rosalind Brown-Grant, who wrote the introduction to the edition I read, asks us to remember that Christine was responding to attacks that were based in Aristotelian philosophy and Christian scripture. Therefore, she examines the contradictions in these sources and uses them to help her respond. Her extensive use of references to mythology wouldn’t pass peer-review nowadays, but what she was doing was using the very weapons of women’s attackers against them. According to Brown-Grant:
“At the heart of Christine’s defense of women…was her profound conviction that it is a human – and not a specifically female – trait to be prone to sin. However, she also believed that if men and women are alike as sinners, they are equally capable of adopting rational forms of behaviour and of making informed choices.”
However, few of the arguments she makes in regards to women’s virtue or natural roles would be palatable to feminists today. Read more