What I’m Reading, and; A second new feature

I cannot technically say that I am reading what I am about to describe. Skimming may be a better descriptor. Pulling bits and pieces from letters, essays, speeches, novels, personal and public writing, that concept seems to fit nicely. Most of the writings I am about to briefly describe are words that I am familiar with, have researched and written on, and are words that have made me think and reconnect with strong beliefs about women in our society.

Somewhere, in one of my trips to a used book vendor I picked up two volumes on feminist writing from author Miriam Schneir. She has an extensive background as a researcher, activist and feminist. Kate Weigand, of Smith College, provides a detailed and insightful interview with Schneir in 2004 as part of the “Voices of Feminism Oral History Project.” The transcript can be read here.

Schneir initially put together a volume of work which highlights feminisms pioneers. Titled Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings, this text spans 150 years while focusing on women’s voice and their experience with oppression. The main themes in all of the writing included by Schneir are, curiously and disturbingly, themes that persist in society today. What can possibly be said about the advancement of women, about agency and autonomy of the female sex, when we are still searching for answers regarding marriage as a tool of oppression; the fundamental right to control our own bodies, economic equity and independence, and simply the right to be recognized as stand-alone human beings. I hope that I am not the only one who sees the irony in the fact that we still have so much in common with women who struggled roughly 200 years ago.

The more contemporary second volume on feminism put together by Schneir is titled Feminism In Our Time: The Essential Writings, World War II to the Present. This volume begins with an excerpt from what can only be described as a feminist bible, The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir, in which I first learned of my status in society by encountering the label de Beauvoir is now rather famous for in feminist circles: woman as The Other. In this volume she explores women and religion, violence toward women and rape, more on women’s health, gender definitions and roles, and sexuality.

Re-reading and discovering new essays and personal opinion by amazing women has led me to decide that an addition, much like the recent Media Monday postings, is something I also want to include in this blog. With that, on occasion I will host Feminist Friday. It may detail something I have read, or allow me to express opinion, (duh) or perhaps build on an article or blog from an informed feminist.

For today, I will leave you with these tidbits to ponder on, discuss with others, shake your head and/or fist over, or seek to explore related content. All are decidedly feminist in their own way.

1. A Columbia University visual arts major carries the item where her sophomore year rape occurred in this story.

2. Author Margaret Atwood has a new, and quite futuristic project, planned.

I leave you with a short piece by Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It is an excerpt from her speech to the International Council of Women in 1888. It is also the opening to Schneir’s first volume. Enlightened in 1888. Extremely relevant still in 2014.

*“We who like the children of Israel have been wandering in the wilderness of prejudice and ridicule for forty years feel a peculiar tenderness for the young women on whose shoulders we are about to leave our burdens…The younger women are starting with great advantages over us. They have the results of our experience; they have superior opportunities for education; they will find a more enlightened public sentiment for discussion; they will have more courage to take the rights which belong to them…Thus far women have been the mere echoes of men. Our laws and constitutions, our creeds and codes, and the customs of social life are all of masculine origin.

The true woman is as yet a dream of the future.”

*Schneir, M. 1994. Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. New York, NY: Random House.


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