Thursday, 2 February 2012

Book review: Reclaiming the F Word, the new feminist movement

I finished reading this book aaages ago but I'm finally getting round to blogging a review of it now. The book was written by Catherine Redfern, the founder of The F Word website, and Kristin Aune, a lecturer in sociology at the University of Derby.
This book is excellent at introducing the concept of feminism, why it is relevant, and why it is being reclaimed etc. It is a good starting point for all "new found feminists" as it provides an overview to the various issues surrounding feminism. I feel that I should have perhaps read this book before I read The Equality Illusion, which explored certain issues deeper.

The great thing about the book is that it is littered with quotes, statistics and examples, and each chapter ends with a "Take Action!" box that lists a few easy activism tips, thereby encouraging the reader to acknowledge what is wrong but also take action, which is just brilliant.

I feel all the issues were written about in a well-rounded and unbiased way, and whereas The Equality Illusion was more graphic and shocking, The F Word presents the issues and encourages activism.

I think that the topic of religion and feminism was explored brilliantly, as the authors explained that there are different types of religious feminsts and categorized them into four sections:
  1. Religious Reformists- "are liberals who seek equal opportunities for men and women within religious traditions. They don't want to revolutionise styles of worship, reject sacred texts or change the gender of deities. But they believe religious texts and doctrines have been misinterpreted in a way that disadvantages women, hindering their participation in religion and its leadership strucutres." This is definitely the type of religious feminsts I identify with.
  2. Religious Revisionists - "believe that expanding women's roles within the existing structures isn't enough. They look for a liberating core within their religion, reject the rest, and believe a deeper transformation is required, of religious structures and society."
  3. Spiritual Revolutionaries- "are highly critical of institutional religion, and reject religion in its conventional forms." They distinguish religion from spirituality
  4. Secular Feminists- "include those who want to separate religion from the state, and those who have abandoned religion and spirituality completely."
I think though, despite this, there are a lot of negative comments that get directed towards myself and others who identify themselves as Muslim AND feminst, as people seem to think that the two cannot coexist. I think I'll address this issue in a separate blog post, otherwise this one will be too long!

I also particularly liked the chapters on sexism, and advertising and the media, and the crucial role it plays in the repression of women.

I particularly enjoyed this quote in the last chapter "Feminism Reclaimed" :

I will leave you with a section from the last chapter, which I found to be quite poignant:

"(...) feminism is a survival mechanism. It assures you that you have a right to live your life the way you want and imagine a brighter future for the world. It prompts you to question the status quo, rather than assuming that the way things are is the best they can be. Feminism assures you that you're not alone, that the problems you experience are shared by others, and that, as a woman your concerns are important.

But feminsim isn't just about "making us feel better". It's about collective action. So, second, feminism encourages us to consider the wider impact of our actions. In other words, it's not just about us, but is about ending sexism and liberating everyone from centuries of oppression based on gender.

Feminism enables us to link together the problesms highlighted in this book and see them not as coincidences but as part of a wider pattern of sexism underpinning our entire culture- some might refer this as patriarchy or attribute it to capitalism. Indeed, as we've been writing the chapters, it's been hard to decide how to split the themes up, snce they seem to seep into one another. These issues are not accidental or individual problems- they are a pattern of structural inequality."

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