Tag Archives: feminism

When everything changed: My mom the reluctant feminist

When Everything ChangedThis Christmas I gave my mom the best re-gift ever. A couple of years ago, Smarty Pants had bought me When Everything Changed: The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present by Gail Collins.

The book details the struggle for women’s rights and how courageously individual women fought against laws they knew were wrong. It’s incredibly inspiring, especially for someone of my generation (I was born in 1979) because the changes my mother’s and grandmothers’ generations carved out meant that I could take so many freedoms and aspirations for granted.

I gave the book to my mom because she’d seen Smarty Pants give it to me and she’d briefly stolen it from me to read the first chapter. I stole it back and said she could have it when I was done.

Barbara Billingsley

Image via Wikipedia

Mom was born in 1954. She grew up on I Love Lucy and Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was her childhood heroine, and Mom dreamed of a future wearing beautiful clothes and putting on her pearls to vacuum the house while her husband and two children were at school.

She got the two children. And some of the vacuuming (though Dad does at least half of the housework himself, something that must’ve seemed bizarre to Mom when they first got married).

Mom once told me her parents didn’t encourage her to think about having a career. My grandmother believed (and still believes) wholeheartedly in thick foundation and heavy skin creams. When I was a teenager, Nonny admonished me: “Honey, you have to wear eye makeup. Boys won’t like you if you don’t wear eye makeup. And quit wearing those boy-cut jeans. They make you look like you have a ding-dong.”

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Are men worse at writing sex than women?

The Literary Review has announced its nominees for the 2011 Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

If you’re not familiar with the Bad Sex in Fiction award, I can’t describe it any better than Jezebel magazine does:

[E]ach year the Literary Review has singled out an author who writes awkwardly enough about sex to convince readers that the winning author’s experience with actual sex acts has been limited to puppet performances put on by a middle school health teacher who had a very limited sense of irony.

Frustrated man at a laptop

rajsun22/sxc.hu

This year, male nominees far outnumber females, an occurrence that isn’t unusual. In fact, only two women have won the undesirable award since it began in 1993.

So are men worse at writing sex than women?

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Friday feminist funnies

I’ve stumbled across some brilliant parodies this week. The first is the blog Feminist Ryan Gosling, with its “Hey, girl” captions.

Feminist Ryan Gosling has only been around for about six weeks. Danielle, a University of Wisconsin grad student and teacher on the gender studies program, created it as a way of helping her remember the feminist theories she was reading.

Sadly, I first heard of Ryan Gosling only a few months ago, after my mom took my teenaged cousins to one of his movies (don’t ask me which one). When I asked her how the movie was, she hesitated and said, “Well, the girls liked it. And it’s not hard to spend two hours staring at Ryan Gosling.”

If Mom finds him attractive, I feel I can’t.

Genetics are perverse, eh?

My other favorite finds of the week are videos from The Second City Network, with Disney princesses giving love advice to young girls.

And let’s not forget Snow White with her seven man-friends.

Priceless.

What dating advice would other Disney princesses give young girls? Jasmine? Sleeping Beauty? Ooh, Sleeping Beauty’s gotta be ripe for giving sound relationship advice.

Do you have a favorite Feminist Ryan Gosling photo? Or do you prefer staring at him without the captions?

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Guest post by Sara Megibow: being a feminist romance reader

Late one evening, when I’d just finished writing my post on being a feminist romance novelist, I was chatting with friends on Twitter when a tweet by agent Sara Megibow from the Nelson Agency popped up. I don’t remember exactly what it said, but she emphatically said that a woman can be a feminist and still love to read romance novels.

Since it was a subject that had been on my mind, I replied and soon we had a little conversation going. She’s very kindly agreed to share her thoughts here.

Sara MegibowIn my experience, here’s what happens:

Me, “I represent literary fiction” (true.)
Person, “OH, anyone I’ve read?”

Me, “I represent science fiction and fantasy novels” (true)
Person, “Hmmm…like the Hobbit?

Me, “I represent romance novels” (true)
Person, “Good grief, WHY? Aren’t they all just smut or porn?”

This conversation is about the same if I tell someone, “I read literary fiction”, “I read science fiction” and “I read romance.” My immediate reaction is always to feel hurt when someone says “WHY” – I mean whether I’m talking about my career or what I enjoy reading for pleasure, I say “romance” and someone says “blech.” I feel hurt. And mad. And then…defensive.

Over the years, I’ve come up with any number of responses to people when they give me heck. By now, I’ve narrowed my response down to one sentence, “I love romance novels because as a feminist with a women’s studies degree, I find the genre to be inherently pro-woman.” Now, THAT generates a great conversation! And, it’s true. The basic tenants of the genre – happy endings, healthy relationships and great sex are all pro-woman.

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Confessions of a feminist romance novelist

Tomorrow is the 100th International Women’s Day, and I’d like to talk about something that’s been on my mind for a while – the way novels written by, for, and about women are often dismissed as being harmful, demeaning or stupid.

The first female brain surgeon I ever came across was the heroine of a romance novel. I was twelve, and the idea of a woman being a brain surgeon was such a revelation that I remember it twenty years later.

Looking back, I have no idea why I thought women couldn’t be brain surgeons. I’d always had female pediatricians, dentists and orthodontists. I don’t recall my parents ever calling themselves feminists (the label being too tainted for them to feel comfortable with it), but they held the fundamental feminist beliefs in equality of treatment and opportunity. Likewise, my teachers never used the f-word, but when I was nine and George HW Bush ran for president the first time around, my teacher pointed out that only one classmate had used the phrase “he or she” in their essay “What would make a perfect President?”

It wasn’t me.

Whether I was lacking imagination or hard-wired by evolution to see myself in a certain role, I don’t know. What I do know is that the romance genre—which first introduced me to women smashing through glass ceilings—is often maligned as being anti-feminist, backward, and even harmful to women. The truth is much more complex.

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