This is a fascinating anthology, whether you consider yourself a feminist or not, which is an important point. It would be a shame for only self-identified feminist women to read this book, or to assume that it is talking about a singular "feminism." At times, there was a sameness to the stories; many of the writers gained entrée into their feminism via books, some of which were written by fellow contributors. Where I think Click succeeds best is when the click moment happens in another form, to remind us that feminism isn't just for bookworms. Whether it's "Number One Must Have" (about the band Sleater-Kinney), hunting, having an androgynous name ("Winter"), fishnet stockings or engineering, the authors here tackle a wide range of ways feminism and exploring gender affect their lives.
It also brings up some major issues around what "feminism" means and whether the goal of a feminist movement should be to have everyone identify as feminist (which many of the women in the book, as well as their mothers, grapple with--interestingly, I didn't see any pieces where authors grapple with whether their romantic partners identify as feminists, but moms were a sticking point). Co-editor Sullivan writes: "In both word and deed, feminism is something we only really understand after we've been exposed to it, after someone else has taught us what it looks like and how it can help make our lives all the richer." Yet this very point is disputed by many of the authors here, and one I don't agree with. If the personal is political, then women need to look both inward and outward; waiting to be "exposed to" or told what feminism is, I'd posit, is precisely what alienates many women from feminism.
Alissa Quart's "I Married a War Correspondent" is a fascinating look at the evolution of her relationship and her feeling that the topics she covers as a journalist were "lesser" (and were treated with less acclaim) than her fiance's acts of daring. In Joshunda Sanders' "'What's the Female Version of a Hustler?': Womanist Training for a Bronx Nerd" and Mathangi Subramanian's "The Brown Girl's Guide to Labels," each author highlights the ways "feminism" has been tied to a white women's movement, and how they have alternately rejected, embraced and negotiated with the label and what it means to them. Li Sydney Cornfeld and Karen Pittelman offer unique tales, the former of the gender implications of an ADHD diagnosis, the latter about dissolving her $3 million trust fund to work for social change.
There are moments here that feel a little too much like cheerleading for feminism without actually defining it precisely. The best pieces show how issues of gender, along with race, class and sexual orientation, are viewed and how a change in that viewpoint can propel action and enlightenment. Sometimes, there really is a click, such as in Marta L. Sanchex's piece: "At Spelman, I became a women's studies major. Suddenly, the entire world made sense. I stopped feeling like an alien visiting a strange planet." She backs this up without resorting to clichés, but by calling forth the spirits of her ancestors, who each gave her a different way of embracing the world. Many authors reference previous generations, whether the Second Wave or their parents (quite starkly in Sophie Pollitt-Cohen's piece, when she's assigned to read something her mother, Katha Pollitt, wrote at Wesleyan), but this is not an Us vs. Them type of book, thankfully. Rather, it's one that, at its best, looks at the ways feminism has impacted our personal and familial relationships, education, job opportunities, religious choices and identities.
Most of all what I got out of Click is that what happens after the "click" moment is perhaps more important than what happens before or during it. How people grapple with even defining feminism, rather than simply embracing another person's version of feminism, is what the heart of this book is about.
Seeking inspiration for a novel she was writing a few years ago, J. Courtney Sullivan sent an email to several friends asking them, “What was the moment that made you a feminist? Was there one person, event, book, or idea that made it happen?” The conversation that followed was so fruitful that she decided to keep it going, and Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists was born. In Click, editors Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan present twenty-nine essays by young … more