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Many Paths to Many Feminisms, from Music to Engineering to Mothers to Fishnets to Anita Hill

  • Apr 27, 2010
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.

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October 05, 2012
This is a very good review which provides a freshly needed perspective on feminism!
October 12, 2010
I'm with @Adrianna! Your review is amazing and literally makes me want to go buy the book for myself and my mom right now! This is right up our alleys, being self-proclaimed feminists ourselves...I'd love to see how different people define feminism because to be honest, I'm not sure if I have a grip on what it means to be a feminist, fully.

Have you read Eve Ensler's I'm An Emotional Creature? That's another TBR for me! @TheCompulsiveReader's review of that also made me want to go out and get a copy ASAP. Thanks so much!
September 02, 2010
Great review! This sounds like an interesting read. I'm adding it to my TBR list, and I will probably buy a copy too. :)
August 27, 2010
Great review, Rachel. I studied human sexuality in college and the scale of feminism was always a hot topic of debate. I'll have to check out this book. Thanks for sharing!
August 27, 2010
Sounds pretty interesting. I liked the way you balanced the book's positives and negative points. Nice review!
More Click: When We Knew We Were Fe... reviews
review by . December 10, 2010
   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 …
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Rachel Kramer Bussel ()
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Compiled by authors Martin (Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters) and Sullivan (Commencement), this volume looks at the catalytic moments when 28 women (and one man) found their way to feminism. Including writers, activists, and educators, contributors provide perspective and personal revelations from all stages of life. Joshunda Sanders, an Austin newspaper reporter, talks about growing up poor and black in "the least desirable place in New York" and how it led to her embrace of "womanist" thought; Indian American writer and educator Mathangi Subramanian describes years of struggle with the feminist "label," navigating the cross-currents of her grandmother's pressure to marry and her mother's enthusiasm for independence (and feminist classics like Susan Estrich's Sex & Power); Martin herself contributes a piece contrasting her own coming-of-age, involving a college visit from Manifesta authors Amy Richards and Jennifer Baumgardner, with her mother's: "This wasn't the swishy skirt feminism that my mom had manifested at her once-a-month women's groups. This was contemporary, witty, brash, even a little sexy." With this enervating collection, Martin and Sullivan help continue that modernizing trend.
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ISBN-10: 1580052851
ISBN-13: 978-1580052856
Author: J. Courtney Sullivan
Publisher: Seal Press

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