We thought that to celebrate the half year mark we would talk a bit more about ourselves and about what feminism is to us – expect to see a post where we answer a question for the next four Fridays. We will share our thoughts and we are hoping that you will chime in with your answers either on your own blog or in the comments.
On July 1st we asked why do you identify as a feminist? We followed up on July 8th asking why do you think it is important that others identify as feminists as well? Last week on July 15th we asked why do you think there is a stigma attached to the feminist label? Today we are finishing up by relating these questions back to this project and asking Why do you think reading these classic feminist texts are so important?
Because I think that if you are going to call yourself a feminist, it is good to know at least a little about the history of the term. Especially because of the controversy around the term, it seems like a good way to get to know the ins and outs, to know where some of the “stigmas” have come from, to see with your own eyes how some early feminist were racist for example is to learn to reflect on that and change your own position. By reading a selection of classics on the subject you offer yourself an opportunity to engage with the different notions of feminism that have existed and to decide what forms and arguments you agree and disagree with. Since I believe every identification like “I am a feminist” or “I am a vegetarian” is a matter of growth, no one ever is and everyone becomes – to throw in a cliché, to keep reading this texts is to keep learning and positioning yourself. Something about that just sounds so attractive to me. And, I believe that by reading these texts together with a group of people, you learn even more, especially since we’re all from different backgrounds, in a different stage of life and thus reflect on these texts differently, it has opened my eyes to so many issues I would not have considered otherwise
It is entirely possible for people to be feminists and do important feminist work without ever having read a “classic feminist book”, taken a course on feminism, or, yes, even used the word “feminist”. However, reading historically important feminist texts is a really great way to contextualize our feminist convictions. It’s a way of grounding these convictions and challenging them against others so that they continue to evolve, and so that we are better able to articulate and communicate them to each other. It’s a way to better understand the current position of women and feminism in our world, to gain inspiration, and to locate problem areas in feminist movement that need to be improved upon. They can help serve as starting points for conversations between feminists and those who aren’t sure yet whether they’re feminists or not, but are curious about feminism. Regardless of where one is in their individual development in relation to feminism, reading and talking about feminist texts is a good way to focus conversation and get us talking about what’s important to us. Which is, of course, the aim of this blog 🙂
History has a way of repeating itself, and the past is very often not as different from the present as we’d like to believe. This is not to deny the incredible progress that was made in the last century or so when it comes to gender equality, of course. But nevertheless, the issues women deal with now are in fact similar to issues women have faced in the past. And even if not, reading about the way other obstacles were conceptualised and overcome can give us useful ideas with very real and practical applications. It can also shed light on the blind spots of previous generations of feminists – which are of course not negligible, as anyone who’s read our selections so far will have noticed – and hopefully open our eyes to present ones. Last but not least, these classics are fun, interesting, and great conversation starters.
While I don’t think that reading feminist classics is required to call oneself a feminist, I think that it is important for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, reading these texts reminds us of how far we really have come. We can see where we used to be and how much progress has been made and how important the movement really has been. The second reason is that we can learn the truth behind many of the false claims that anti-feminists made because we know our true history. The third reason is that we can learn both the similarities that exist between past and present and some ideas on how to move forward. Even though we’ve come so far, when we read many of these classic texts there are a scary amount of similarities that perhaps aren’t the exact same issue but the parallels are there. This teaches us how far we still have to go as well as how we might get there. Lastly, it is a way to solidify ones own beliefs by discussing these ideas with others and both learning to grow and accept other perspectives and by learning why and how these issues are important.