This review appeared in the Winter 2011 issue of Herizons magazine, in which I am a columnist and contributor.
FEMINISM FOR REAL: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex of Feminism edited by Jessica Yee (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives)
Burned-out women’s studies students may gravitate toward this book, but Feminism For Real taps into the frustrations of challenging the status quo of feminism in academia without discounting the value of changing the system from within.
Jessica Yee writes in her introduction: “It is not a hate-on of academia. It is not a hate-on of feminism. In fact this book is what I would call ‘truth-telling:’ truth-telling about some uncomfortable truths.”
Yee presents pieces from contributors of different ages, genders and sexual identities who come from many communities across North America. They engage with each other in refreshingly direct dialogue about topics that tend to evoke discomfort, such as sex work, colonialism, racism and poverty.
Contributors had free reign to include poetry, drawing or photography, or to use conversational round table formats for written submissions. The loose organization of the book may disorient some readers, but I found it enjoyable to open the book to any page and start reading.
In Theresa (TJ) Lightfoot’s contribution, she writes about how issues affecting Native women are sometimes treated as “separate, or pushed under the umbrella of ‘Native’ issues, not something that feminism would be concerned about.”
Krysta Williams and Ashling Ligate’s co- written piece presents thoughtful tips to translate theory into lived experiences, to engage in peer-to-peer education and to become better feminist allies. Cassandra Polyzou reflects on the shame she felt as a feminist with an eating disorder and calls for a “kinder feminism. One that considers each individual as unique, flawed and beautiful, and takes a step out of the classroom and non-profit organization and into every person’s life.”
The personal stories are as absorbing as they are diverse, but the message throughout the book is clear: Feminist classrooms, communities and organizations need to be safer, less oppressive spaces in which more voices, more experiences and more issues are respected and reflected in the feminist movement.