08 March 2012
"i only know that people call me a feminist whenever i express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute."
- rebecca west
it's international women's day. so to celebrate, here are my top ten favourite feminist books.
1. stiffed by susan faludi. it's such a beautifully written book. shipyards, baseball, john wayne, rambo, the promise keepers, waco. this is in my top ten favourite books of all time. when we were writing the first album i took more ideas for lyrics from this book than anywhere else. i'd love to read it again.
2. heartbreak: the political memoir of a militant feminist by andrea dworkin. i remember i bought this in a second hand book store in lawrence, kansas, while we were on tour with james blunt. then i ended up reading this while we were writing the second album. i think a lot more of it influenced the words than i realised at the time.
"i have a heart easily hurt. i believed that cruelty was most often caused by ignorance. i thought that if everybody knew, everything would be different. i was a silly child who believed in the revolution. i was torn to pieces by segregation and vietnam. apartheid broke my heart... i can't be bought or intimidated because i'm already cut down the middle. i walk with women whispering in my ears. every time i cry there's a name attached to each tear."
it's inspiring and heartbreaking. read it if you haven't.
3. the beauty myth by naomi wolf. this was a difficult one, i could have chosen misconceptions or promiscuities. both are amazing books. and i could have gone for the treehouse, because that's often the one that i seem to come back to. but instead i've gone for the beauty myth. because i have.
4. living dolls: the return of sexism by natasha walter. along with 'female chauvinist pigs' by ariel levy, this has been one of the best books i've read in the last couple of years. when there's a nail bar in a toy shop, what's the best that anyone thinks will happen.
5. the bitch rules by elizabeth wurtzel. with chapter titles like 'always keep your mind on how you feel, not on how he feels', 'be gorgeous' and 'don't clear the table at a dinner party unless the men get up to help too', i'm not sure if the advice in this pocket sized book was ever really aimed at me, but i've taken it to heart anyway at various points in my life. it's a very peaceful and thoughtful book. kind of comforting and hopeful. she quotes ted hughes and bruce springsteen, and there is a chapter dedicated entirely to eating dessert. thinking about it, maybe this book was aimed at me.
6. riot grrrl: revolution girl style now! it's sort of like a bible, but where calvin johnson is god and kathleen hanna is jesus. the greatest story ever told.
7. outrageous acts and everyday rebellions by gloria steinem. not so much a book, more a collection of articles and writing from the seventies and eighties. worth it if only for the chapter 'i was a playboy bunny'. i remember a few years ago our manager emailed us saying we'd been asked to design a t shirt for playboy , something to do with a 'rock the rabbit' issue. i emailed back saying we would as long as we could work this andrea dworkin quote into the design, "politically, culturally, socially, sexually, and economically, rape and prostitution generated pornography; and pornography depends for its continued existence on the rape and prostitution of women." we didn't hear back.
8. backlash by susan faludi. it's over twenty years old and it's still completely relevant today. i hope she writes another book soon.
9. the scum manifesto by valerie solanas. i remember photocopying this book in it's entirety after reading the quote on the sleeve to 'stay beautiful'. it's a brilliant, angry, often funny attack on men. it almost feels like a pastiche of a manifesto and all the more powerful for it.
"the male has a negative midas touch - everything he touches turns to shit."
10. the female eunuch. i read it when i was about seventeen and i never saw the world the same way again.
"i'm sick of the masquerade. i'm sick of pretending eternal youth. i'm sick of belying my own intelligence, my own will, my own sex. i'm sick of peering at the world through false eyelashes, so everything i see is mixed with a shadow of bought hairs; i'm sick of weighting my head with a dead mane, unable to move my neck freely, terrified of rain, of wind, of dancing too vigorously in case i sweat into my lacquered curls. i'm sick of the powder room. i'm sick of pretending some fatuous male's self important pronouncements are the objects of my undivided attention, i'm sick of going to films and plays when someone else wants to, and sick of having no opinions of my own about either. i'm sick of being a transvestite. i refuse to be a female impersonator."
happy international women's day
oh, also. there is the women of the world festival on at the southbank this weekend, with loads of things going on. one of those things is a concert by emmy the great at the queen elizabeth hall on sunday night. and if that wasn't exciting enough, amanda applewood has been asked to support emmy. so if you're going then get there early. and if you're not going, and there are still any tickets left, then maybe you should go.