Monday, July 17, 2006

Currently Reading...

Ah, summer. The time for catching up on all the books and movies and t.v. shows and exercise that you missed all winter.

Well, at least I'm getting back into the gym these days. I haven't seen many films, though there are many I want to get to - Pirates, X-3, MI-3, etc., etc., nor have I watched any of the episodes of Lost from the second season after, say, Thanksgiving (I have, however, managed to keep nearly current on animated films that are appropriate for four-year-olds. Go figure.)

But I'm reading. I just finished Inga Muscio's Cunt: A Declaration of Independence, which I read most of last summer, and which I enjoyed picking up again. I didn't pick it up for the longest time because of the title - not that I was offended (I love that word when used in reclamation), but I thought it was going to be all about the word and then, perhaps, about vaginas, and the thing is that I've done quite a bit of reading about vaginas already. But the book is more of a feminist manifesto, the kind of feminist manifesto that pulls in all people who are oppressed (my buddy Drek will hate my use of the term, but it fits here), the kind of feminism that speaks against all injustice. The book largely focuses on women and the kind of crap that we face in our lives, from low self-esteem to violent attack. What's cool is Muscio's response to this - she has one for everything. My favorite: know a guy who sexually assaulted your friend? Why not get all the gals together, go to his place of employment, and tell his boss what kind of guy he is? Why not picket his house?*

(* Before someone leaves a comment to the effect of "but what about women who make up sexual assault stories? What about being innocent until proven guilty?" - let's keep in mind that false accusations of rape are something like 2% of all reported rapes.)

I'm in the middle of a few others. I started The Motherhood Manifesto on one of my recent plane trips, and it's a quick read, but I kind of stalled out partway through. For one thing, it was kind of preaching to the choir in my case, and I didn't learn a whole lot of new information. For another, the new information I did learn was horribly depressing, like the fact that the U.S., Estonia, Slovakia, Poland, and the UAE have the same mortality rate for children under five - and the U.S. spends far more on healthcare than any of these other countries. But it's an important book, nonetheless. I'm particularly interested in its discussion of flex time, job-sharing, parental leave, and other creative ways to help parents keep good jobs and still parent.

I'm reading Nancy Mairs' A Troubled Guest: Life and Death Stories. Mairs is one of my favorite nonfiction writers, though in this book she seems to have a different voice than the one I remember, perhaps because of the topic. I admit that, at first, reading the book made me feel a bit depressed, but as I read on, I'm finding that it's helping me sort out my own feelings and fears about death.

I just finished Spike Gillespie's Pissed Off: On Women and Anger. People who know me have proably heard me say that I firmly believe that most people don't know how to express their anger well - and that this is particularly true for women. This book is an exploration of moments of anger, of how women have expressed their anger (positively and negatively), of the catharsis of anger, and of the importance of moving beyond anger to a place where one can let go of anger. I liked it, though I did think that in the case of some of the angering moments Gillespie writes about, it was not clear to the reader why certain people deserved her anger. In fact, I found myself identifying at times with the people she had set up as the villains, simply because her own anger seemed so out of place in response to the events in question. But then, that, too, is part of the discussion of anger - processing when it's appropriate, and how, and why, and what to do about it.

Finally, I'm reading Marilyn Abildskov's The Men in My Country, a travel memoir about her time in Japan and - I think (I'm not very far along) the men she met there. I just finished a class with Marilyn at the Iowa City Writing Festival, so I'm hearing her voice in my head as I read (which is sometimes cool and sometimes annoying. You know how it is. You want the only voices you hear in your head to be yours.). I was reading a little bit of her book earlier, and hearing her voice put me in mind of being back at the workshop, a whole week of dedicated time to write, and it compelled me to come out here and sit down and write this.


Drek said...

Hey, I just said I thought the term was over-used, not that it was always inappropriate.

In regards to sending the gals to picket a rapist's house or place of employment, however:

While I am not a fan of extra-legal punishment like this, I can certainly see the logic. The rate of false accusation in rape cases is very low, and the legal system is chronically half-assed in dealing with rape cases- particulary acquaintence or date rape, which are among the most common.

The greater problem, though, is this strategy opens the Gals to legal repercussions. Even in the U.S. where it's difficult to secure a conviction, I'm guessing that this would legally constitute slander. After all, it is a negative statement about someone's character being expressed with the fairly transparent intent of harming them in some way. Few, if any, of the typical defenses would be likely to apply, and in most U.S. states (as the speech regards sexual morality, could be injurious to employment, and implies criminal activity) would be regarded as defamation per se. Unless the man had already been convicted of the crime of rape or, perhaps, had been found liable in a civil suit claiming damages from the rape, such actions would be slanderous.

I'm all for punishing rapists, but doing so in a way that doesn't allow them to inflict more damage on their victims would be nice.

Carrie said...

I'll have to look at that book on anger, sounds interesting. It would be good to explore expressions of anger in that middle ground between miffed and nuclear. Just personally speaking, I mean, although it might have relevance on a national scale.

I hope you enjoyed Iowa City. I spend a lot of time there.

anna said...

I had super duper major problems with "Cunt." Man, I hated that book.

plain(s)feminist said...

For Anna -
Did you read the new afterword? She responds to the criticisms she got in the first edition. I think she did a good job. I can't remember all of the critiques, but a big one was her obvious bias toward women-born-women in the definition of "cunt" as a rallying cry/experience/commonality. She looks at her original approach very critically in the new afterword and embraces transpeople and issues in it. I don't remember the other points she responds to...

anna said...

I have read the new afterword to the book, and...I dunno.

I wouldn't mind talking more with you about this, but not in this particular forum.

plain(s)feminist said...

Drek - excellent points.

Anna - sure - email me.

Matthew - you did just fine. (But dude, this is a semi-anonymous blog! I had to delete your comment!)