Review: Reclaiming the F-Word

Thursday, 17 June 2010

2010 is a great year for books on contemporary feminism. Just when you’d had enough of everyone despairing (or rejoicing) that feminism is now at thing of the past or that women don’t care about equality any more, several books are published within the space of a few months, proving that actually, feminism is still extremely important to a lot of women.

The latest book to hit our shelves discussing the women’s movement in the 21st century is Reclaiming the F-Word by Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune. Catherine and Kristin decided to write about the state of feminism today after getting sick of newspapers and books proclaiming that ‘feminism is dead’ and ignoring the tireless activism, organising and achievements of thousands of women.

“Our aim in this book is to provide a whistle-stop tour of activity in the UK today and further afield. We will explain why feminism is still vitally important and introduce some of today’s inspiring new feminists, describing what they want and what they are doing,” they state in the book’s prologue.

To help with their research into feminism today, the authors undertook a survey of UK feminists, asking then about a wide range of issues, hoping to find out what’s important to them and what activities they take part in. As one of the women who filled out the survey, I was excited to see what its findings would be, especially considering the fact it is believed to be the largest survey of feminists carried out in recent years.

The resulting book is a fascinating guide to UK feminism since the dawn of the new millennium. It’s broken down into seven main sections, delving into the subjects the authors found that women today care most about: ‘liberated bodies’, ‘sexual freedom and choice’, ‘an end to violence against women’, ‘equality at work and home’, ‘politics and religion transformed’, ‘popular culture free from sexism’ and ‘feminism reclaimed’.

And for fans of statistics, the full results of the survey are published at the back of the book, with quotes from the open-ended questions scattered throughout the main chapters.

If you’re looking for the sort of book which informs the reader that feminism is now ‘trendy’, that it’s ‘no longer about bra-burning’ and that feminists can even enjoy shopping these days – well, you’re probably best off looking elsewhere. As Catherine and Kristin say, the new feminist movement is “optimistic, rolling-your-sleeves-up-and-getting-things-done feminism” – evidenced by the variety of issues that today’s feminists are passionate about and active in.

Each section discusses major issues and lays out the facts, but also features the accounts of women interviewed by the authors and talks about what organisations and individuals are doing to effect change in these areas.

There are interesting statistics and emotive first-hand accounts galore which create a picture of a very collaborative movement, not just focusing on the most well-known names and groups as some newspaper articles and documentaries have done in the past.

It actually makes a refreshing change to read a book which is not just focused on the injustices and horrors of things happening to women, but also what is being done to combat them – taking into account activism all over the world. Since becoming involved with the UK feminist movement I’ve met a lot of great women who are doing so much and it’s a shame when their efforts are written off by those who don’t think feminism exists any more.

I loved the fact that, for further encouragement at the end of each chapter, a ‘Take Action!’ section gives tips on practical things readers can do to get involved. It’s a nice touch that could also serve as inspiration to those who are unsure where to channel their passions and ideas.

The book ends on a thoroughly upbeat note, calling for “a larger, more visible, diverse and inclusive feminist movement” and reiterating why we need feminism.

If you want to know what influences and inspires today’s feminists, what they’re doing for the cause and what they’ve achieved then look no further. Reclaiming the F-Word is, of course, not an exhaustive guide to 21st century feminism, but it does a great job of presenting a picture of a movement which is very much full of life.

Find out more at the Reclaiming the F-Word website.


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