Fifty Shades of Feminism & YOU!

Of course I just had to buy Fifty Shades of Feminism although I have managed to resist the ‘allure’ of it’s ashy coloured namesake (definitely not appealing to me).

Fifty Shades of FeminismI’m glad I did. The book has been edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach who put it together pretty quickly in a riposte to the ‘other’ grey book. (Presumably the grey cover of this edition is a bit of tongue in cheek homage?) In a slightly anarchic way it has more than fifty contributions but as it doesn’t number them when they pass fifty it doesn’t really count…just think of it as added value.

I have been dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks; it’s that kind of book. On the one occasion I did sit down and read several at a time I found it a tad jarring. Feminism is a very broad church and the contributions are varied; some don’t feel as coherent when read in one sitting.

That said, I have been loving it and it has been reigniting my enthusiasm for all things feminist (OK, I didn’t really need any reigniting, that’s just a literary device…) My favourite to date purely for entertainment, is Sandi Toksvig’s contribution:

“…I attended a degree ceremony at the University of Surrey. The academic folk there had kindly allowed me a doctorate without all the annoyance of having to study something first. Afterwards I stood on the steps of Guildford Cathedral, where the ceremony had taken place, and marvelled at the youthful beauty of the genuine graduates. A young woman dressed in her academic gown and mortarboard was being helped down the steps by her parents. In addition to being bedecked in educational success she was also wearing high heels; such high heels that she was unable to manage the stone steps on her own. Her mother and father supported her on either side. On the day in which her mind was being celebrated, her shoes infantilised her.”

Brilliant, although these days even my quite short heels seem to set me off on a lurching gait… There are other references to feet binding in the book which also includes some neat drawings from Posy Simmonds. And just one more quote from Camilla Batmanghelidjh who ended her segment with:

Women are often defined by what their boobs do, whether it’s to titillate or to feed. But I reckon there’s another kind of boob no one really talks about. It’s when care is exchanged between two human beings. Concretely it’s called attachment; symbolically it’s about an exchange between the caregiver and care recipient, through which both are transformed and enhanced with kindness. Reciprocity is the limousine I sit in, and tangoing with compassion is the feminine principle I aspire to, while getting drunk on the thirst for excellence! So, in short, I’m a drunken whore with alternative boobs! Is that feminist enough for you?

You won’t agree with everything written; I didn’t. The editors have given space to a variety of views. But I enjoyed it all; even when I was tutting slightly it felt good to be challenged in my complacency. Highly recommended. I shall be buying a few more copies for friends!

Post Script: The editors suggest that readers will use this book to go out and find their own fifty shades and I am inspired to do just that. I’m asking the question, what made you a feminist? Or, when did you realise you were a feminist? I think it will be interesting to know what age you were then realisation struck and what age you are now. Gender is irrelevant, my broad church of feminism allows that men can be feminists too, although not all the sisterhood agrees! Please send them to me marked ‘Fifty Shades’ to  I’m really looking forward to hearing from you and compiling our own Fifty Shades! I’ll publish my 50 later on this year.

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Posted on June 20th, 2013 by

5 Responses to “Fifty Shades of Feminism & YOU!”

  1. Lisa Cherry says:

    Excellent post Jane and I also thoroughly enjoyed this book. Having called myself a feminist when I first hear the word in 1985, I have always watched with fascination the continuing debates, particularly academically, as to what the word/movement/standpoint actually means. What I loved about this book was that it was full of the variety that Feminism is and the academics and people who think it’s nothing to do with them, will just have to stop concerning themselves with more labels and inaccessible dialogues about it.

    In adopting a ‘broad church’ view more people of generations after mine will connect with it and I love how social media has completely changed the face of it all anyway. There are some powerful connections being made and expressions being aired albeit very different from the issues that dominated the landscape for the women before me….so much work to do!

  2. Kate Sang says:

    Hi Jane,

    I can’t remember when I wasn’t a feminist. My parents raised me to believe that I could do anything I want. I was always frustrated at the limitations on women and the expectation to have a family. Reading ‘the female eunuch’ at 15 was an eye opener in terms of shaping my ideas. No idea when I first declared I was a feminist, as my political identity was more focussed around socialism. However, I wear the identity of feminist with pride. It informs my politics, my behaviour, my trade union activity, my animal welfare concerns and probably other parts of my life.

    • Jane says:

      Thanks. Although socialism was the leit motif of my family and my dad was a trades unionist, feminism passed him by. But then he was born in 1921 and me in 1955. He did raise me to believe no one was any better than me (and that I was no better than anyone else). When I refused to change my name on marriage in 1977 my Mum thought it was ‘a phase I’d grow out of’ but 36 years later I’m still in my feminist phase. Thanks for taking time to reply. Jane

  3. karenpine says:

    One person made me a feminist – my mother. In fact both my parents consistently expected that I would do well in life without putting pressure on me and without ever suggesting that I wouldn’t do well because I was ‘just a girl’. My mother was both gentle and forthright, held her own in male and female company without ever being bolshy, and gave me one thing that makes every woman inherently feminist- high self-esteem. Also she never dieted or made negative comments about her own, mine or any woman’s appearance so I grew up being ridiculously pleased with my own body. When we value ourselves we realise we are equal to anyone in the world, be they male or female. Whether that constitutes feminism, I’m not sure, but it is something profoundly important that we can and must pass on to our daughters.

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