Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kiss My Tiara

I wish I'd read Kiss My Tiara: How to Rule the World as a Smartmouth Goddess, by Susan Jane Gilman 10 or even 20 years ago. Although, since it was just published in 2001, I guess that isn't possible. But, for my 34 year old self didn't learn very much, while by 24 and definitely 14 year-old self could have really stood to read this. Kiss My Tiara, a "guide for intelligent women" reviews many of the various ways women are discriminated against or culturally disadvantaged and has some smartass ways to deal with them, and urges us to drastically overhaul our thinking on some issues.

Alas, basic things like supporting other women and not beating ourselves up about the shape of our bodies are the sort of things that bear repeating. Also this prize piece of wisdom, which nobody told me until I turned 30: The twenties basically suck. Dang it! I wish someone had told me that so I didn't spend a whole decade wondering why I wasn't having the time of my life and feeling bad because I wasn't.

One thing I didn't like about this book was how Gilman casts the snide remark around about our feminist foremothers. Take this paragraph from her introduction:
For in certain ways traditional feminism just isn't cutting it with us. For women today, feminism is often perceived as dreary. As elitist, academic, Victorian, whiny and passé. And to some extent- Goddess forgive me for saying this - it's true. I'm not knocking the women's movement of the past years. I'm a huge advocate and beneficiary of choice, workplace-protection laws and domestic-violence legislation. But...

Eek. "I'm a feminist, but"??? I'm proud to call myself a feminist, but it's pretty clear Gilman isn't, because she skirts around it all through the book. For one thing, there's no such thing as "traditional" feminism - there's not a feminist handbook out there that says Feminists hate men; Feminists don't shave their legs; Feminists burned their bras (they didn't) - much as so many people think. So what, exactly, isn't cutting it for Gilman? For a woman who uses the term "Goddess" over and over, and apparently without irony, I can't understand why she can't proudly proclaim she's a feminist when she so clearly is. This is a semantic issue, but I'm a feminist who plays close attention to language - it is, after all, male-centered. (Did you notice, for example, how I wrote she "skirts" the issue? Why are skirts such a great example of avoiding and passively ignoring?) A book that does a great job at explaining the roots of feminism and it's future among young women is Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner. That was the book that helped me understand the women's movement better than anything I'd read before. I'd recommend it to persons young and old who are interested in a more intellectual approach to women's issues, and I can't imagine finishing that book and not being proud to label yourself a feminist.

1 comment:

Belle | MsBookish said...

I love this review. I'm not so sure I'll read the book, but I really really love this review. "I can't understand why she can't proudly proclaim she's a feminist when she so clearly is." I hate that feminism has gotten such a bad rap, so much so that women who are clearly feminist don't think they are. It is one of my pet peeves.