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Feminism and sexuality are two subjects that ought
to go hand in hand, right? If the goal of feminism is increased freedom for
women, that should mean increased sexual freedom, too. Centuries of female
sexual repression, that whole "Madonna/whore" paradox, would end,
giving women the right to get down and dirty however they please - or not. An
admirable goal, no? So why do so many feminists repress their own sexuality
just as thoroughly as their Victorian grandmothers?
This book, featuring essays by many prominent
researchers and feminists, strives to show the variety of sexual leanings among
women, the reasons for them - and most importantly, to show that they are all
acceptable and worthy paths. "What
I like about bringing feminism and sexuality together is that each term
challenges the complacencies in the other. People who want to get rid of sexuality
for the sake of their feminist politics and people who want to get rid of
feminism so they can feel good bout sex are choosing artificial comfort over
the uneven path of conflict. I love that your book sharpens, rather than dulls,
the edge between justice and desire," writes Jane Gallop in the forward to
the book. The book brings the whole spectrum of female sexual activity - from
stripping and prostitution, lesbianism, conventional marriage - you name it,
into the spotlight for discussion. The writers discuss the incredibly complex
emotional and societal pressures women face with refreshing, sometimes shocking
honesty that is sure to cause any female reader a few "déjà vu"
The essays dip into the darker side of feminism as
well - the dictatorial way that some pioneering feminists have of telling
others who they should love or how, the theory that a feminist must always be a
strong, self-sufficient creature with no ties to any (gasp) man, heaven
forbid! Identifying the "weak link
of feminism for this generation," Johnson writes that women's inability to
reconcile their feminist identities with the desire for a relationship with a
They also touch on self-mutilation and domestic
abuse ("Cutting, Craving and the Self I Was Saving") and the deep
pain seemingly inherent in human relationships. All in all, however, they are
hopeful and forward-looking, despite the serious, emotionally charged subject
matter. They attempt to reinvent
feminist philosophy, creating something more useable and real for today's
Like many scholarly works, the essays get a bit
theoretical and dry here and there. There are some heavy political and social
theories in this book that may be of only marginal interest to any non-fanatic
feminists. There are also lots of references to works you may or may not have
read - although there are good notes and an extensive bibliography included.
However, there are moments of such insight and brilliance that it is well worth
slogging through the heavy parts. And
while you may not agree with all the views presented, it is refreshing to see
these topics brought out into the open for discussion. It is high time for this
© 2003 April Chase
April Chase is a freelance journalist
and book reviewer who lives in Western Colorado. She is a regular contributor
to a number of publications, including The Business Times of Western Colorado
and Dream Network Journal.
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