“I often say that reading and writing saved my life. I meant that quite literally,” Roxane Gay.
Bad Feminist was the first time I had ever heard of Roxane Gay and I am glad it was not the last time. Hunger is one of Gay’s latest books, and it looks deeper into her past, her struggle with her weight, and the event that changed her life.
I will always have a special place in my heart for her, and I am always excited when I get to read something she wrote. She writes from a sincere place, and it shows in her work. She writes about what is true for her. She writes about her truth, which is combined with her feminism, and it doesn’t feel like reading a textbook. Hunger is a memoir of Gay’s body. Continue reading “A Review of Roxane Gay’s book, Hunger”→
Disclaimer! I am not a scientist, I am not a biology major. What I report in this post is what I have found on my own. I am learning about this along with you, so if you see something wrong let me know. Thank you.
Since October is breast cancer awareness month, I am going to continue with the breast cancer theme. According to breastcancer.org, a nonprofit dedicated to providing reliable, complete, and up-to-date information about breast cancer, one in eight women in the USA will be diagnosed with breast cancer. It also states that breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women; in 2017 it was estimated that about 30% of newly diagnosed cancers in women will be in the breast. Another fact on their website states that in women under 45, breast cancer is more common in African- American women than white women, while in Asian, Hispanic, and Native women the risk of developing and dying of breast cancer is lower than African American women.
There is not much of a focus on the women that breast cancer effects in the media, the media that comes out in October is pink ribbons emblazed on everything. There are two main examples that I want to talk about. The first one is The Bold Type, specifically the episode titled “The Breast Issue” and a book I found called A Breast Cancer Alphabet.
The Bold Type is a tv show on Freeform in its first season. There are currently only six episodes, but the one that I want to discuss in more detail is the episode titled, “The Breast Issue.” The main characters are friends named Jane, Kat, and Sutton who work at Scarlet magazine, which is much like Cosmo in our world. Jane is the journalist one of the group who aspires to be the finest feminist writer. Kat is the social media coordinator and is a very big feminist. And finally, there is Sutton. She works in fashion but her story in this episode is not relevant to my post so I will be excluding it. We start with the girls going to what I think is a #freethenipple rally.
Jane, the journalist of the three friends, faces her past in this episode when the editor of the magazine wants her to write about the BRCA test and why women in their 20’s should or should not get the test. This may seem like a run of the mill article to write considering this is a women’s magazine, but for Jane, this is personal because her mother died of breast cancer. Jane does not believe that women in their 20’s should get this test.
But what exactly is this test?
The BRCA gene test uses a blood sample to look for harmful changes to a person’s DNA (that’s the stuff that makes you, you). It can be used for both breast and ovarian cancer. It looks for mutations in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes. These genes are the breast cancer susceptible These proteins help repair damaged DNA, but if there is something wrong (aka a mutation) then the protein cannot do their job right, and cells can develop more alterations as a result. The harmful versions of these genes can be inherited by a person by either their mother or father. For specifics on your risk of getting breast cancer, please see a professional.
This test is recommended to anyone who is likely to have an inherited mutation, and is based on your family history or a specific kind of breast cancer. Even if a person receives a positive result, that does not mean that they will develop breast cancer. Your doctor can help you understand your risk.
The free the nipple hashtag is the story arc for Kat, the social media coordinator. She is a forward thinking, go-getting feminist who decides that since she can’t post women’s nipples on Scarlet’s Instagram, she will go around taking photos of men’s nipples and post them instead to challenge the Instagram rule that men can show their nipples but women cannot. She does this because she is getting ready for Scarlet’s breast health issue. Although she doesn’t use the free the nipple hashtag, I think it is important to talk about this because women’s breast are sexualized in today’s society and then women get breast cancer and their breast which women are taught are a private part of body, are everyone’s business. Society tells women that they need to cover their breast, that the breast is a sexual organ, not secondary sex characteristic. This is exemplified in the debate over women breast feeding in public. People say that women’s breasts are for male pleasure and therefore cannot be shown in public. Shame is placed upon women who dare to breast feed in public or show more of their breast than society has deemed appropriate. So basically anything above the areola (the circle around your nipple) or below it is A-Okay. Just don’t show your nipple. But once there is a cancer diagnosis, your breast become public property. People ask you questions, doctors take photos, nurses examine. They invade the privacy that society used to force on you.
A Breast Cancer Alphabet by Madhulika Sikka talks a little bit about what it felt like to have her breast go from a private part of her body to something that everyone discusses when she dedicates a chapter to breasts (B is for Breast). After a cancer diagnosis, a woman’s personal space is invaded in the name of her health. Sikka talks about reconstruction, and how that affected her. I thought it was a nice reprieve to read this book because Sikka did not give me facts and figures. I saw next to no numbers and that is what I wanted. Sikka said her reasoning behind this book was because she wanted something that was easy to read and wasn’t too scientific or self-indulgent and I feel that that is what she wrote. Reading this book is like reading a letter from my mother, comforting and not too shallow. A Breast Cancer Alphabet covers topics that might not be found in the literature, like what it feels like to shave your head and lose your hair, what it feels like to have a mastectomy and how cancer can affect your sex life. Sikka even has a tumblr where anyone can submit a sentence or photo to create your own breast cancer alphabet.
Gender Trouble by Judith Butler, published in 1999, is a key text for feminist theory, queer theory, and continental philosophy. She wrote several other books on gender and has a position as a professor at the University of California Berkeley. Her books are regarded as difficult to read due to their long, unstructured sentences and many references to other philosophers that it is assumed the reader knows. Regardless, I still think her work is valuable because of its contributions to the larger field of gender theory and how we think about gender today. I will give a summary of Gender Trouble, explaining the concepts she covers.
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a novel dating from the late eighties that I read recently with my book club. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t the most fantastic book I’ve ever read, but it certainly made me think. It tells the story of Offred, a middle aged woman who is struggling to find her place in a society in transition. This novel was fairly dystopian, but what made it different than other dystopian novels that I’ve read is that I felt like this is something that I could see happening in my lifetime, practically at any moment. It was realistic, and it said something about American culture that scared me.Continue reading “Positive and Negative Liberty and The Handmaid’s Tale”→
The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian-style tale set in a radically theocratic America. The regime, called Gilead, has classified women into based on fertility and obedience, with different ranks identified by their unique uniform. All women are completely stripped of their rights—everything from reading to purchasing power—and are sorted into classes to divide and control them. Handmaids are fertile women who serve as surrogate wombs for the Commanders and their aging wives. The Wives—women married to the powerful Commanders—are reduced to days of knitting, gardening, and waiting for their Handmaid to give birth to their children. Handmaids are completely powerless, and everywhere they go, there are Eyes—the military division of the Gilead regime—watching and waiting to kill them for any misbehavior.
One reviewer writing for The Verge called it “1984 for feminists… but a lot scarier”. This theocratic society has based its societal revolution on a passage in the book of Genesis about Jacob’s wife, Rachel, allowing her handmaid to conceive Jacob’s child on her behalf. This passage is recited in the book during the monthly ceremony in which the Commander attempts to impregnate the Handmaid under the Wife’s watchful eye. If a Handmaid cannot reproduce, she is sent to a labor internment camp with other Unwomen—old and infertile women who are no longer valuable to the society. Handmaids are only containers for babies, and nothing more. Continue reading “Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”: A not-so-improbable dystopian world”→
Currently women of color make up less than 40 percent of the US population. By 2050, this will rise to 53 percent of the population. In 2014, 14 percent of books were by and about people of color.
Small independent publishing companies, like Nothing But The Truth are attempting to make a dent in these numbers. VIDA tracks the breakdown of women in the literary arts. When authors of color are turned away, a blank spot is left in the history books. Already the United States has lost so much culture and voice by prohibiting certain peoples from publishing. Whatever is keeping these women from being published now is just as devastating.
Regardless of what genre you choose to read, it’s always important to search out new and unfamiliar work. New perspectives can broaden your horizons and make you see things in a different light. One way you can help is to create demand for these little known, yet fabulous authors. This is a list of books by women of color that I encourage you to take a spin through. There is something for everyone on the list!
Imagine losing your mind. Your brain fails you and you can’t properly function in the society you have been raised in. You lose your identity. Susannah Cahalan experienced just this, and lost her sanity for a month. She began falling behind at work, experiencing seizures, inappropriate behavior, and far more that all culminated into a blackout of hospitals and scrutiny.
Mental Illness is an obvious concern in this book, but her book, Brain on Fire, deepens our insight on issues such as the national focus on medication for illnesses, while bringing us in on the personal stress surrounding figuring out a diagnosis. Cahalan, although diagnosed bi-polar as well as schizophrenic during her journey, was actually finally cured of anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis. This autoimmune disease left her life and mind in ruins, but her bestselling story leaves us amazed, yet still perturbed with the medical system in America.
The abundance of rape and violence against women is almost never treated as a human rights issue, let alone a crisis, or even a pattern. It takes very little inference to recognize that the violence and assault that women face is an extremely prevalent issue that needs to be addressed immediately. Men Explain Things to Me is a provocative collection of short stories and essays that address the core of the gender inequality issue: a deeply rooted craving for men to have control over women’s lives. Through honest examination of case studies and cultural attitudes, Rebecca Solnit demonstrates that the incidents that are so often seen as isolated events are all, in fact, very connected and illustrate a much larger social problem.
One of the soaring successes of Solnit’s collection of essays is the effortless grace with which it presents gruesome and heavy topics. I felt like I was speaking with a wise colleague, or perhaps my best friend’s cool older sister. The book begins with the title essay, “Men Explain Things to Me”, in which she introduces the idea of “mansplaining”: men explaining things to women in a condescending or patronizing way. Solnit recounts a posh party in a luxury cabin in Aspen. One man began asking her about her numerous book publications, and when she mentioned her latest book about Eadweard Muybridge, he immediately began recalling the “very important Muybridge book that came out this year”. It took multiple interruptions and comments for him to realize that this “very important” book was her book. She continues to discuss the slippery slope of silencings. The presumption that women’s thoughts and emotions are somehow invalid crushes young women into silence by indicating, in the same way that street harassment does, that this is not their world and that the truth does not belong to them. When we tell women they are not reliable witnesses to their own lives, we annihilate their very real and valid experiences, opinions, and accomplishments.