Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach

If you had met me at fifteen, sat me down and explained Feminism, I would not have wanted to know. The idea of change to my normality would have frightened me. Even as recently as two years ago I would have been uncomfortable calling myself a feminist and while I no longer live in that bubble or mentally liken all feminists to butch lesbians or Germaine Greer, I still was not sure it was for me, or that I even needed it.

While my attitude has changed in those two years, it was the reading of How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran that lead me to publicly call myself a feminist, and since then I have been educating myself to the cause; noticing the obvious, and the ingrained subtleties, oppressing women.

fsfFifty years after the publication of The Feminine Mystique, have women really exchanged purity and maternity to become desiring machines inspired only by variations of sex, shopping and masochism – all coloured a brilliant neuro-pink? In this volume, fifty women young and old – writers, politicians, actors, scientists, mothers – reflect on the shades that inspired them and what being woman means to them today.Synopsis from Goodreads.

Fifty Shades of Feminism is the book I wish I had read at fifteen; it is an accessible and important insight into what it is to be a woman. A series of fifty essays by a group of spectacularly diverse women, each explaining why they are feminists and what Feminism means to them. Reading it has been a thoughtful and meaningful experience, reflecting my own beliefs and introducing me to opinions and observations I hadn’t considered.

There are many reasons why I and my fellow women need Feminism – the Twitter attacks of prominent British women the last two weeks are evidence of this – the following is just one of them:

Recently a 13 year old girl was blamed for her own rape, she was apparently so provocative the 41 year old living in the same house could not help but rape her. She was described as predatory – he has only been given an eight month suspended prison sentence. It is this misinformed thinking and representation that pits woman against woman and allows a judicial system to find a child culpable for their own rape.

In a society where women are sexualised and objectified to sell clothes, cars, make-up, their own bodies…, it incredibly unfair that they are then blamed for unwittingly complying with the rules patriarchal society has defined for them. If women decide to wear skimpy clothes, why are they blamed for being raped? No one asks to be raped, asking for sex is called consensual sex; a woman chooses what she wears and a man chooses where to stick his penis.

I believe the argument can be posed that, if a man cannot control his need to have sex due to the allure of a women, I cannot control my need to eat due to the allure of food. That’s right, I am gaining weight not because of my own weak will, but because I am so overcome by desire of the decorative allure of Walkers crisps that I physically cannot stop eating them.

I need Feminism because women should be in control of what happens to their bodies – we are autonomous entities, not blow up dolls.

Fifty Shades of Feminism has introduced me to a host of feminists I never knew of, women who think similarly to me, and I could not be happier. Feminism is not a scary beast and feminists are not overbearing, butch giants who will not shut up – they are just like us, they are us.

I strongly encourage that women – and men, because men can be feminists too – read this book, it is necessary.

17 thoughts on “Fifty Shades of Feminism, edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach

  1. Sounds like a perfect introduction to feminism. Like you, I wasn’t really too keen on being labelled one until I discovered Caitlin Moran. I’ll have to keep an eye out for this one!

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    1. I think it is only around £7 on Amazon! While I don’t always agree with Caitlin, she is a friendly, welcoming and informative introduction to being a feminist and what Feminism is.

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  2. “In a society where women are sexualised and objectified to sell clothes, cars, make-up, their own bodies…, it incredibly unfair that they are then blamed for unwittingly complying with the rules patriarchal society has defined for them.” Excellent point. Actually this entire post is excellent.

    I, too, wasn’t at all interested when younger. It’s a pity that there is the stereotype for feminism and that it still rules.

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    1. I think it is slowly being broken down, especially with more celebrity feminists such as Caitlin Moran, Helen Lewis and Laurie Penny – but it is a slow process.

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  3. Love, love, love this post. I completely relate to your experience of not feeling comfortable calling yourself a feminist in your younger years. Now, I can’t believe how misinformed I was about the word’s meaning. I thought Caitlin Moran’s book was brilliant, and I’m intrigued by this recommendation, too. Can’t wait to check it out!

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    1. The Kindle version is $10 (not including tax I think, I forget how America’s tax works) on Amazon. $15 for the hardback which is what I have. Although, I know you are moving at the moment, so buying new may not be the most cost effective option. I really think you’ll love this, it has feminism like Moran and unlike Moran, which is what is so brilliant about it, the diversity.

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  4. This is a great post, Alice! And well, many young women would benefit if they were explained what femnisim is, but many adult women too. I recently had my two best friends sneering at my self-definition as a feminist. Oh well…

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    1. Thank you 🙂

      There is such a lack of education on feminism, probably in fear of empowering women and changing the status quo. Humans fear change they don’t understand.

      Lovely to encounter a fellow feminist!

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  5. This sounds so interesting and essential. I find it so disheartening that despite all the progress for women, there are still so many things that haven’t fundamentally changed, and/ or that need constant vigilance and revisiting.

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    1. I know, it’s incredibly frustrating – I feel as if it is so entrenched I have to check things twice because they seem to natural.

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