Reading Women: How the Great Books of Feminism Changed my Life

// 24 May 2011

Stephanie Staal re-examines some of the central texts of her undergraduate feminist classes, now critiquing them from her position as a wife and mother. LonerGrrrl argues that we should all consider how our relationship to feminism may change over time

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When Stephanie Staal came across Betty Friedan’s feminist classic The Feminine Mystique as a student, she thought it held no relevance to modern women’s lives. But when she picked the book up again a few years later – this time as a married mother-of-one struggling to keep a sense of her own identity amid the demands of career, chores and childcare – she was perturbed to find how closely its tales of housewife woe echoed her own.

Keen to discover what further insights other feminist books could now bring to her adult life, Staal decided to re-enrol in the ‘Fem Texts’ course she took at college: could delving back into the works of the feminist canon help her to recall those idealistic convictions they had inspired in her younger self, and allow her to reconcile them with the realities and responsibilities of adulthood she now faced?

Click here to read the rest of the review and comment.

Comments From You

evieS // Posted 26 May 2011 at 2:39 pm

Was so excited to be reading this – and have promised myself that I’ll buy the book…

Oh how true. As we change, as experiences open our hearts and minds – we begin to more properly understand that there are different ways of making sense of this world of ours.

I’m thoroughly ashamed to admit that my mid-1980’s teen self was militantly anti-mother – Triggered in most part by a taxi journey to school with a taxi-driver who told me he couldn’t understand why girls bothered with education when they were only going to go off and have kids anyway… My teen self simply rejected motherhood. I scorned those women struggling onto buses with buggies and babies as the ultimate evidence of the female cop-out. To me they were complicit in maintaining the patriarchal system. Without their co-operation: making the meals for their male-providers; child-caring; cleaning; keeping house – well, without their efforts we might just get a little closer to feminist heaven (went my teen thought processes…). I laughed at Friedan as old-fashioned and un-ambitious – and just missing the point! I was frustrated with De Beauvoir and the way in which (to my mind) she worshipped and sustained the misogyny of Sartre. And so on…

A shock pregnancy just a few years later (and oh it was a shock) and I joined the ranks of those mothers – determined to subvert the usual roles assigned to men/women. I am afraid that my younger children probably suffered a little from that mother-on-a-feminist-mission which I was. I assumed – to prove my worth in the world and to underscore just how society side-lined women at its peril – that I had to work; become a professional; climb the ladder; compete with men on the ground which they had made their own by excluding women.

I know now that I didn’t need to see it this way. That feminism is about choices for men and for women regardless. And that it was just as valid to choose to care and to nurture – my partner did and I certainly didn’t look down on him for doing so!!

In truth I didn’t reckon on how my new daughter would make me feel… Motherhood was empowering and I found my voice – though I too found a different truth in Friedan when I returned to her as a mother of 5.

I am looking forward to my world-view expanding and changing in the years to come. My perception evolving to accommodate new experiences. I now wonder what Friedan et al will say to me in the years to come…

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