Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Review of Feminism For Real

Dan Waters is a snarky 22 year old queer biracial wonderment who is part White, Portuguese, and Native American (Wampanoag-Kiowa). He currently lives in Massachusetts, and plans to become a Lawyer. That is, if he can survive Algonquin language classes and polyamorous dating right now! He also identifies as Two Spirit, and prefers male pronouns, but cherishes his female body that he was given graciously by the Creator. He blogs at Identity Exposure.

Never have I wanted to literally devour a piece of literature in the hopes of it staying imprinted in my brain and body until I read Feminism for Real, an anthology edited by Jessica Yee. I have no critique, or nay-says, or boo’s. The shame is I have an e-copy, since my physical copy is in shipping limbo and probably detained by the government thinking I’m some uber-womanist terrorist. Once the feds have released it, I’ll be able to snuggle with my hard copy.


Jessica Yee is the editor of the book, and founded the Native Youth Sexual Health Network. Feminism For Real: Deconstructing the Academic Industrial Complex is the second book she’s worked on. She guest blogs at Racialicious (along with book contributors Andrea Plaid and Latoya Peterson!), and can be found on twitter at JessYee. You can pick up a copy of this great book here.

One of the strangest things about me is that I form crushes on individuals’ writing. Yes, you can make fun, just like the rest of them. Jessica Yee is one writing crush that I have, but there is also Latoya Peterson, Andrea Plaid, and Shaunga Tagore (who are also long-time writing crushes) and are in this book as well!

So, let me dive right on in with Latoya Peterson’s The Feminist Existential Crisis (Dark Child Remix), a piece which speaks volumes and felt personal. In Dark Child Remix, she discusses how she came to feminism and the subsequent baggage that comes with it:

“Somehow, that became my identity for a while. Yet, underneath
my skin, I was always chafing. I felt like I was constantly
explaining class and race in relation to feminism, even with
those who didn’t want to hear it.” (Peterson, FFR, p. 44)
Many women of color feel frustrated within feminist circles, and to have this emotion so eloquently discussed, is worthy of a raised hand “Hell yes!” from the readers. She divulges a personal story about the dance of being a feminist and person of color within that world. As Latoya writes, the world of being a professional feminist feels like a dog-eat-dog world, where knowing who’s who is more important than doing real things. Instead of organizing on a response to a racist article on the news, others are finding the best deals they can for their books. Amidst the confusion and push-pull of the colliding worlds, Latoya finds some truths about herself that she can hold onto.

Andrea tackles the reality of kyriarchy and the issue of elitism, the pitting of her-against-her in the realm of being an expert in something. According to most, a degree = expert. She herself does have a Master’s degree, but admits she is being mentored by Latoya Peterson, who has never does not. So, does having a degree make one “better”? Andrea challenges the idea that a degree signifies expertise over and above the experiential, and argues to follow, instead, the porn star. This is evidenced by the title in her piece: No, I Would Follow The Porn Star’s Advice.
But the thing is — and what rubs these academics the wrong
way — is one doesn’t need a degree to have a nuanced understanding
or stance on a political or social issue or any intersection
of those.” (Plaid, FFR, p. 98)
Shaunga Tagore is one of the poetry writers that are featured in this anthology, and I have always enjoyed her works. Her slam piece was inspiring and visceral. The other poetry collections were phenomenal, and I want to make a personal note on Nimikki Couchie; she is definitely going places, and I wish her all the best of luck. She is a First Nations youth, and I am glad to see my seven generations before me to have such an up-and-comer like her. Rock on, Nimikki!

New crushes have developed, yes! As a male identified Two Spirit, I was happy to see Louis Esme Cruz added to the mix. His piece showed volumes of love he has for his mother, and also discusses the rather hypocritical allowance of Female-men into feminist spaces, while denying trans women access. He, like Krysta Williams and Erin Konsmo, discuss how English feels like such a limiting medium to express indigenous feelings, knowledge, and norms. This touched me most of all, because I have recently been grappling with the same idea and have often felt frustrated.
English is a very limited language that
doesn’t give very many options for
explaining gender expressions and
roles.” (Cruz, FFR, p. 54)
“Krysta Williams: Indeed! The idea that we need to be “understood” by “other”
people in order to justify our thoughts and struggles is pretty
fucked. I also find English extremely hard to work in, to
express my thoughts or feelings about anything of substance is
really tough. Then it makes me feel sad that I don’t know my
own language.” (Williams, FFR, p. 23-24)
Megan Lee deserves a “Preach, sister!” from me. She writes about the experience of a poor student in college, and I can relate so much to the tense feelings within the family about education. She explores the whole “getting an education = potential for leaving poverty”, and the tightrope of internalizing messages about being lower class. While there are Trust Fund babies, the ones who get picked on are us Grant babies in the university life.

Everyone’s pieces were great, and I can’t sum it all up into anything cohesive that does it all justice. This book felt like it was made for me. If I am feeling down, oppressed, or particularly frustrated with the academic industrial complex of feminism, I can open a page of this book and feel warmed, uplifted, and ready to hit the ground running.

Thank you, to all the authors and poets, to Jessica Yee for editing this piece, for the wonderful Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives publishing company, and thank you Erika (from the company) for the e-copy so I could write this review. This book holds a special place in my heart.