The Blagger's Guide To...Feminist Writing
'The angry housewife in me was not alone'
Sunday 15 May 2011
*Granta's 115th edition, The F Word, is published on Thursday, with work from some of Britain's leading writers.
In "Aftermath", Rachel Cusk writes about her divorce, with some startling imagery inspired by her husband's question: "Call yourself a feminist?" In A S Byatt's "No Grls Alod. Insept Mom", she writes about the times in her life when she was "stopped suddenly short by blank, unexpected and obvious reminders of the disadvantages of my sex". Jeanette Winterson uses Gertrude Stein and Alice B Toklas's affair to "hold a mirror to contemporary romance". A series of events about the F–word begins tomorrow; details are available here: www.granta.com/Events/UK
*According to experts at the Oxford English Dictionary, the word "feminist" preceded the word "feminism". Its first use in a British publication was in 1887 in the Bury & Norwich Post: "The question over which the fight arose was the admission of male delegates, and after a very close vote the Liberalists beat the Feminists." The Athenæum, in 1895, wrote: "Her intellectual evolution and her coquettings with the doctrines of 'feminism' are traced with real humour."
*The concept of "women's rights", however, can be traced back to 1632 – although such rights were not always regarded as something to be encouraged. Many of these ideas became common currency for the first time after the publication of Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women in 1792. Though Wollstonecraft did not go as far as to argue that women and men were actually equal; merely equal in the eyes of God.
*Sweden, New Jersey, Corsica, the Isle of Man, and Pitcairn Island all allowed some form of women's suffrage before it was allowed in Britain in 1918.
*Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch appeared in 1970, changing the rules of feminist writing at a stroke. According to the book: "The stereotype is the Eternal Feminine. She is the Sexual Object sought by all men, and by all women. She is of neither sex, for she herself has no sex at all. Her value is solely attested by the demand she excites in others. All she must contribute is her existence. She need achieve nothing, for she is the reward of achievement." Greer's most recent articles for this newspaper were on Fabio Capello, Madonna, Heather Mills, and rape.
*Published later this month by Peter Owen Ltd (£14.99), Erin Pizzey's memoir, This Way to the Revolution, recalls how Pizzey became involved in the Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s, and opened one of the first women's refuges, in Chiswick in 1971. It also describes how she invented the phrase "Margaret Thatcher, milk snatcher", and how she wrote to Thatcher when she became Prime Minister in 1979, receiving a reply saying that Thatcher was "not interested in women's issues". Pizzey was inspired by other feminists at the time, she writes. "I read [Germaine Greer's] 1970 book The Female Eunuch from cover to cover. I also read Betty Friedan's work The Feminine Mystique and was comforted to find that the angry, isolated housewife rampaging in my head was not alone."
*Feminist writing is not dead. Recent feminist publications include Laurie Penny's Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism; Ellie Levenson's The Noughtie Girl's Guide to Feminism; Catherine Redfern and Kristin Aune's Reclaiming the F-Word; Natasha Walter's Living Dolls: The Return of Sexism; and Cordelia Fine's Delusions of Gender.
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