Feminist collections are truly not letting me down this month. With The Little Book of Feminist Saints by Julia Pierpont and now this empowering book, I’m pretty much settled for the year. Speaking of which, I began 2017 with Nasty Women by 404 Ink, and with the end in sight, I finished it with another Nasty Women.
But whereas 404 Ink’s Nasty Women is a call-to-action for feminists to share their experiences and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century, Samhita Mukhopadhyay’s collection features discussions on feminism in Trump’s America, as the title conveys.
When 53 percent of white women voted for Donald Trump and 94 percent of black women voted for Hillary Clinton, how can women unite in Trump’s America? Nasty Women includes inspiring essays from a diverse group of talented women writers who seek to provide a broad look at how we got here and what we need to do to move forward.
“In the chapters ahead we have curated some of the strongest voices writing at the intersection of feminism, identity, and personal experience with their own identity to meditate on what we lost that fateful night in November 2016 and what lessons we can take from it. ”
With over twenty essays in this collection, some were inevitably going to make the same arguments and present the same cases from the election (“telling the same story with different adjectives”). So I took more in from the personal essays that introduced the discussed topic by giving us that irreplaceable connection with an individual’s experience, rather than the pieces that focused solely on conveying information about X and Y.
My favorite essay by far, though, was one that came circling repeatedly into my mind over the course of the book: “As Long As It’s Healthy” by Sarah Michael Hollenbeck. It even started out with a bang for me:
“Nearly every thirtysomething woman I knew had a number in her head—a number she’d had since childhood—of how many kids she wanted and when—two, three, four for me! I couldn’t help thinking, Shouldn’t you wait and see how the first one goes? Even the first time I scheduled a bikini wax I only scheduled one. I wanted to monitor the repercussions before I made any long-term commitments, and I’d like to think that living children are more high-stakes than ingrown pubic hairs.”
Now that’s a guaranteed way to get my attention.
But on a more serious note, I cherish essays that discuss how giving birth is not the only way to have children. And also that having kids is not a must.
“Instead of making a new human, I feel a responsibility to be a better caretaker for the humans who are already here.”
But what made this piece in particular stay with me is the fact that the author talked about being diagnosed with Moebius syndrome.
“My experience of being a disabled woman is discovering in small, sharp explosions what I look like through the feedback of strangers.”
“When I was growing up, our family never talked about Annie’s face or my own, and in the few times that I broached the topic with friends, I was told “No one notices” or “It doesn’t matter.”
In my experience of disability, the people closest to me have always expressed their love by telling me that they, almost magically, cannot see it—that this thing that has both directly and indirectly shaped so much of my life doesn’t matter. Instead, it has been the callous strangers and the bullies who have been the ones to say, I notice. It matters.”
I’m going be thinking about this exceptional piece of writing for months to come.
Another essay that caught my attention with its opening paragraph was Kera Bolonik’s “Is There Ever a Right Time to Talk to Your Children About Fascism?” It goes as following:
“There’s a sort of joke I used to tell my friends—a joke that’s not such an exaggeration—to succinctly describe my mother, about how she taught my younger sister and me European geography by recounting the way each country persecuted the Jews during World War II. (Austria? Birthplace of Hitler. Germany? The home of the Nazi Party, and the country he led—anti-Semitism central. Poland? Place of the extermination camps that helped to annihilate most of the Jewish population. And on.)”
Her mother gets me to my core.
There’s more where that came from with the many outstanding feminist essays in Nasty Women. And I feel alive with power because of them.
ARC kindly provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2017