Non fiction

Review: I Call Myself A Feminist by Victoria Pepe

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Hey guys! I’m really sorry, I haven’t posted for a while here, I’m a bad blogger. The truth is that I’ve been reading a lot these last weeks and even though I didn’t have time to post about my readings, I am now full of ideas for future blog posts and that’s a very nice feeling.

I recently joined my first Book Club. It’s an online book club called The Feminist Orchestra Book Club and it was created by the booktuber and blogger Jean from Jean Bookishthoughts (one of my favourite BookTubers, remember?). As you have probably already guessed, this is a feminist book club (yes, very surprising, I know) which involves reading one book related to feminism every month. Almost all – if not all – the genres will be dealt with in this book club, from non-fiction to poetry and graphic novels. The first book that Jean submitted to the book club was I Call Myself A Feminist: The view from twenty-five women under thirty, edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes and a few more. This first feminist reading was a great experience and this is why I feel like reviewing this book here.

This book comprises a series of twenty-five essays from women under thirty. In these very short essays, each contributor tells us why they are a feminist or explain us their definition of feminism or how they live their feminism, often focusing on specific subjects. Some of these women are quite famous feminists (Laura Bates for instance) while others are still high school or university students. All these women come from a different background so we get to read a wide range of points of view from activists, students, journalists, writers, charity workers etc.

This is one of the reasons why I enjoyed this book so much: each author has their own vision of feminism and is especially sensitive to either of the many issues related to feminism. Therefore, the book deals with various subjects from sexism in the workplace to rape and other forms of violence towards women, feminist heritage and intersectionality, and is a great introduction to feminism. Each essay is highly subjective and relates to its author’s own experience. Even though I appreciated this aspect, I also found that for this reason and because they’re very short the essays lacked some in-depth analysis and I felt a bit frustrated by this. Maybe it’s because I have read a lot of academic texts and tend to read non-fiction with the aim of learning extensively. This book does not pretend to be a theoretical or an academic non-fiction book but I admit that I expected more facts and figures to illustrate the arguments used by each writer and was disappointed by this general lack of intellectual rigour. However, I still did learn a bit about issues related to feminism and, as I was saying, this is a superficial but very very insightful and varied overview of contemporary feminism.

Between each essay, we can also find a few feminist quotations from feminist speeches, essays or novels. These quotations were very inspiring – some of them were actually quite long, sometimes up to 2 or 3 pages – and made me feel like checking out some of the works they came from. And of course, even though some essays were a bit repetitive because dealing with globally the same themes and a bit too personal for me, some other essays really stood out and had a strong impact on me. I’d like to tell you briefly about some of these essays. In a brilliant and very funny essay called “I call myself a feminist with my elbows”, Amy Annett shows us why it is important “to take up space in this world as a woman” and how she calls herself a feminist with her body. In “Staring at the ceiling: it’s not always as simple as yes or no”, Abigail Matson-Phippard recounts how volunteering at her local Rape Crisis Centre made her question some of her own previous sexual experiences and relationships. In a “A Typical Engineer”, Naomi Mitchison makes fun of the stereotypes associated with the job of engineer and tells us about her experience as a female engineer in a 95%-male dominated field. In “What’s in a word?”, Martha Mosse examines why the word “feminism” has such a bad connotation. In “‘Roti Kamana’: stories of survival”, Samira Shackle tells us what she learnt while working at the Acid Survivors’ Foundation in Pakistan.

I’m not going to summarize everything here, but there are many other essays which I found enlightening somehow or other. I would really recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in feminism and is not really sure where to start.  I Call Myself A Feminist is a very great starting point! Please let me know in the comments if you have other non-fiction books related to feminism to recommend to me. Have a lovely week!

I Call Myself A Feminist: The View from Twenty-Five Women Under Thirty, edited by Victoria Pepe, Rachel Holmes, Amy Annette, Martha Mosse, Alice Stride. Published by Virago (November 2015). 

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