The Creation of Patriarchy – Gerda Lerner

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A major new work by a leading historian and pioneer in women’s studies, The Creation of Patriarchy is a radical reconceptualization of Western civilization that makes gender central to its analysis. Gerda Lerner argues that male dominance over women is not “natural” or biological, but the product of an historical development begun in the second millennium B.C. in the Ancient Near East. As patriarchy as a system of organizing society was established historically, she contends, it can also be ended by the historical process.

Focusing on the contradiction between women’s central role in creating society and their marginality in the meaning-giving process of definition and interpretation, Lerner explores such fascinating questions as: What can account for women’s exclusion from the historical process? What could explain the long delay–more than 3,500 years–in women’s coming to consciousness of their own subordinate position? She goes back to the cultures of the earliest known civilizations–those of the ancient Near East–to discover the origins of the major gender metaphors of Western civilization. Using historical, literary, archaeological, and artistic evidence, she then traces the development of these ideas, symbols, and metaphors and their incorporation into Western civilization as the basis of patriarchal gender relations.

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Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence – Adrienne Rich

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“Women have married because it was necessary, in order to survive economically, in order to have children who would not suffer economic deprivation or social ostracism, in order to remain respectable, in order to do what was expected of women because coming out of “abnormal” childhoods they wanted to feel “normal,” and because heterosexual romance has been represented as the great female adventure, duty, and fulfillment. We may faithfully or ambivalently have obeyed the institution, but our feelings – and our sensuality – have not been tamed
or contained within it.”
― Adrienne RichCompulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence

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Butterfly Politics – Catharine A. MacKinnon

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The minuscule motion of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a tornado half a world away, according to chaos theory. Under the right conditions, small simple actions can produce large complex effects. In this timely and provocative book, Catharine A. MacKinnon argues that the right seemingly minor interventions in the legal realm can have a butterfly effect that generates major social and cultural transformations.

Butterfly Politics brings this incisive understanding of social causality to a wide-ranging exploration of gender relations. The pieces collected here many published for the first time provide a new perspective on MacKinnon’s career as a pioneer of legal theory and practice and an activist for women s rights. Its central concerns of gender inequality, sexual harassment, rape, pornography, and prostitution have defined MacKinnon’s intellectual, legal, and political pursuits for over forty years. Though differing in style and approach, the selections all share the same motivation: to end inequality, including abuse, in women s lives. Several mark the first time ideas that are now staples of legal and political discourse appeared in public for example, the analysis of substantive equality. Others urge changes that have yet to be realized.

The butterfly effect can animate political activism and advance equality socially and legally. Seemingly insignificant actions, through collective recursion, can intervene in unstable systems to produce systemic change. A powerful critique of the legal and institutional denial of reality that perpetuates practices of gender inequality, Butterfly Politics provides a model of what principled, effective, socially conscious engagement with law looks like.

 

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Beauty and Misogyny: Harmful Cultural Practices in the West – Sheila Jeffreys

beautyandmisogynyShould western beauty practices, ranging from lipstick to labiaplasty, be included within the United Nations understandings of harmful traditional/cultural practices? By examining the role of common beauty practices in damaging the health of women, creating sexual difference, and enforcing female deference, this book argues that they should.

In the 1970s feminists criticized pervasive beauty regimes such as dieting and depilation, but some new feminists argue that beauty practices are no longer oppressive now that women can choose them. However, in the last two decades the brutality of western beauty practices seems to have become much more severe, requiring the breaking of skin, spilling of blood and rearrangement or amputation of body parts. Beauty and Misogynyseeks to make sense of why beauty practices are not only just as persistent, but in many ways more extreme. It examines the pervasive use of makeup, the misogyny of fashion and high-heeled shoes, and looks at the role of pornography in the creation of increasingly popular beauty practices such as breast implants, genital waxing and surgical alteration of the labia. It looks at the cosmetic surgery and body piercing/cutting industries as being forms of self-mutilation by proxy, in which the surgeons and piercers serve as proxies to harm women s bodies, and concludes by considering how a culture of resistance to these practices can be created.

This essential work will appeal to students and teachers of feminist psychology, gender studies, cultural studies, and feminist sociology at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and to anyone with an interest in feminism, women and beauty, and women s health.

 

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Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women – Susan Faludi

backlash“Opting-out,” “security moms,” “desperate housewives,” “the new baby fever”—the trend stories of 2006 leave no doubt that American women are still being barraged by the same backlash messages that Susan Faludi brilliantly exposed in her 1991 bestselling book of revelations. Now, the book that reignited the feminist movement is back in a fifteenth anniversary edition, with a new preface by the author that brings backlash consciousness up to date.

When it was first published, Backlash made headlines for puncturing such favorite media myths as the “infertility epidemic” and the “man shortage,” myths that defied statistical realities. These willfully fictitious media campaigns added up to an antifeminist backlash. Whatever progress feminism has recently made, Faludi’s words today seem prophetic. The media still love stories about stay-at-home moms and the “dangers” of women’s career ambitions; the glass ceiling is still low; women are still punished for wanting to succeed; basic reproductive rights are still hanging by a thread. The backlash clearly exists.

With passion and precision, Faludi shows in her new preface how the creators of commercial culture distort feminist concepts to sell products while selling women downstream, how the feminist ethic of economic independence is twisted into the consumer ethic of buying power, and how the feminist quest for self-determination is warped into a self-centered quest for self-improvement. Backlash is a classic of feminism, an alarm bell for women of every generation, reminding us of the dangers that we still face.

 

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Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies – Stella Bolaki, Sabine Broek

audrelordestransnationallegaciesAmong the most influential and insightful thinkers of her generation, Audre Lorde (1934–1992) inspired readers and activists through her poetry, autobiography, essays, and her political action. Most scholars have situated her work within the context of the women’s, gay and lesbian, and black civil rights movements within the United States. However, Lorde forged coalitions with women in Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Africa, and twenty years after her passing, these alliances remain largely undocumented and unexplored.

Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies is the first book to systematically document and thoroughly investigate Lorde’s influence beyond the United States. Arranged in three thematically interrelated sections—Archives, Connections, and Work—the volume brings together scholarly essays, interviews, Lorde’s unpublished speech about Europe, and personal reflections and testimonials from key figures throughout the world. Using a range of interdisciplinary approaches, contributors assess the reception, translation, and circulation of Lorde’s writing and activism within different communities, audiences, and circles. They also shed new light on the work Lorde inspired across disciplinary borders.

 

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Are Women Human?: And Other International Dialogues – Catharine A. MacKinnon

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Exposing the consequences and significance of the systematic maltreatment of women, and its systemic condonation, this book takes us into the heart of the international law of conflict to ask – and reveal – why the international community can rally against terrorists’ violence, but not against violence against women.

 

 

 

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Anticlimax – Sheila Jeffreys

anticlimaxThe sexual revolution of the 1960’s and 1970’s is generally considered a time when the women’s movement made great strides. In this provocative book, Sheila Jeffreys argues that this much heralded sexual freedom did not constitute any real gain for women but continued the tradition of their oppression. At the root of sexual liberation, Jeffreys finds an increasing eroticization of power differences within the heterosexual, lesbian, and gay communities.

 

 

 

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