“Revolution from Within” and “Outrageous Acts of Everyday Rebellions,” Gloria Steinem
Upon my return from my recent trip to the U.S., where I scooped up some foundational feminist theory, I’ve been trying to actually sit down and read it! I started with one of feminism’s most famous and most outspoken pillars, Gloria Steinem. Although her two books could be read as quite dated, they show just how far we have come and just how much has remained the same, and should serve a as a frank reminder to anyone proclaiming that we “don’t need feminism”: “As young students, how many of us understood that the right of an adult American female to own property, to sue in court, or to sign a will; to keep a salary she earned instead of turning it over to a husband or a father who ‘owned’ her; to go to school, to have legal custody of her own children, to leave her husband’s home without danger of being forcibly and legally returned; to escape a husband’s right to physically discipline her, to challenge the social prison of being a lifelong mirror is she remained unmarried or a legal nonperson if she did marry—how many of us were instructed that all of these rights had been won through generations of effort by an independent women’s movement?” Those days aren’t too far in the past, and to ignore feminism’s importance and significance is to slap every woman who is benefitting from it still today (ALL OF US) square in the face.
“The Woman Upstairs,” Claire Messud
Claire Messud’s acclaimed novel about the relationships we have as adults follows Nora, an elementary teacher who becomes involved with one of her student’s parents, both physically and emotionally. Her struggle to identify the real from her desires leads to dangerous places, and Nora ends up exposed and longing on the outside of what she thought (and desired) was hers for the taking. Because of the backwards narration, the reader can appreciate the newfound strength Nora’s experiences have taught her, and Messud shows her audience what a strong, single, older woman looks like. Not a spinster, not weak, not ugly—she throws off the negative stereotypes that society pushes on older women in favor of the truth. If nothing else, Messud’s novel should be prized for this sole portrayal alone, as there just aren’t enough out there yet to discard the false labels and ideas society continues to impose daily.