Tag Archives: second wave feminism

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination Book Review

Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.

The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (published in 1979), this classic 1970’s second-wave nonfiction book examines how female characters are portrayed in 19th-century novels. Authors Susan Gubar and Sandra M. Gilbert compare the images of women created by male writers as opposed to the images created by female writers. Using the analogy of Bertha Mason (the literal madwoman in the attic) from the Charlotte Bronte novel, Jane Eyre, they dive into the fiction of authors such as Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Mary Shelley, etc.

This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, George Eliot, History, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Writing

True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age Books Review

We’ve all read our fair share of celebrity biographies, memoirs, and autobiographies. They range from being a dry retread of what we know about them to drowning in the overbearing “look at me” type profile.

In 2018, actress Christine Lahti wrote her own story. It is entitled True Stories from an Unreliable Eyewitness: A Feminist Coming of Age. One of six kids in a 1950s picture-perfect midwestern family, she was raised by her doctor father and homemaker mother. Coming of age in the 1960s and 1970s, she was transformed by the second wave of the feminist movement. Jumping from her childhood to her early adulthood to her current life and in between, this book is the story of a woman making her choices and standing on her own two feet.

I loved this book. I could hear her voice through the pages. It is honest, raw, emotional, messy, and most importantly, authentic. Her story is the story of a generation of women who fought for their rights, and in doing so, paved the way for future generations to do the same. For me, it is a reminder of how strong we are and how much we can accomplish when we stick to our guns.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

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I am Woman Movie Review

It’s easy to get on a soapbox and rail against whatever one feels is wrong with the world. But sometimes, it takes art and music to give that needed change life.

I Am Woman premiered last year. Starring Tilda Cobham-Hervey, Evan Peters, and Danielle Macdonald, the movie tells the story of the late singer Helen Reddy. The narrative begins in 1963. Helen (Tilda Cobham-Hervey) is a single mother with a dream of signing a recording contract. Originally from Australia, she is currently living in New York City. Making a living as a lounge singer, it looks like her dream is just that.

Her fate changes when she meets music journalist Lillian Roxon (Danielle Macdonald) and wannabe talent manager Jeff Wald (Evan Peters). Lillian inspires Helen to write her iconic song “I Am Woman“. Jeff straddles to the dual role of husband and manager.

It looks like Helen has everything she has ever wanted. But fame and the constant grind of work begins to take a toll on her private life. Jeff becomes an addict, forcing Helen to take a hard look at her life.

The thing about a movie or television biopic is that it can feel dry and predictable. The womb to tomb story arc has been done to death. But this movie is neither dry or predictable. It is entertaining, charming, and most of all inspiring. I love that the filmmakers wove in their protagonist’s story with the burgeoning second wave of feminism in the 1970’s.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

I Am Woman is streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Movie Review, Movies, Music, Netflix, New York City

Mrs. America Review

In theory, feminism is an easy concept to understand and an even easier cause to get involved in. But for any number of reasons, some women see feminism as the enemy.

The new series, Mrs. America premiered last month on Hulu. Set in the 1970’s, it follows the battle for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). It seems that ratification is on the horizon. Writer/activist Betty Friedan (Tracey Ullman), Representatives Bella Abzug (Margo Martindale) and Shirley Chisholm (Uzo Aduba), and journalist Gloria Steinem (Rose Byrne) are four of the women who are the faces of the feminist movement. Their goal is to see the ERA enshrined as constitutional law. Standing in their way is Phyllis Schlafly (Cate Blanchett), a conservative activist and lawyer who will move political h*ll and high water to prevent the ERA from being ratified.

I’ve seen eight of the nine released episodes and I am hooked. The main thing that strikes me is that the issues that these women were fighting for fifty years ago are the same issues we are fighting for now. If nothing else, this series reminds me how far we have come and how far we need to go before American women are truly equal.

It also humanizes the characters, especially the ones that are based on real women. We see them as giants and icons, not as human beings who were as fallible as anyone walking down the street. That humanization also stretches to the women who were against the ERA.

From the liberal perspective, it would be easy to label them as right wing nut jobs who are siding with the patriarchy. But in this series, they are portrayed as women who are scared. From the time they were born, they were told that the ideal life is to marry, have children and maintain a home. When the second wave of feminism began to affect the culture in the 1960’s and 1970’s, it felt like the rug was pulled out from beneath their feet. I absolutely do not agree with their political or cultural perspective. However, I understand the feeling of not knowing what to do when you are told that everything you know and love is wrong.

I absolutely recommend it. I would also not be surprised if this series did very well come award season.

The final episode of Mrs. America premieres Wednesday on Hulu.

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Thoughts On International Women’s Day

Today is International Women’s Day.

Instead of writing about women that we all know about, I want to talk about the women who I have come from.

My mother, coming of age during the second wave of feminism in the 1960’s and 1970’s. As an adult, she balanced work, marriage and motherhood. Granted, it was a not easy at times, but to watch my mother do it all was and still is awe-inspiring.

My grandmothers, first generation Americans and members of the Greatest Generation. Born during WWI, growing up during the Great Depression and coming of age during World War II, they understand perseverance in the face of hardship.

My great-grandmothers, born in the shtetls and towns of Eastern Europe. They faced poverty and discrimination at every turn. They came to America, looking for the freedom and opportunities that did not exist in the lands of their birth. They worked in sweatshops and lived in crowded tenement buildings. They fought for their rights as women and workers. It was not paradise, but their fortitude and courage paved the way for future generations.

I am proud to have these women in my family tree.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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A House Divided Cannot Stand And A Feminist Movement Cannot Prevail With Hate

There is an old saying: a house divided cannot stand.

A political movement whose ultimate goal is equality cannot last when hate worms its way into the movement.

Theresa Shook is one of the founders and leaders of Women’s March, the face of the modern feminist movement. She has called on her co-founders to step down due after accusations of antisemitism and anti-gay sentiments were made known to the public.

To say that I am disappointed is an understatement. If we are marching and protesting to ensure equality for one group of people, we must do the same for all. We cannot say one thing in private and say something else in public. We cannot demand equal rights for all women in public and in private make antisemitic and anti-gay remarks in the private.

In case these women forgot, this generations feminists did not just become feminists out of thin air. We stand on the shoulders of Bella Abzug, Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. All three of these women are not just icons of the second wave of feminism, but Jewish as well. The fact that antisemitism has infected Women’s March spits on these women who paved the way for us to fight for our rights.

When we have true equality, it will happen when we work together, not when we denigrate one another because of religion or sexuality.

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Letters to a Young Feminist Book Review

Phyllis Chesler is one of the pioneers of the second wave of feminism.

After spending a half a century in the movement, she has learned a thing or two. In her 1997 book, Letters to a Young Feminist, she is not only writing to the up and coming generation of feminists, but she is also breaking down the movement into digestible ideas. In the book, the list of topics she writes about includes parenthood, marriage,  why the right to choose important, the cattiness that often occurs between women, etc.

I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it because what Ms. Chesler is writing about needs to be talked about openly and honestly. While she writes with authority, her writing does not come off like an adult scolding a child. She is using her experience to guide the women who will one day pick up the mantle of feminism and continue what Ms. Chesler and her colleagues started decades ago.

I absolutely recommend it.

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