Elevate Difference

Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists

Seeking inspiration for a novel she was writing a few years ago, J. Courtney Sullivan sent an email to several friends asking them, “What was the moment that made you a feminist? Was there one person, event, book, or idea that made it happen?” The conversation that followed was so fruitful that she decided to keep it going, and Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists was born.

In Click, editors Courtney E. Martin and J. Courtney Sullivan present twenty-nine essays by young feminists from all walks of life with the intention “to collage together a picture of contemporary young feminists…to discover what it is that still brings a diversity of young people to try on the feminist label despite the obvious risks.” The collection they’ve compiled is inspiring, insightful, and funny in all the right places, and I had to resist the urge to shout, “Preach on!” as I read it.

The voices in Click are as strong as they are varied, and the themes that emerge—the desire to break boundaries and prove men wrong; the need to create a personal feminism that is different from our mothers’; the struggle to balance sexual empowerment with feminist strength; and the tension created by identifying as feminist and as a member of another minority group—offer something for everyone. I saw myself and every feminist I know in the pages of Click, and that speaks to how well Martin and Sullivan succeeded in fulfilling their mission with this book, even if very few of the pieces are actually about singular moments of realization.

Rather than try to sum up twenty-nine fabulous essays in what would doubtless become a super-long review, I’ll now share some of the themes and excerpts that spoke to me, just to give you a taste of what you can find. In “Not My Mother’s Hose,” Courtney E. Martin recalls meeting Jennifer Baumgardner (author of Manifesta, a book that changed my life and the lives of many others) and experiencing her “click” upon realizing that modern feminism means that women can be both smart and sexy. That fishnet stockings and high heels are just as acceptable and empowering as menswear slacks and practical shoes.

Click gave me an opportunity to think more deeply about the moments and experiences that helped me the define the feminism that I live daily, and it reminded me that women are not the only ones who suffer from constricting definitions of gender. The strict definition of masculinity is also responsible for many writers experiencing their click moments when they decided to prove the boys wrong and do something they were told they couldn’t do. For Elizabeth Chiles Shelburne, whose piece is titled “Killing in the Name Of,” it happened on her eleventh birthday, when she insisted on going hunting, an eleventh birthday tradition usually reserved for the boys in her family.

Other women in the collection write about click moments that were sparked by sports, abortion rights, and even Kurt Cobain’s death. Black and Latina feminists describe the struggle to take on the feminist label while maintaining their cultural identities and defending their choices to women who didn’t understand or agree. I appreciated something about every essay in this collection, and I relished the opportunity to spend time reflecting on my personal definition of feminism and the experiences that shaped it.

Excerpted from The Book Lady’s Blog

Written by: Rebecca Schinsky, June 12th 2010