Elevate Difference

Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (10th Anniversary Edition)

Ten years ago, my concept of feminism consisted of white lesbians with unshaven legs and armpits who hated men. Fast forward ten years later–past many existential crises, a couple of college degrees, and a hard drop from blissful ignorance–and my feminist tendencies have even leaked into my chivalrous desire to open the door for men. In no way am I trivializing a movement based on the social, political, and economic equality of those with and without a Y chromosome, but I have come to the realization that I've always been a feminist, right down to the minutiae of my life.

Manifesta serves as a comprehensive guide with which to weave through a world land-mined with sexism. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards wittily point out how our responses to, and habits accumulated from, sexism have become so ingrained into the psyche of many women that what often lies beyond recognition are these habits and responses themselves. This makes it difficult to correct what we don’t realize is wrong.

The issues covered in this book are so vast and diverse, but are not in the least bit overwhelming to comprehend; from a historical time line of feminism, to the basic distinctions between the first, second, and third waves, to the influence of feminism on and by the media, Manifesta reveals generational perceptions of feminism and the disagreements and realisms about how to implement feminist ideas, even about what feminism is or isn't. Without a bias toward one view or another, Baumgardner and Richards state facts and opinions of feminists from all walks of life, including those who do not identify with the label but may live similarly to a feminist. Most importantly, they take the mystery out of feminism by helping to put its very definition into the hands and lives of those who choose to be affected by it.

Baumgardner and Richards are not such smart alecks that they lose the reader in self-serving sarcasm, but they use just enough humor to make people wonder what you’re laughing so intensely at should they be sitting next to you while you’re reading Manifesta. Feminists are not just white, not just lesbians, and not just women. Feminists wear lipstick and frilly whatnot, as well as combat boots, hairy armpits, and burqas–perhaps all five simultaneously. What is feminist to some may not be feminist to others, but realizing a need for equality across social, political, and economic spectra of gender is beyond the need for a label.

Written by: Olupero R. Aiyenimelo, May 19th 2010

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