Good news: No need for a Halloween costume this year. As long as you are seen reading feminist literature, many people in this world will consider you to be either a witch or a bitch. Therefore there’s no better way to use the extra holiday than to catch up on some classics. I picked four of my favourites for a compact, manageable holiday stack.
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit is a mansplainer classic. Mainly because it was Solnit who coined the phrase, after an experience at a work-related networking event (ha, where else). It went something like this: The imposing male host approaches Solnit and her female friend towards the end of the evening. “So? I hear you’ve written a couple of books” he says to Solnit. Several, she replies. The host wants to know what books. Solnit glosses over the first seven and only mentions her latest that had just come out. The host recognises the title and starts explaining Solnit about that very important book that had just come out. With a smug look on his face he lectures Solnit about the book she wrote, and only drops the topic after having been told three times by Solnit’s friend that Solnit actually wrote the book. And the host as much as had revealed during his lecture that he hadn’t even read the book, but had merely read about it in the New York Book Review.
The book is a thin one, which makes it perfect for the long weekend. It is a collection of essays and they are feminist classics. Solnit’s other essay collections I particularly like are The Mother of All Questions and Call Them by Their True Names. Also her Field Guide for Getting Lost is a beautiful read.
Moving on. Jessica Valenti has had an inappropriate amount of filth thrown at her for running her feministing.com website. Her memoir Sex Object is essential reading for anyone who’s interested in a very contemporary take on sexism, gender and politics. Valenti is based in Brooklyn and writes for all major international newspapers. Sex Object is very intimate, brave and funny, and an excellent take on living in New York City as a woman (there’s an extensive etude about subway gropings and men exposing their genitalia and masturbating in public spaces).
A slightly different take on feminism by Siri Hustvedt, a personal favourite (in general). A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women is also a collection of essays, albeit not just about feminism per se. Hustvedt has a very particular writing style and she has a particularly strong philosophical/neurological approach to her subjects. This collection has essays about art, psychology and philosophy – mostly with a feminist twist. Hustvedt can be an acquired taste, and this book is not easy-reading poolside lit. At the same time she serves fantastic observations about how our brain and mind works.
So if you find yourself in a place where you can properly concentrate (and afterwards feel extremely virtuous and smug for having spent your holiday reading something that practically qualifies as neurology course book) I cannot recommend this strongly enough. Hustvedt’s fiction is also very good, and unless you are the only remaining person on this planet who’s yet to read What I loved, congratulations. It’s also a good book, but there’s no need to stress about reading it now.
Then on to the ultimate Halloween She-Devil Witch, the Crooked, Lying Hillary, the Nasty Woman par excellence, the Deluded Corporate Whore: Hillary Clinton. Her memoir What Happened is not bad as far as memoirs of politicians are concerned (Michelle Obama’s book is out on 13 November, by the way. I just pre-ordered mine). It’s a carefully put together reflection that is so thorough that it can occasionally be a bit tedious for a European who’s not that familiar with the electoral curiosities of each state, but we don’t really read it for voting statistics, do we? Because it can be heartbreakingly, well, heartbreaking at places. I wrote about What Happened and some other 2016 election analyses earlier if you want to have a look.
We can have a full 360° of opinions about Hillary and her comments and her politics and her everything. Given that she is globally the best known, recent, living exhibit of someone who literally went through a 21st century rendition of an actual witch-hunt, I thought it appropriate to include her book in the Halloween witches and bitches Hall of Fame.
Here you are. Have a good one!