*This is the beginning of a new post series, Feminist Book Club, in which I read and review feminist books or books of interest to feminists – mostly for my own edification, but to share here too in the hopes a few titles might make it onto your reading list.
Would it be ridiculous if I said that this book changed everything for me?
No. Because it's true.
The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future is a powerful collection of essays, interviews, comic strips, illustrations, poems, manifestos, and more, each describing with thoughtful specificity and unapologetic detail that particular author's or artist's take on what their "feminist utopia" would look like.
Far from the mainstream feminist theory in which I was immersed in college – necessarily replete in heartbreaking personal accounts of misogyny and harassment; the depressing realities of access to reproductive healthcare; life-threatening domestic violence; and the demeaning and deleterious effects of insidious rape culture – The Feminist Utopia Project is just as powerful, while simultaneously being utterly uplifting. It is the perfect companion to serious examinations of the hard road that's led us here. Each vision is beautiful and complete, and seems shockingly within reach. Rather than looking at where we've been, and how it has challenged and changed and stunted us, The Feminist Utopia Project turns the reader gently, safely toward the future. Somehow without ever pointing directly to the violence that marks our history, the essays acknowledge it as an artifact of the past – something that we (humanity) do not need to keep carrying with us.
The perspectives and voices in the book are many and varied – from well known names like Janet Mock and Melissa Harris-Perry, to thoughtful, open interviews with sex workers. How would living in a feminist utopia change a teenage mother's average day? How would the standard for "good sex" change? What would it look like if birth control were invented by an abortion provider? Each segment elevates a different topic in a way that's completely accessible and inspiring. And I was given the reminder I so badly needed about the importance of intersectionality in feminism, and that feminism benefit all of us – not just women.
It had been awhile since I'd read much feminist theory. Since college, probably. Like I said earlier, a lot of it can be tough and heavy to digest, especially if you're a sensitive person. The Feminist Utopia Project is the complete opposite; it's an informed, welcoming answer to a question I didn't even realize I was asking. I truly hope this collection finds its way into college classrooms. In the meantime, if you are a woman, or someone who knows a woman, or someone who identifies as a human in any way, it's time to read this book. The only way we can move forward, in the direction that celebrates and makes safe and changes everything, is if we all have similar pictures in our minds of what that future looks like.
My friend Kate is a vegan. A few years ago when Eating Animals came out, she was so strongly inspired by the book that she bought a copy for anyone who expressed the slightest interest in reading it (present company included). I loved the book, and I was in awe of how Kate had so graciously embraced it, offering to share with whomever was interested what had touched her so deeply. I never felt that way about a book myself – until now. This is my Eating Animals. I wish I had enough money to buy a copy for each person reading this right now. Maybe someday I'll win the lottery, and mail a copy of The Feminist Utopia Project to every house in America. In the meantime, if it's in your budget, try the book. The Kindle version is cheaper. And, as ever, the library version is free.
So what changed? My mind reopened. Rather than having to fortify myself to get through recollections of trauma and harsh realities that can seem all too familiar, inescapable, and heavy, I began to see feminism once again for what it is: something intelligent, and growing, and beautiful, and hopeful. We can't forget about that part. Maybe it's not a fair way to look at feminist theory, but I personally needed some balance, which was fully, wholly provided by this book.
What I highlighted:
"A good word to consider in lieu of 'happiness' is the ancient Greek word eudaimonia. It is often mistranslated as 'happiness,' revealing how beholden we are to this diminished view of human flourishing in the modern age, but it is better understood as meaning 'living a good life for a human being.' It means to flourish in a fullness of practice, to dance through a full range of human experience—from the most pleasurable emotions, states, and practices to the thoroughly unpleasant ones. It means to live a life of meaning."
"Perhaps in a feminist utopia, my 'hysteria' might be affirmed. It may be diagnosed as 'the world hurt you with its sickness' rather than 'you are sick.'"
"Being . . . a woman is an awful tragedy. Yes, my consuming desire to mingle with road crews, sailors and soldiers, bar room regulars—to be a part of a scene, anonymous, listening, recording—all is spoiled by the fact that I am a girl, a female always in danger of assault and battery. My consuming interest in men and their lives is often misconstrued as a desire to seduce them, or as an invitation to intimacy. Yet, God, I want to talk to everybody I can as deeply as I can. I want to be able to sleep in an open field, to travel west, to walk freely at night. — Sylvia Plath"
*This post contains affiliate links