Comprised of fifty different women’s anecdotes, poems, essays and musings, Feminists Don’t Wear Pink explores the meaning of the word ‘feminist’. This includes its connotations and historical reputation as well as its sociological meaning. For years, ‘feminist’ has been a dirty word, but collections such as this one are making people realise that feminism is the way to equality, and not, as stereotypically thought, all about rejecting the colour pink and refusing to shave your armpits.
The amalgamation of different formats worked for me, and although I could see why others found this confusing, to me it only emphasised that everyone is different and has different creative outlets. The mixture of colloquial anecdotes and more academic sociological essays made this an accessible book, especially for those who are just introducing themselves to the topic.
If you are a seasoned feminist and have been studying gender for a while, then there probably isn’t much in terms of academics in here that would be new to you. However, I do believe it is important to read other people’s accounts of how their identity has been affected by faulty social norms.
This collection is incredibly diverse, including women of many different races, religions, occupations and socio-economic backgrounds, disabled women and transgender women. I related to a couple of the stories in here, and I’m sure many other people would too because it is not restrictive and attempts to make everyone feel welcome. It advocates for more representation of people who are not cisgender, heterosexual, white males of a middle-class background, not because it wishes to “tick a box” as some people argue, but because we need it.
I did have a few qualms with some of the stories included within the collection, in particular Helen Fielding’s section. In her Bridget Jones themed part, Bridget writes in her diary that she sexually harassed Daniel Cleaver, but it was okay, because she “was a woman and he was a man”. This was not challenged and to me, normalising inappropriate behaviour towards men is both hypocritical and problematic.
My issues with both Tanya Burr’s section and Kat Dennings’ section were related to culture. In Tanya Burr’s part, she references an “African proverb”. A quick check on a search engine tells me that the origin of this proverb is actually unknown, so it may not be wholly appropriate to associate it with an entire continent full of countries with many different cultural and social norms and values. Kat Dennings writes “Namistake”, a play on the word ‘namaste’ in association with the activity of yoga. As Nikesh Shukla points out in The Good Immigrant, ‘namaste’ is the equivalent of saying ‘hello’, but has been appropriated by others as a spiritual gesture.
I think if we are championing the importance of feminism, then we should be attempting to eradicate cultural ignorance too, which is, in my opinion, what we see in the two sections mentioned above. Nonetheless, I would still recommend this collection for the majority of the excerpts, which are more effective in what they set out to do.
Despite its flaws, I still appreciated learning more about intersectional feminism and would recommend this if you are not yet well versed in feminist commentary. On the other hand, if you are especially experienced with feminist literature, I would probably skip this one, as a large proportion is going over a basic definition of feminism.
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