Tuesday, February 11, 2014

book review: Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists

The basics: This collection of personal essays from a varied collection of writers (mostly women) illuminates the a-ha moments when feminism "clicked." Edited by J. Courtney Sullivan and Courtney E. Martin, the idea for this collection arose when J. Courtney emailed a group of friends asking what their a-ha moment of feminism was so she could give a character in Commencement (my review) a particularly powerful one.

My thoughts: I've been meaning to read this essay collection for years, but now I'm glad I read it while I'm pregnant. A common theme running through many of these essays was the impact of a mother's (or mother's and father's) feminism on a personal embrace of the word, if not its meaning. As one half of a feminist couple about to have a baby, I kept wondering when my baby's "click" moment would be. And, yes, I also found myself browsing collections of feminist onesies as I read.

One of my favorite things about this collection was its diversity. There were many stories that were familiar, as many of these authors are around my age and thus went to high school and college around the same, all while experiencing pop culture similarly. There were also many stories that were beautifully foreign from my own experience. Like several of the writers in this collection, I don't have a single moment. I {cringe} vividly recall my ignorant self proudly uttering the phrase "I'm not a feminist; I'm an equalist." As if I had the power to redefine a word if I didn't accept its meaning. Yet as I wondered what my child's moment will be, and as I read these essays, many of which are about moments, what I most enjoyed in this collection were the thoughts before and after the moments. I was moved by what these writers think, feel, see and do after the click.

As much as I enjoyed this collection, there were a few essays with which I did not connect. I was struck by two essays that focused on the universality of body issues that really bugged me. I acknowledge body issues and eating disorders are common, but it's foolish to assume your issues are shared by all women of a certain age. Perhaps I'm the vocal minority, but nothing turns me off faster in a personal essay than faulty assumptions. Exploring our similarities while illuminating our differences is one of the reasons I read, and I wished a few of these essays would have pushed the theme as far as most did.

The verdict: This varied collection of essays isn't perfect, but I most appreciated how well the writers captured their time and place. I thoroughly enjoyed the time I spent reading it, and I would love to see a follow-up edition of the next generation of voices in fifteen years. While I'd love to believe such a volume won't be needed, I'm not at all confident we'll get there soon enough.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 243 pages
Publication date: April 7, 2010
Source: library

Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)

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  1. I read this ages ago and can't remember a single essay. Not good. I do, however, remember loving some of the stories and really disliking others. I don't know if I ever had a "click" moment. I knew that I didn't agree with the representation of women in media a lot of the time (as young as 5 or 6), and definitely hated gender roles from early on. I guess the experience of recognizing I was a feminist just didn't stand out like these writers. And I completely agree when you mention assumed issues. I didn't have body images until now and I'm well past the age represented in the collection. Wow!

    1. Even so soon after finishing it, there are very few essays I specifically recall, but the more I think about it, the more I think it's due to their unbelievably short structure. I even stopped looking up all the authors by the end.

  2. I couldn't agree more about appreciating the diversity of the essays. I'm glad you enjoyed it even though it wasn't perfect. :)


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