Friday, 22 March 2013

Fifty Shades of Feminism



Just as Do They Know It’s Christmas? combined the talents of (I’m guessing but let’s say 50, to help this tenuous analogy run more smoothly) 50 pop stars to raise awareness of the starving millions in Ethiopia… so Fifty Shades of Feminism combines the talent of 50 feminist writers to raise awareness of the realities of being female in the year 2013.

Yes, that is a blunt and crude analogy. No, I’m not really comparing a nation’s destitution to a gender’s segregation. Though once you’ve read the 50 entries – which cover everything from the death of war correspondent Marie Colvin to the realities of women trying to be taking seriously in science – maybe you’ll want to rethink that hastily typed Tweet that intends to tell me off for being so crass.

Edited by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach, this is an anthology inspired by the odious yet laughable Fifty Shades of Grey phenomenon to question whether women really are only interested in magenta-hued variants of sex, shopping and sadomasochism. As EL James and the greetings card companies would have us believe.

Pulling together a list of contributors that resembles how the Woman’s Hour Power 100 List SHOULD have read, Fifty Shades of Feminism includes pieces from Jude Kelly, Natasha Walter, Bidisha, Joan Bakewell, Pussy Riot, Lydia Cacho and a humbling wealth of other luminaries.

I read and enjoyed the book on the way to and from the Women of the World Festival at London’s Southbank Centre two weeks ago, where I also attended the launch event for the book. It was an inspiring weekend, and I can think of no better situation in which to be immersed in a book about some of the great and good women of the world.

Obviously, everyone who reads Fifty Shades of Feminism will get different things from it, and different contributions will speak louder to different people. But my personal favourites were the pieces by Sandi Toksvig (no other piece of writing of a comparably short length has ever summed up so concisely just why feminism is so relevant now), and Jeanette Winterson (which angrily and eloquently explains – or rather SHOUTS – about just how offensive and obnoxious the porn industry is).

This is an excellent book and you should read it. If you’re in the Bristol area, you should also come along to a Festival of Ideas event on May 19, which will have a selection of the book’s contributors speaking about why this book is so necessary and so important.


Fifty Shades of Feminism is published by Virago on March 28, priced £12.99.

If you like Fifty Shades of Feminism, may I strongly suggest you go to BBC iPlayer and catch Bridget Christie Minds The Gap. A brilliant and clever four-part Radio 4 show wherein she uses humour (yes, and she a woman) to explain the urgency for feminism in our everyday lives. 

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