Saturday, September 20, 2008

What's Behind Us

Bitch Magazine is offering a retrospective of six works of feminist literature from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s--Paging Through Feminism's Lost & Found Classics-- that includes classic tests like Joanna Russ's We Who Are About To and Kathy Acker's Blood and Guts in High School as well as the not-so-classic Up Your Ass by Valerie Solanas, the best-selling The Women's Room by Marilyn French, the primer on the Women's Liberation movement by Cellestine Ware, Woman Power: The Movement for Women's Liberation, and the anthology The Black Woman, edited by Toni Cade [Bambara] and featuring wriers like Nikki Giovanni, Paule Marshall, Audre Lorde, and Alice Walker, "about what it means to be a woman in the civil rights/ black power movement and black in the women's liberation movement."

In the 1976 cross-country race film The Gumball Rally, the late, great Raul Julia rips off his rearview mirror and tosses it over his shoulder, saying “What’s behind me is not important.” 

He didn’t win the race. 

Maybe that’s because what’s behind us actually is important. Feminist literature and history did not spring fully formed from Betty Friedan’s and Naomi Wolf’s pens and word processors; they have had long, complex, and often buried lives. The six works profiled here, ranging from once-famous titles to all-but-unknown works, were dead-on portraits of the state of women when they were written in the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s, but they still resonate with readers today. Themes like race and the women’s movement, gender and identity, and body politics are evergreen; discussions of these topics still roil in books, on blogs, and in person. And while mainstream feminism may not be grappling with issues like separatism these days, the passion, politics, anger, and truth contained in these books can inspire us to burn as brightly as these authors did. 

For each book, the article provides a paragraph on "What it's about," another on "When it was published" (i.e., how it was received when first published), and "These days," which includes a paragraph on "why you should track it down."

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