I just finished reading We Don’t Need Another Wave: Dispatches From The Next Generation of Feminists, edited by Melody Berger. It is a collection of over 30 essays by young feminists talking about why feminism is still relevant today, how the movement is evolving and ways to work on new issues and methods.
Of course, with any anthology there is going to be a mixture of quality, and therefore I enjoyed some essays more than others. I did find it to be a fun and intellectually stimulating read, though.
I found the book to be quite diverse. It managed to include many women of color from a wide range of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, several queer activists and a couple that were both.
These essays turned out to be my favorites in many cases, because they deal with issues not generally discussed in feminist circles. The article “Rice Tight With Beans: Loving Caribbean Skin” by Lenelle Moise discusses racism, the way that racism affects her own interracial relationship and the fact that being in an interracial relationship doesn’t make the impact of racism go away. It’s a great article, filled with painful honesty. It’s both emotionally moving and theoretically stimulating.
“The Silence Surrounding Queer Sexual Violence and Why We’re Not Talking” by Elizabeth Latty talks about sexual and physical abuse in lesbian relationships, using her own previous abuse relationship as a starting point. Latty rightfully points out that feminists don’t know how to deal with violence against women by women because of the traditional narrative that only men commit these acts. Of course, men are still the vast majority of perpetrators, but using that fact to ignore violence in lesbian relationships is helping no one. It really was a wakeup call as to how we can exclude women from our movement without even realizing it, and a reminder that we have to put actual women before politics or ideology.
Another great article — quite possibly my favorite — was “A Time to Hole Up and a Time to Kick Ass: Reimagining Activism as a Million Different Ways to Fight” by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. Piepzna-Samarasinha is an American woman of Sri Lankan descent. This article chronicles the experience of brown people after 9/11, including stereotyping, disregard for telling different cultures apart, curbing of rights and violence. It’s also about being an activist in these types of circumstances, when afraid and grieving, and about the treatment they received at the hands of white, supposedly-liberal anti-war activists that they were supposed to be working with. I doubt that I can do it any justice in summary, but I highly recommend it.
Other great articles include “Troubling the Performance of the Traditional Incest Narrative” by Alexia Vernon, about her own struggles and triumphs regarding the continuing aftermath of molestation by her half-brother, “For the Love of Feminism” by Dani S. Dela George, on how the feminist movement often excludes male allies and “Making Space for the Movement, DIY-Lady Style” by Jessica Hoffman, about the trials and triumphs of feminist collective organizing.
Only one article succeeded in pissing me off. It was “The Eagles Has Talons: One Queer Soldier’s Peek at Life in the Trenches” by Jennifer A. Stein. Stein was an ex-soldier turned feminist, queer, anti-war activist who was then redrafted by the military for the Iraq war. She details the horrors of the military the first time around, but ends up defending her reenlistment as a way to cause a “pissed off soldier problem” and say that she was “there.” I suppose that I can’t really blame Stein for being a soldier. Though she may have been able to use the fact that she’s a lesbian to get out, it’s also quite possible that she couldn’t have. It was either that or jail. What was she to do? But I do resent portraying her draft as anything other than the outrage that it is and acting like taking part in an unjust war — whether willingly or not — is in any way a good thing. It’s not.
With that one exception, though (and really, it would be pretty creepy for me to read pieces by so many writers and not find anything I disagree with), it’s a very good collection. If you haven’t checked it out yet, do so. You’ll learn something.