Dissertation blues in a majorly cheerful key, pt. 2
Whoops! Finishing off the list of my ten most influential books and articles which helped shape my thinking regarding feminism and the human community took a bit longer than expected. Life intruded — mea culpa! So, continuing with #4…
4) “En’owkin: Decision-Making as if Sustainability Mattered” by Jeannette C. Armstrong
This article was personally revelatory for its explanation and implementation of a community ethos which believes everyone is important — rather than just the majority. It is the results of such an attitude which most move me to excitement, as I note in the description of the book I posted on my blog (check the second half of the posting; the first half is about a different article). Here’s a great quote from the article itself:
I have noticed that when we include the perspective of the land and of human relationships in our decisions, people in the community change. Material things and all the worrying about matters such as money start to lose their power. When people realize that the community is there to sustain them, they have the most secure feeling in the world. The fear starts to leave, and they are imbued with hope (16-17).
Further, this social attitude of caring for all is being dramatically implemented in several modern societies to great gain for all involved. There is a fascinating book, which I have not yet finished, which examines the cultural results of this social attitude: The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger by Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson. Check them both out!
5) Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World by Judy Grahn
In a brilliant intellectual re-creation, in 1993 feminist lesbian poet Judy Grahn re-members and reclaims the sacrality of women and menstruation in her Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World. I’m not entirely sure how to quantify this book — it’s such a smooth intermixture of research and lyrical prose that it both defies linear description and practically invites scientific criticism by the rabidly insecure. Despite that, it is indeed a book about menstruation — a reclaiming for women of an amazing biological process which our culture has worked very hard to demonize.
Grahn notes (with a personally startling clarity) that: “All origin stories are true” (7) — then offers women a radical new origin myth. She grounds this re-newed symbolism in her conceptualization of metaformic consciousness and metaforms: actions or objects which are regarded as not just conceptually iconic, but also directly linked to the mental concept of menstruation. In Grahn’s brave new origin story, metaformic ritual is synchronous, cyclical; a cultural “container of knowledge” embodying a conceptual ideal, with blood as one element. Within a lyrical mix of creative non-fiction and personal remembrance which I found both entrancing and inspiring, Grahn poetically locates menstruation as the foundation of human culture through these symbolic metaformic expressions via ritual, mythology, language, cosmetikos, and food.
Frankly, I far prefer her old/new origin myth — which needs denigrate no one — to the cruel and unbridled misogyny of the supposed “big 5” world religions. This is a symbolism I’d like to use to replace theirs, as Christ suggests in her “Why Women Need the Goddess.”
6) Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by bell hooks
Completely aside from how awesome hooks is, this book was critical in my realization of the privileged and individual-centric perspective we currently consider the norm in US society. Here’s a previous blog on why this book was so important to me.
7) Vagina: A New Biography by Naomi Wolf
I initially approached this title with a mix of both amusement and trepidation — but Wolf’s vivid prose and her enthusiasm for this revelatory subject shines through. Though the book is deeply intriguing and deserves to be read for fullest understanding, here’s a (very simple) synopsis of the book: Wolf explores the research concerning what she refers to as “The Goddess Array,” in the process explaining how a woman’s genitalia are neurologically connected to her brain via pathways that are about three times more complex than the neurological wiring in men. In fact, “[a]ll female mammals were designed by the process of evolution to experience great sexual pleasure” (49; italics hers). It is unsurprising therefore to discover the empirical evidence proves that women’s sexuality is directly neurologically and hormonally linked to their confidence, creativity, and joie du vivre.
This is such a new and radical idea to me… and yet in some ways it just makes sense. The more I read the research the more I found myself agreeing with her — though I was also sadly aware of just how many would be turned away by spiritual sounding prose such as her evocative phrase, “the Goddess Array.” It’s a real shame, considering how accurate an assessment that is of such a critically important facet of being a strong and healthy woman… and how starved our culture is for both a generous spirituality and the Feminine Divine.
Read the book! Also, if you can’t easily find it you can read my review here: part one, wherein I introduce Wolf’s concept and explore both its positive and negative ramifications; part two, which lays out both why pornography is not healthy for either women or men, and how historical ignoring turns into modern ignorance; and part three, where I replicate Wolf’s recommendations on re-awakening a woman’s Goddess Array.
Enjoy! Also, I’ll post the last three titles in this list tomorrow — this time for shuuuure! :)