Books

It Takes a Village to Raise a Feminist: 'Nasty Women', an Anthology

Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting. A surprising common tool in this collection? Humor.

The name of the game is "normal or abnormal". Here's how you play: When some exceedingly shocking political news pops up on your radar, turn to the person next to you, read them the headline and ask, "is this normal or abnormal?" If you want to up the stakes, drink a shot every time the answer is abnormal. If that's too many shots, alter the rules so that you drink only when things are normal—which is basically never, these days. Hilarious, right?


Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America

Samhita Mukhopadhyay, Kate Harding (eds.)

(Picador)

October 2017

There are at least two problems with the above proposal. First, it's not that funny the way progressives often use alcohol as a shorthand marker of our need to cope with life under Trump. There are just as many liberal butts in chairs at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings as there are conservative butts. A tip of the iceberg footnote to that is the stereotypical image of white ladies drinking wine. Second, if your sense of irony has only gotten as far as the idea that "abnormal" is "the new normal", you're way behind the game.

You're most likely behind because you have not noticed or have not given meaningful weight to the fact that many people have long been oppressed, abused, marginalized, or have otherwise been suffering in America well before Trump's election. Though the extent to which white women voted against their own interests in the 2016 election is indeed shocking, lots of other kinds of women are perhaps most shocked by the fact that white women have finally gotten around to wringing their hands about it. For a protest organized mostly by women of color, the Women's March sure filled the streets full of white ladies, didn't it?

It would be easier to think about how all our drinking jokes ostracize women who are trying to keep away from the firewater. Yes, our empathy can certainly extend to women who struggle with drinking. It can sometimes even extend to women who live in poverty. It can extend even to lesbians -- but not really to transgender or gender non-confirming women. Maybe to black women, but not really to brown ones or immigrants or refugees. Or our empathy does extend to all these kinds of women—but our actions don't. We feel for these women without really seeing them. Or we see them but think we can't help, or can't help right now because their issues are made lesser simply because they're not our issues.

Oh, but they are our issues. All women are covered in skin, use money, know illness, have traveled—need rights, face trouble, hope for better. Don't we know this already? Yes, we do. And yet. (The use of "we" in the above paragraph refers to white women and it pains me to count myself among the blind, but it's also the only intellectually honest approach to pronouns available to me because I'm white and a woman. Also a queer. Also sort of a Jew. Also left-handed. Also a public servant. Et cetera, but no excuses.)

Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding have collected a bunch of women in a really solid book of essays, Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump's America. Each of the writers approach differing intersections of women's stuff and a variety of other stuff. Even for readers well-versed in the theory of intersectionality, there's a quantity of lived experience and specific testimony here that will surely be eye-opening. Hey, it takes a village to raise a feminist, right? Many of the essays attempt to litigate why we ended up with Trump in the Oval Office; these explanations vary and sometimes clash between essayists. But the deeper work of the collection is focused on the how more than the why.

What emerges above all from Nasty Women is a conversation focused on the particulars of how women suffer, not why we suffer. Injustice has no reason; there's no "why" in matters of unfairness. We defeat unfairness by policing how it operates, by limiting its resources and its means of getting traction. But instead, feminists often end up policing each other—at least, this is the position held by many women who feel attacked when anybody points out that they are white, or wealthy, or privileged in some other kind of way. Nasty Women is filled with call-outs that are well-deserved—from union organizers, from Native Americans, from alcoholics, and so on. The strength of the anthology is that it provides space for disagreement without devolving into unproductive in-fighting.

Because another thing we have in common as people who have been fighting the good fight much longer than Trump has been or will be in office is this: a sense of humor. Many of the essays in Nasty Women are laugh out loud funny. Yeah, I'm pretty concerned that there's a maniac in the White House. But if you're focused on the admittedly big problem of Trump himself, again: you're behind. Women are not fighting against one man; we are fighting against the myriad moving pieces of a system that has always been rigged against us. ("Us": all women, not just newly semi-woke white ones.) A fight as many centuries old as this one is undoubtedly the definition of a war of attrition. Wars of attrition are a matter of stamina, of who has the most tools with which to keep fighting—and our sense of humor is easily our most renewable resource.

9


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

The 80 Best Albums of 2015

Travel back five years ago when the release calendar was rife with stellar albums. 2015 offered such an embarrassment of musical riches, that we selected 80 albums as best of the year.

Film

Buridan's Ass and the Problem of Free Will in John Sturges' 'The Great Escape'

Escape in John Sturge's The Great Escape is a tactical mission, a way to remain in the war despite having been taken out of it. Free Will is complicated.

Books

The Redemption of Elton John's 'Blue Moves'

Once reviled as bloated and pretentious, Elton John's 1976 album Blue Moves, is one of his masterpieces, argues author Matthew Restall in the latest installment of the 33 1/3 series.

Music

Whitney Take a Master Class on 'Candid'

Although covers albums are usually signs of trouble, Whitney's Candid is a surprisingly inspired release, with a song selection that's eclectic and often obscure.

Music

King Buzzo Continues His Reign with 'Gift of Sacrifice'

King Buzzo's collaboration with Mr. Bungle/Fantômas bassist Trevor Dunn expands the sound of Buzz Osborne's solo oeuvre on Gift of Sacrifice.

Music

Jim O'Rourke's Experimental 'Shutting Down Here' Is Big on Technique

Jim O'Rourke's Shutting Down Here is a fine piece of experimental music with a sure hand leading the way. But it's not pushing this music forward with the same propensity as Luc Ferrari or Derek Bailey.

Music

Laraaji Returns to His First Instrument for 'Sun Piano'

The ability to help the listener achieve a certain elevation is something Laraaji can do, at least to some degree, no matter the instrument.

Music

Kristin Hersh Discusses Her Gutsy New Throwing Muses Album

Kristin Hersh thinks influences are a crutch, and chops are a barrier between artists and their truest expressions. We talk about life, music, the pandemic, dissociation, and the energy that courses not from her but through her when she's at her best.

Music

The 10 Best Fleetwood Mac Solo Albums

Fleetwood Mac are the rare group that feature both a fine discography and a successful series of solo LPs from their many members. Here are ten examples of the latter.

Music

Jamila Woods' "SULA (Paperback)" and Creative Ancestry and Self-Love in the Age of "List" Activism

In Jamila Woods' latest single "SULA (Paperback)", Toni Morrison and her 1973 novel of the same name are not static literary phenomena. They are an artist and artwork as galvanizing and alive as Woods herself.

Film

The Erotic Disruption of the Self in Paul Schrader's 'The Comfort of Strangers'

Paul Schrader's The Comfort of Strangers presents the discomfiting encounter with another —someone like you—and yet entirely unlike you, mysterious to you, unknown and unknowable.

Music

'Can You Spell Urusei Yatsura' Is a Much Needed Burst of Hopefulness in a Desultory Summer

A new compilation online pulls together a generous helping of B-side action from a band deserving of remembrance, Scotland's Urusei Yatsura.

Music

Jess Cornelius Creates Tautly Constructed Snapshots of Life

Former Teeth & Tongue singer-songwriter Jess Cornelius' Distance is an enrapturing collection of punchy garage-rock, delicate folk, and arty synthpop anthems which examine liminal spaces between us.

Books

Sikoryak's 'Constitution Illustrated' Pays Homage to Comics and the Constitution

R. Sikoryak's satirical pairings of comics characters with famous and infamous American historical figures breathes new and sometimes uncomfortable life into the United States' most living document.

Music

South African Folk Master Vusi Mahlasela Honors Home on 'Shebeen Queen'

South African folk master Vusi Mahlasela pays tribute to his home and family with township music on live album, Shebeen Queen.

Music

Planningtorock Is Queering Sound, Challenging Binaries, and Making Infectious Dance Music

Planningtorock emphasizes "queering sound and vision". The music industry has its hierarchies of style, of equipment, of identities. For Jam Rostron, queering music means taking those conventions and deliberately manipulating and subverting them.

Music

'History Gets Ahead of the Story' for Jazz's Cosgrove, Medeski, and Lederer

Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.

Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.