Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World

Reviewing a book that I love intimidates me.  I don't feel worthy of it.  I have been staring at an intimidatingly blank screen for several weeks, willing something--anything--to percolate from my brain down into my fingers and out onto this page.  But nothing witty or deep or writerly is coming.  Oh well!  That's okay!

As women, we are expected to be perfect all the time.  I have always noticed that women who wake up from a night's sleep on television, in a movie, or even in commercials, are perfectly coiffed and ready to take on the day.  Even in sleep, we must conform to society's standards of beauty.  But I don't.  My hair sticks up, my skin is blotchy, and sometimes I get this weird pillow-line that runs down my right cheek, giving me a foregleam of wrinkles to come.  I'm not conventionally pretty, and for a long time I worried about that, until I started asking, "Whose convention is it?"  I slowly began to comprehend that not conforming to societal standards is not a bad thing.  Why should I be squeezed into the mold of something I don't agree with?

I've always been a rule-follower.  A good girl.  I'd like to still think that I am a good person, but I do not wish to blindly follow cultural and societal rules that make me miserable.  Rules like:

Don't say what you think.
Don't question anything.
Don't eat that Rice Krispie Treat.
Don't like Starbucks because only basic girls like Starbucks and being basic is The Worst.
Enjoying what you eat is bad.

All of those rules?  They're exhausting.  They bleed the life out of women.  And then when we try to staunch the flow of blood, we're shamed and reprimanded.

Why can't you just shut up and scrub the floors?
Who asked you, anyway?
No one will ever love you.

For a long, long, long time, I never considered myself to be a feminist.  I thought it was like taking a blood oath and not shaving and stuff.  I didn't think that with my beliefs, I qualified to be feminist.   But I am.  I am more of a Bad Feminist along the lines of Roxane Gay, but bad feminist is better than no feminist at all.  Still unsure about what it means to be a feminist?

Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World, edited by Kelly Jensen, examines intersectional feminism through diverse lenses and demonstrates that there is no One True Way to be a feminist (or Feminist, whichever you prefer).  Every single piece in this book resonated with me deeply.  I am honored to call the editor and some contributors my friends, and everyone else is someone whose opinions I respect.

To summarize the book would be to steal the wonder of reading it from you, but I would like to highlight a few of my favorite pieces.  It goes without saying, I think, that all of the artwork is magnificent.

"I Have Always Eaten the Bread" by Lily Myers.

As a person who constantly battles disordered thoughts about eating and her body, this piece soothed me.  Myers artfully examines and deconstructs the demonization of food and the female body.

"The Likeability Rule" by Courtney Summers.

I am a huge fan of Courtney Summers and her books.  Huge.  This is mostly because of the so-called "unlikeability" of her main characters.  I suffer from the agonizing self-doubt that comes from worrying if everyone likes me.  I don't like being with other people because I think they don't like me.  So I look up to Courtney's characters.  They are brave and strong and true.  They know that "the sole purpose of a girl's existence is not to always be liked above all else."

"Faith and the Feminist" by Kaye Mirza.

This was, by far, my favorite piece in the entire book.  It spoke to me.  I've always worried that what I believed precluded me from saying "I am a feminist."  The ever-gracious and lovely Kaye brought me to tears with her conclusion:
"Your faith is not a weakness.  It forms who you are, your hopes and your fears and your dreams for a better future.  It is your experience, the fuel for your voice and the reason why you reach out to hear and boost other voices.  Our feminism rests in our faith.  And there is nothing secondhand or shameful about that."
Reading this stories made me feel closer to each writer.  I am so grateful that they shared these thoughts and parts of themselves with everyone.  The power of women's narratives and voices is inescapable.  When voices are raised together, they cannot be drowned out.

I received an ARC of this title from the publisher.  


  1. Very true, there's no single way to feminism. I become irritated when it's implied that you can't be a good feminist if you're not lesbian. In my case, it's that everyone deserves a fair go. Everyone. Well, perhaps except for the evil politician of your choice.

    And yes to that bit about women on TV waking up looking as if they''very just been to the hairdressers and had a make-up artist's attentions. Even on The Golden Girls, a show I enjoy, about older women doing their own thing, they are always coiffed and made up even in their nighties!

    1. I remember watching The Golden Girls as a kid ... I love Betty White unreservedly. Should rewatch them.


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