Monday, June 02, 2008

Afrogeekmom Bookshelf

First a brief note on the Sex and the City movie: am I missing some essential girl gene? Because I don't think I could care any less about this movie, despite their pandering efforts at trying to win me over by casting Jennifer Hudson. Moving on...

Oh the joys of summer! To be able to read books completely unrelated to what I teach or research. I feel positively decadent. I'm starting with two books featured on one NPR program or another (I can't really remember where I heard/read about them--I do know that both these books wound up on the electronic post-it on my computer desktop reserved for "books I will read one day when I have some time").

The first book is Not Buying It: My Year Without Shopping by Judith Levine. I confess upfront that I only got through half of this book (to May of the year without shopping). Maybe it gets better in the second half. The premise of the book is that the author, during one Christmas shopping season, becomes so dismayed by consumer culture and her own in participation in it, that she and her partner decide to embark on an experiment to buy only the necessities for 12 months. This is an admittedly self-indulgent, lefty experiment borne of privilege. Still, I was intrigued to read about how the author and her partner come to conclusions about what it is a necessity and what isn't. Well, it turns out that the daily New York Times is a necessity, and books for "research" are necessities, and six different kinds of vinegar are necessities (because, of course, you have to spend money on sustenance), and a $10 membership fee for a simplicity support group is a necessity. Along the way Levine trots out various academics talking about the psychology and economics and history of consumer behavior, but all this information seems to have little effect on her own thinking. Again, I only got to May. Maybe in December she has a revelation. In May her only revelation seems to be that buying only the necessities cuts you off from what you desire, which is so patently obvious and untrue at the same time that I just had to stop reading.

Luckily I also had on my nightstand The Girls Who Went Away: The Hidden History of Women Who Surrendered Children for Adoption in the Decades Before Roe v. Wade by Ann Fessler. The book covers the tears between WWII and the Roe decision and looks at the experiences of women who were sent to maternity homes to have their children before relinquishing them for adoption. The whole time I was reading I was struck by two things. First, my own mother had me at 16, in 1973, and faced some of the same things the women in this book do. She felt deeply ashamed and that she'd betrayed her family. She wasn't allowed to go to her actual school until she was no longer pregnant. Like so many of the women in the book, she was an excellent student, from a nice family, and completely clueless about sex and pregnancy. She got pregnant the first time she had sex. Unlike the women in the book, though, she got to keep me. And no one ever made me feel as if my existence was a mistake, as I were unwanted. That makes such a difference.

Second, the book was a stark reminder of the importance of real sex education and access to reliable, affordable birth control, including abortion. This cannot be said enough, but the right to choose when and if to have children is the most important right women have and the one that should always be at the forefront of any feminist agenda. I've had a really bad attitude about feminism lately, and this book was nice reminder of why I adopted feminist politics in the first place.


Anonymous said...


1) I love this post--both the theme (I got out my summer reading list just last week) and your thoughtful reviews. Makes me want to read The Girls Who Went Away...

And 2) I seem to be missing the same gene. I didn't get the show when it was on HBO and I don't get the movie. My 10-year old and I just had a conversation this morning about how little time we'd actually like to spend talking with other women/girls about shoes or clothing (for ourselves or our friend's stuffed pandas). Let alone watch a movie where I have to listen to other women care about such things.

-Deandra (Alison's friend)

Alison said...

Okay, somehow I do have this girl gene. Not in abundance, because in real life I don't actually like to talk about--or shop for--shoes or really any item of clothing at all. But Sex and the City has been one of my guilty pleasures for years now, and I was at the movie on opening night. I could easily recite the litany of things wrong with the tv show and the movie--they are so obvious! And yet there's always been something really entertaining to me about seeing four women who are really good friends, talking about their sex lives (something I love to do) and their struggles. And even though the tv show and movie always do get mired in heterosexual melodrama, the friendships between the women are always validated.

I don't know--there's probably no way to justify it (just, I suspect, as there's no way for me to justify my love of Star Wars or my enjoyment of Iron Man), but I liked the movie. And I got to see a penis!

claire said...

Is it a girl gene or a love of sarah jessica parker -- ever since facts of life -- I would watch her in anything (did you ever see the one when she is a kooky roller blader beach girl in Venice beach with Steve Martin?)? I do love the female friendships...and I think you can substitute danskos for manolo blahniks (sp?).