Political Flavors

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 66: “Unfollow Me” by Jill Louise Busby

Posted in Podcast Episodes on September 17th, 2021

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Elizabeth and Karen interview Jill Louise Busby (creator of JillIsBlack) about antiracism work, internet fame, parasocial relationships, white Unitarians and more.


Feminist Coffee Hour is now on Patreon.

This episode was edited by Brianna Ansaldo.

Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

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Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 48: Obstacle Course

Posted in Podcast Episodes on February 20th, 2020

Obstacle Course by David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe

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Listen to episode in browser/Right click to download file

We interviewed David S. Cohen and Carole Joffe about their new book “Obstacle Course: The Everyday Struggle to Get an Abortion in America.”


Feminist Coffee Hour is now on Patreon.

This episode was edited by Brianna Ansaldo.

Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

We’ve joined the Apple affiliate program. If you’re going to sign up for Apple Music, please do so by using this link.

Feminist Coffee Hour Episode 45: Donna Freitas and “Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention”

Posted in Book Reviews, Podcast Episodes on November 18th, 2019

Donna Freitas and “Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention”

Subscribe to the podcast in Apple Podcasts

Feminist Coffee Hour on Stitcher

Feminist Coffee Hour on Google Play

Listen to episode in browser/Right click to download file

This month we interviewed Professor Donna Freitas about her new book “Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention.” 

Join us for an engaging interview, as Freitas tells us her story about an important topic.


Feminist Coffee Hour is now on Patreon.

This episode was edited by Brianna Ansaldo.

Our theme song is composed by Bridget Ellsworth, check out her sound cloud page!

We’ve joined the Apple affiliate program. If you’re going to sign up for Apple Music, please do so by using this link.

What To Read To Your Kid During The Trump Administration

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Personal Essays, Pregnancy And Motherhood Thinkpieces on January 20th, 2017

My son is still a baby by but I try to read to him every day. He doesn’t understand the words yet but he likes looking at the pictures and hearing my voice. In some ways I’m glad I don’t have to explain Donald Trump to him yet, and my heart goes out to parents who do. When I was a kid I liked topical books like “How My Parents Learned to Eat” and “The Lorax.” My Dad gave me a copy of Jack London’s “The Scab” when I was about ten. And I plan on continuing the tradition of including political books with my own son. Here’s some kids books covering themes that may come up in the net few years:

For Very Little Ones
A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara
An alphabet board book which covers the A-Z of activism from “Advocate Abolitionist Ally” to “Zapatista of course.” Some people may balk about introducing radical politics to young children. But I love this book. I will unapologetically share my Unitarian Universalist faith with my son, and he’ll be hearing a lot of these words at coffee hour after services, or while I’m playing “Democracy Now!” in the background of a quiet day at home. So why not read him this remarkable book of rhymes about activism?

For Your Budding Feminist
Rad American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz and Miriam Klein Stahl
About a year before I had my son, I reviewed this book on Goodreads: “This book is amazing and I want to buy a copy for every child I know.” Children will enjoy learning about historical figures they’ve heard of and those they haven’t. Although it’s written for children, it does not hold back. It begins, “A is for Angela. Angela Davis was born in 1944 in Birmingham Alabama into a neighborhood known as ‘Dynamite Hill’ because a group of racist white men called the Ku Klux Klan often bombed the homes of black families who lived there.”

The authors have also written a sequel “Rad Women Worldwide.”

For The Elementary School Age Peacemaker
The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania of Jordan
This is a simple story of two girls who are best friends, one white and one Arab, but who secretly think each other’s food is gross. You can probably guess what happens next. It’s a sweet story with charming pictures.

If Things Get Really Bad
The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss
Dr. Seuss wrote this during the Cold War, and it’s an unflinching look at the prospect of nuclear war through the eyes of a child. I read it when I was about 11 in 1994. By that time, both the Berlin Wall and the USSR were things of the past. For children who lived through times where the prospect of mutually assured destruction was very real, this book was much more relatable. It’s also a good tool to teach kids about allegory and how literature can simplify real world problems into stories we can talk about.

Some thoughts on the UUA Common Read: Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials on May 23rd, 2016

Last week, I co-led a service at my UU Congregation about this year’s UUA Common Read, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. Here’s what I had to say:

In 2005, the UU General Assembly passed a Statement of conscience, which reads in part:

As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to affirming the inherent goodness and worth of each of us. As Americans, we take pride in our constitutional promise of liberty, equality, and justice for all, including those who have violated the law. Yet the incarceration rate in the United States is five- to tenfold that of other nations, even those without such a constitutional promise. Our corrections system is increasingly rife with inequitable sentencing, longer terms of detention, racial and ethnic profiling, and deplorable jail and prison conditions and treatment. The magnitude of injustice and inequity in this system stands in stark contrast to the values that our nation—and our faith—proclaim. We are compelled to witness this dissonance between what America proclaims for criminal justice and what America practices. We offer an alternative moral vision of a justice system that operates in harmonious accord with our values as a community of faith. This vision includes the presumption of innocence, fair judicial proceedings, the merciful restoration of those who have broken the law, the renunciation of torture and other abusive practices, and a fundamental commitment to the dignity and humane treatment of everyone in our society, including prisoners.

Although Americans take great pride in the freedoms we espouse, the American prison system violates basic human rights in many ways. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the United States endorsed in 1948, states in Article 5, “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” American correctional practice often subjects inmates to abusive treatment, such as torture and rape, and neglects basic human needs such as health care and nutrition. Some suspects are detained without charge, legal counsel, or access to family. While indigent defendants have exactly the same rights to competent counsel as non-indigent defendants, in many states indigent defendants are not provided equality of representation.

The American penchant for retribution squanders opportunities for redemption, rehabilitation, and restoration of the individual offender. Failures in the criminal justice system have created a disenfranchised, stigmatized class who are predominantly from lower-income backgrounds, poorly educated, or from racial and ethnic minorities. The punishment for crime is often simply separation from society, and the sentence one serves is the punishment. In our penal system, punishment often continues even after those convicted have completed their sentence. They are often stripped of voting rights, denied social services, and barred from many professions. If convicted of a drug crime, they become ineligible for federal student loans to attend college. Our criminal justice system makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone to reintegrate into society. People returning to their communities find that they lack opportunity, skills, and social services to fully function in society and hold down jobs, maintain families, or participate in their communities. Therefore, an unacceptable percentage of those released from our prisons and jails recidivate.

Not all prisoners who enter the system leave. One of the most shameful aspects of our current criminal justice system is the death penalty. Many countries have abandoned the practice of capital punishment. Studies fail to demonstrate that the death penalty actually deters crime. While the United States Supreme Court has ruled against the execution of juvenile offenders, the death penalty is still legal in the United States. Experience shows that judges and juries wrongly convict defendants. Given the number of death row inmates released on account of innocence, it is highly likely that we have executed innocent people and will do so again in the future unless we abolish the death penalty.

The first two Principles of Unitarian Universalism address the inherent worth and dignity of every person and justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. Consistent with these fundamental principles, a new corrections policy must place a primary emphasis on community alternatives.

Appalled by the gross injustices in our current criminal justice system, we the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association commit ourselves to working in our communities to reform the criminal justice and correctional systems and effect justice for both victims and violators. We act in the spirit that we are indeed our sisters’ and our brothers’ keepers. Love is our governing principle in all human relationships. Therefore, that we may speak with one voice in unity, though not uniformity, we commit ourselves, our congregations to make good on our Unitarian Universalist heritage and our American promise to be both compassionate and just to all in our society. Through our diligence and perseverance in realizing this promise, we can live the core values of our country and extend the values of our faith to the benefit of others.

And so with this in mind, it is easy to understand why the UUA chose “Just Mercy” as the common read for this congregational year. The book, by Bryan Stevenson chronicles his career as an attorney working to for people on death row, mostly in Georgia and Alabama who have no other access to representation. He built the Equal Justice Initiative which litigates on behalf of condemned prisoners, juvenile offenders, people wrongly convicted or charged with violent crimes, poor people denied effective representation, and others whose trials are marked by racial bias or prosecutorial misconduct. EJI works with communities that have been marginalized by poverty and discouraged by unequal treatment.

Just Mercy’s main thread follows the story of Walter McMillian, a man wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death on scant evidence, false testimony and racist rumors. And while his story is compelling, Stevenson puts it in context of the criminal justice system we have today. It’s clear that his work isn’t just about one person. It’s to address the ongoing crisis of our broken criminal justice system.

I was left in awe and amazement at the tenacity and patience of Bryan Stevenson. I am so astounded by people who can spend their whole lives fighting an uphill battle. The book is not about him and gives few details about his personal life. He is very modest about his many great accomplishments in fact. And this perspective of humility and hope frame the book.

Something I keep coming back to when I think about the death penalty is that I, like everyone else, am a fallible human being subject to amoral impulses. There is an anecdote in the book about about a man who was the victim of abuse as a child and was suffering from PTSD after serving in Vietnam. After returning to the United States, he tried to win back an ex girlfriend by PUTTING A BOMB on her porch. In his distorted mind, he would save her from the bomb, and win back her love. But that didn’t happen. It went off, killed a young girl and maimed another in the process. It was and is very hard for me to feel sorry for him. But I think that’s exactly why we need to be careful in how we adjudicate these crimes. Our emotions cloud our judgement. In my outrage over his crime I do not care about the mitigating circumstances of this man’s victimization as a small, helpless child or the mental illness he could not avoid after his country drafted him and sent him to fight in a war. But Stevenson included this story in the book to show how brutal the death penalty is. The chapter details the visceral horror of the electric chair, which this man was put to death in. And even though somewhere in my heart I want vengeance for his victims, I know that his execution did nothing to help them. In fact, the surviving girl’s family approached Stevenson and asked him for help. They told him that putting someone else to death would not heal her. And I do feel some dissonance that we, to quote and old slogan kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong.

Although I know this book was meant to expose the injustice of our current system, I was also left with the gladness that people like Bryan Stevenson exist. His optimism and his accomplishments are an inspiration.

My Favorites of 2014

Posted in Editorials on December 31st, 2014

All the best in 2015. Here’s some of my favorite things from 2014.

Link Roundup – Some of these are long reads, and some are shorter. Here’s some posts from the year I hope you didn’t miss.
Dear America, I Saw You Naked
Popular Delusions: Sovereign Citizens
Survey: Overwhelming Majority Of U.S. Doctors Seeing Patients With Drug-Resistant Illnesses
Invisible Politics
Notes from a Pornographer on Sexist Sexual Imagery and Behavior
Why Did Anti-Choice Activists Harass Unitarians in New Orleans?

Marshallese poet Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner speaking at the UN Climate Leaders Summit in 2014

My favorite book of 2014 is a novella published as an ebook by Atavist Books. Sleep Donation by Karen Russell

A crisis has swept America. Hundreds of thousands have lost the ability to sleep. Enter the Slumber Corps, an organization that urges healthy dreamers to donate sleep to an insomniac. Under the wealthy and enigmatic Storch brothers the Corps’ reach has grown, with outposts in every major US city. Trish Edgewater, whose sister Dori was one of the first victims of the lethal insomnia, has spent the past seven years recruiting for the Corps. But Trish’s faith in the organization and in her own motives begins to falter when she is confronted by “Baby A,” the first universal sleep donor…

Sleep Donation is so engaging I couldn’t put it down. The universe is rich and easy to get lost in. A quick and very satisfying read.

Honorable Misandry Mention:
Men: Notes from an Ongoing Investigation by Laura Kipnis
Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

My favorite new show of 2014 is Broad City on Comedy Central. I first heard Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer on the Ronna & Beverly podcast. I immediately became a fan of their hilarious web series. It was originally supposed to be on FX, but they cancelled the show and then Comedy Central Picked it up. I swear I remember articles at the time that FX didn’t know how to market a show about women to advertisers, but those links seem to have disappeared. But I’m so glad the show came to be. It’s the funniest thing on television.

Honorable Mention:
Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Adam and I subscribed to HBO to watch this show. John Oliver is brilliant.

I watched every episode of Married at First Sight on the new FYI network. I liked it, but I feel kind of guilty about that. Ultimately I think the show was somewhat exploitative of the couples. But I suppose that’s the point of reality television. Here’s some thoughts from Sarah Moglia Is “Married at First Sight” a Legitimate Science Experiment?

The PinkPrint by Nicki Minaj. (More about all of my feels for Nicki Minaj here.)

Honorable Mention
Barefoot and Pregnant by the Dollyrots.


As everyone has probably already seen Guardians of the Galaxy and Birdman, and Horns disappointed me because it took out almost everything that made the book was so amazing, I’m going to recommend everyone go see Particle Fever right now.

This movie is accessible to people with all levels of scientific understanding. I’ve never taken a day of Physics in my life and I didn’t feel that lost at all. “Why do humans do science? Why do they do art? The things that are least important for our survival are the very things that make us human.”

Unitarian Universalism

I have to share these videos by some of my fellow UUs.

Here’s “Love Reaches Out” a song written about the theme of this year’s General Assembly

The Reeb Project is a movement to restore the Voting Rights Act in the United States by All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington DC. It’s named after Rev James Reeb a Unitarian minister who was beaten to death while protesting against segregation in Selma Alabama in 1965. This summer, The Reeb Project held a protest, and it’s the first (and possibly only) flash mob video I will share on this blog.

Other people’s Year End Posts You Should Read
It’s Been a Terrible Year for Reproductive Rights
The Frozen River: A Humanist Sermon

Political Flavors
Most popular posts on this blog this year:
Contradictions made by people insulting my husband (AKA, Misogynist Troll Insult Fails Part 2)
“That’s some training to give to girls.” The criminalization of female self defense

My favorite posts from the year:
Out, Damned Sperm! Why Everyone Is Freaked Out About Fruit Flies.
Our mockery of Fox Sports Sexism
Who Will Be The Next Republican To Endorse Andrew Cuomo?
The Untenable Incel
Red Pillers – Very Concerned about Ladies’ Fashion

Previously: My favorites of 2013

My Favorites of 2013

Posted in Book Reviews, Editorials, Podcast Reviews, Site News on December 31st, 2013

Happy New Year everyone! Here are some of my favorite things about 2013.

Favorite BookEighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman. In 1889 two women writers raced around the world to see if they could beat the fictional record from the famous Jules Verne novel. This is an amazing story and Goodman writes this non-fiction book like a novel. I feel like I have a grasp on what New York and other cities felt like in the late 1800’s and although a lot is different now, in many ways the more things change, the more they stay the same.

I read Around the World in Eighty Days before I read this book so I could understand the inspiration for the trip. Like Gulliver’s Travels, many people think this is a children’s story. But it’s mainly an homage to British Imperialism. Jules Verne is to H G Wells what Stephanie Meyer is to J K Rowling.

Verne was terrible at writing women, something that is actually addressed in Eighty Days. Bly gets to meet him on her travels and Verne’s wife says she thinks his books need more women characters. And although it seems redemptive that two women took on the challenge of Verne’s male heroes, unfortunately Bly and Bisland still had many of the same racist attitudes as Verne did.

Still this book is a fascinating read. Every page is better than the one before it. And send these quotes to anyone who tries to justify something sexist by making an appeal to tradition. Bly and Bisland quite frequently expressed feminist sentiments.

“After the period of sex-attraction has passed, women have no power in America.” -Elizabeth Bisland

“A free American girl can accommodate herself to circumstances without the aid of a man.” -Nellie Bly

“Criticize the style of my hat or my gown, I can change them, but spare my nose, it was born on me.” -Nellie Bly

New TV ShowMaron I don’t watch a lot of television these days, but I do really like Marc Maron’s show in IFC. The show brings to life all of Maron’s delicious and sardonic humor.

Podcast Host – Lindsay Beyerstein. Lindsay is a new host for the Center For Inquiry’s Point of Reason Podcast. Check out her interviews with Katherine Stewart, Paul Offit, Barry Lynn and Kathryn Joyce.

Blog PostThe Retro Husband by Ruth Fowler is my favorite blog post by anyone on the internet in 2013.

Video GameFiz: The Brewery Management Game This game is similar to the classic Lemonade Stand or newer Facebook games in that you are running a shop and have various aspects of products and personnel to manage. But it is so much more than that. There is a storyline that I got wrapped up with and very clever dialogue and plot twists. I played it through in a week, which took me about 22 hours total. Good thing I’m on vacation, it’s hard to put this game down once you start it.

Most Popular Posts at Political Flavors in 2013:
What’s Wrong With The Lingerie Football League? I didn’t know how many people search for the LFL online. I’m also quite pleased that I was linked by the Huffington Post and the French women’s magazine madmoiZelle.

For our Girls to Succeed, We Must Reign in Rakish Boys
aka “What if dress codes for boys looked like dress codes for girls?” I had fun writing this post although at times I felt that I was being incredibly creepy. I’m very glad people like it.

Best wishes for 2014!

Quiverfull: Inside The Christian Patriarchy Movement by Kathryn Joyce

Posted in Book Reviews on March 8th, 2013

Kathryn Joyce’s Quiverfull makes clear the inherent conflict between The Bible and feminism. Although the idea that this conflict exists is still controversial, even among feminists, this is the implicit message of the book.

Quiverfull is divided into three parts: wives, mothers, and daughters. Although the title refers explicitly to the Bible verse that informs a specific view of childbearing, the book looks at Christian Patriarchy as whole. Christian Patriarchy is a way of life defined by a strict interpretation of the Bible’s prescriptions for gender, marital and family roles – including that wives be submissive to their husbands, that men be the heads of their households and that children – especially daughters – be subject to their fathers in all matters.

The first section explains the Christian Patriarchy’s view of marriage. Joyce spent a weekend at a retreat of “The Apron Society,” an event designed to fulfill the commands in Titus 2, which calls older women to instruct the younger ones about marriage and family life. The weekend did not focus on improving communication skills or child care, but about Proverbs 31 and hospitality. What struck me as I read about these incredibly earnest women was a comparison between their attempts at “Biblical Womanhood” and that of Rachel Held Evans. Evans made her attempt to live precisely by the Bible in good faith, but also with a smile and an easygoing, carefree attitude. There was no friendly wink to the reader here. To the women of The Apron Society, being a good hostess wasn’t just something to do for fun or to be kind – it was a matter of their eternal salvation itself.

A disturbing undercurrent of Christian Patriarchy is that women’s lives don’t matter. This is made clear when Joyce reviews the writings of Debi Pearl, author of Created to Be His Helpmeet and other books about marriage for Christian women. Perl explains how women don’t need to enjoy sex, that close female friendships can be a sinful “spiritual masturbation” and that your life itself is worth sacrificing for the sake of being a properly submissive wife. Perl writes about a woman who came to her for advice after her husband had tried to kill her with a knife while she was pregnant. Perl said this might be grounds for divorce, but that she could also try to win him back by being kind and never speaking of the abuse again. According to Perl, once the woman kept quiet, everyone lived happily ever after. That this is extremely dangerous advice is beside the point. Perl sees nothing wrong with suggesting the woman risk her life and the lives of her children for the sake of her religion.

The section on motherhood was very different than what I had expected. I thought I was going to get a TLC like view into homes with dozens of smiling and identically dressed children, or alternately, horror stories about endless housework and abuse. What Joyce described was a group of people who worship fertility almost as much as they worship Jesus. When common sense or medical advice suggests something incompatible with their worldview, they of course side with their faith.

Christian Patriarchy is not just an ideal for family life. There are a set of political values and beliefs that go along with it. Conservative think tanks and churches have funded such projects as the Natural Family Manifesto the World Congress of Families, and the Population Research Institute. And these aren’t just places for conservative Christians to get cushy jobs. Their lobbying has real impact on the laws of the United States. Joyce does not go into the policy implications specifically – but it’s easy to guess what some of them might be. The WCF has lobbied extensively against the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and of course, CEDAW – the Convention on Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women. Within our own borders, PRI would like to make all abortions illegal. Reading through the parts of the book about these organizations made clear to me the links between theocracy, natalism and fascism.

The section about daughters is the shortest in the book, and much of what Joyce talks about is similar to what Jessica Valenti covered in the Purity Myth. Young women in these homes are taught to prize virginity above all else, to revere their fathers as the ultimate authority in their lives and to wait patiently to be betrothed.

Although Joyce meets many Christians in the book who are kind and warm to her, and some who seem like they are genuinely nice people, it was clear to me that their fundamentalism has elegantly solved the obvious conflicts between feminism and Christianity. While I think that treating women with dignity and respect is more important than leaving yourself open to charges of hypocrisy, the choice is not as clear for others as it is to me.

To be clear, I know lots of Christians who are also feminists. How they resolve their belief in women’s equality with their belief that the Bible is a Holy Book is something I don’t understand. It must require a complicated set of caveats and a faith so strong as not to be shaken by the conflict between their belief in women’s autonomy and the Bible’s decrees that women are unworthy. The Christian Patriarchy movement is by comparison incredibly simple. Dark, bizarre, harmful and hurtful. But as plain as the words on the page.

How To Be A Woman

Posted in Book Reviews on January 17th, 2013

I picked up Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman over the summer in London. It’s part memoir and part Feminism 101. In the beginning of the book, Moran describes herself as an awkward teenager with a hopeless crush on Chevy Chase. I settled in hoping for the best. But while Moran is good at naming sexism and patriarchy, she’s not very clear on blaming it.

Moran explains her two step test for spotting sexism:

Is this polite or not? And, are men doing it too?

This is excellent. It’s a very simple thing to understand and can be explained without the use of jargon or making anyone feel defensive.

But then Moran goes on to say that she thinks the cause of sexism in the world is just that men are used to being the people with the most power and resources. And men don’t like the idea of losing that special status. This is not an original observation, but instead of expecting men to reject patriarchy as a matter of justice and embrace equality rationally, we should understand their actions as logical. You see, the reason for sexist behavior from men is that,

A quiet voice inside – suppressed, but never wholly silenced – says, “If women are the true equals of men, where’s the proof?

For even the most ardent feminist historian, male or female, citing Amazons and tribal matriarchies tribes and Cleopatra – can’t conceal that women have basically done fuck all for the past 100,000 years. Come on – let’s admit it. Let’s stop exhaustingly pretending that there is a parallel history of women being victorious and creative on equal with men, that’s just been comprehensively covered up by The Man. There just isn’t. Our empires, armies, cities, artworks, philosophers, philanthropists, inventors, scientists, astronauts, explorers, politicians, and icons could all fit, comfortably into one of the private karaoke booths in SingStar. We have no Mozart; no Einstein; no Galileo; no Ghandi. No Beatles, no Churchill, no Hawking, no Columbus. It just didn’t happen.

Nearly everything so far has been the creation of men – and a liberal, right-on denial of it makes everything more awkward and difficult in the long run. Pretending that women have had a pop at all this before but just ultimately didn’t do as well as the men, that the experiment of female liberation has already happened but floundered gives strength to the belief that women simply aren’t as good as men, full stop. That things should just carry on as they are – with the world shaped around and honouring, the priorities, needs, whims, and successes of men. Women are over without having been begun. When the truth is that women haven’t begun at all. Of course we haven’t. We’ll know it when we have.

There are several problems with this. First that “everything so far has been the creation of men” is just a flat out myth. There have been many brilliant women artists, architects, philosophers, philanthropists, inventors, scientists, astronauts, explorers, politicians, and icons. We know the names of some, others have had their work stolen by men or posed as men when they were making their contributions. Moran is either severely uneducated in women’s history or is just plain disingenuous.

Secondly, when we celebrate women’s contributions to the world, we aren’t “pretending that women have had a pop at all this before but just ultimately didn’t do as well as the men.” We are celebrating women that achieved in spite of the odds. We are saying, Look at what these women did, even though they everything about their culture or was telling them they could not! Isn’t that great?! Imagine what women could do if they didn’t have any of this bullshit to deal with all of the time!

And third, it’s a cop-out. Men are capable of understanding nuance just as easily as women are. If they really don’t know why there aren’t as many famous women as men in history, and because of this they don’t think that there’s a problem with the way women are treated, then they are a lost cause. And we should tell them so. Women taking their rightful place in society is not an act of aggression toward men. And there’s no reason to soothe men’s egos if they imagine this to be an insult.

Later in the book, Moran returns to this point and says that women are still trying to come to terms with not being chattel anymore, and with throwing off the psychological scars of oppression. She does this much more conversationally, but she also explains that this is why she thinks women haven’t caught up with men yet. I can agree with this, but again, there’s no reason not to celebrate the accomplishments of women in the past.

In a chapter about strip clubs, Moran writes,

Women have been shafted by the simple fact that men fancy them. We can see that men’s desire for women has, throughout history given way to unspeakable barbarity.

This idea that men cannot control themselves is one of the biggest myths of rape culture.

Moran goes on to say that strip clubs are the “light entertainment versions of the entire history of misogyny” and then compares them to minstrel shows. There’s several comparisons in the book of women’s oppression and racism. I think that this can be done sensitively, but the book draws the parallel in a very blunt way. Moran does say that she sees space for the erotic in our culture and praises the art of burlesque accordingly. But to blame sex workers and not the men who abuse and degrade them misses the mark completely.

Despite all this, How To Be A Woman might be worth the read just for the humor. Moran is extremely funny. But the analysis behind the jokes falls short. There is a lot of good stuff in this book which calls out sexism in pop culture, double standards and toxic messages women get about body image and motherhood. However I think there are some parts that could be confusing to someone just starting out with feminism who might not have a good grasp on intersectionality or the many different kinds of feminists that are out there.

The Happiness Myth: A History of What Really Makes Us Happy

Posted in Book Reviews on January 15th, 2013

Right now, we know more about our universe than ever before. But as we advance in knowledge, are we advancing in happiness? Jennifer Michael Hecht explores the idea of happiness from a historical and philosophical perspective in The Happiness Myth. The book challenges popular notions about what should make us happy.

Hecht explains about how ideas about happiness have changed over time, and how even though we might be living longer and having more material wealth than ever before people report that they are basically as happy as they were in 1950. After a basic overview on happiness advice throughout the ages, she explores ideas about drugs, money, our bodies, and celebrations and what they meant to different people in different times and places and explains how we might use this knowledge to make ourselves happier today. Often this is a matter of reconsidering notions that “everyone knows” to be true. For example, in the past, people spoke rapturously of how tea or coffee made them feel. Today, we value these beverages first and foremost for the way they increase our productivity. Or, that women used or wear restrictive corsets or girdles to achieve an hourglass figure. Now, women are expected to look just as shapely through diet and exercise alone. I was especially fascinated by the descriptions of the Greek Festivals and how they might compare to today’s parades and holidays.

One of the things I liked about this book was how it challenged a lot of assumptions I hold that I haven’t given much thought to. And every time it happened, I was more amused to consider why I thought what I thought instead of feeling defensive or sheepish.

The Happiness Myth drives home the point that “there is nothing new under the sun,” but instead of using it as an admonishment, it’s meant to provide comfort and guidance for the future.

Hecht encourages us to get out and see for ourselves if what our culture is telling us really true, or if people from the past might have had a better idea on how to be happy. The book isn’t an argument for a return to any bygone era but rather a critical examination of current assumptions with a little help from those who came before us.