When I first received my copy of Feminism from A to Z, I admit I was dubious. How well would a teenager appreciate being given a book whose contents were organized by the first letters of the alphabet?
But I was so wrong. In fact, the book immediately addressed my first concern by explaining its reasons for its organizing format. And as I began reading each of the chapters, it only took me until about letter D to realize I had just discovered a gold mine of ideas for how to work with young women to build feminist awareness into their identity.
The book also contains a section called “Feminist Herstory” for each letter, which ties in historical context to the part of feminism being discussed. For example, the first chapter, A is for Anger, talks about the role that emotional stereotypes play in keeping women from expressing anger, to their own detriment. The Feminist Herstory section then address the historical origins of the “angry feminist” stereotype, complete with an illustration of anti-suffragette cartoon propaganda, caricaturing suffragettes as ugly, angry, and unmarriageable.
As a history buff, I am thrilled to have these historical connections to read about for each of the key concepts explored in the book. But perhaps even more valuable than these historical connections are the book’s suggested activities. Each letter also has a “Try This” section, which gives the reader a concrete activity to undertake, sometimes creative, sometimes analytical, to come to a better understanding of their own connection to the concept. So, for example, under letter Z which is for Zero, the “Try This” exercise suggests making a blackout poem out of a sexist or otherwise hateful piece of writing that made you cringe. The process involves blacking out much of the text of the offending article until all you are left with is a poetic message. Looking forward to trying this activity on the next offending Pro-Trump piece I read.
The author, Gayle E. Pittman, PhD, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at Sacramento City College, offers fascinating ways to frame subjects that one might not normally associate with feminism, including knitting and Easy Bake Ovens. Many of the other concepts highlight key aspects of feminism including awareness about violence against women and discussion of concepts like intersectionality and conformity.
This book could be particularly valuable to program officers and grantees looking for gender equality content to blend into a curriculum of empowerment for all young people. Boys as well as girls would benefit from exploring the concepts introduced in the book, and carrying out the creative and mind-expanding exercises.