June 7, 2010 § Leave a Comment
Click: When We Knew We Were Feminists edited by Courtney E. Martin & J. Courtney Sullivan
Click is an anthology edited by two Courtneys: one of my all-time feminist crushes, Courtney E. Martin, and J. Courtney Sullivan, who describes the premise as follows:
It goes way back to this Jane O’Reilly essay in the first issue of Ms. Magazine called “The Housewife’s Moment of Truth.” That essay is where the whole idea of a click moment took form. O’Reilly talks about women in their day-to-day lives going along and then suddenly, click, they realize that sexism surrounds them all the time. I was working on “Commencement,” and one of the characters educates another about feminism, and I was trying to think — why do we call ourselves feminists, if we do? I sent a mass email to a bunch of young feminists. Someone hit “reply all” and wrote what their feminist click was. And then everyone else started replying to all. It was amazing because the responses were so varied. Courtney Martin then said, “This would make a good book.”
I enjoyed this book. Nearly all of the narratives in this anthology are fresh and interesting, but as a collection, there’s something awry. What’s confusing is that hardly any of these talented writers actually had a “click” moment. The majority don’t describe a lone incident that immediately had them up in arms against patriarchy; instead, their essays analyze the series of events, the internal process of coming to feminism, usually rejecting it at first but eventually, over time, discovering a strong personal connection to it.
To be honest, I find the idea of the click to be regressive. It just doesn’t do justice to the many intersecting, interwoven, and complex feminisms that exist in the real world. After all, feminism is not a light that turns on or off. People experience feminism not as a binary — something you are or aren’t — but as a broad spectrum with millions of possible channels for exploration and self-discovery. The click theory propagates the iffy idea that once you’re a feminist, that’s it. In reality — in my experience, at least — one’s feminism is challenged and strengthened and revised over a lifetime.
So I have some issues with the framing of this anthology, but the substance of the book is excellent. The delightfully diverse array of personal essays are representative of the many routes that people traverse to find feminism. What’s more, Click encourages the reader to delve into the layers of our own feminist awakening, to consider: Where am I, and what (or who) got me here?
With each essay, the contributors open their arms and invite the reader into their circle, their club of supportive, hilarious, and insightful feminist warriors. I, for one, can’t wait to find my place at this amazing table.