in which I count names


This morning I started reading a book I’m going to review, and while flipping through it, I decided to count the number of books written by women published by this press. (The answer seems to be 12 out of the 36 listed.) Then I wrote down the following:

counting/looking/asking ?’s: feminism-excessive-oppression-complacency-learning that some ?’s aren’t worth asking.

It looks like a math problem, but really it’s me thinking about the impulse I have to dismiss the act of checking to see if I exist. It always feels weird to take notice of things like numbers, my reflex says that it’s nitpicky-what difference does it make if only 12 books out of 36 are written by women? When you point  out the disparity, that’s when the trouble starts. Why do I always have to be a trouble maker? Why am I never happy with things the way they are?

The alternative is that I don’t investigate, I don’t settle for complacency, I don’t buy the narrative that it’s okay if women aren’t represented. If we feel sensitive, that’s our problem, we’re making it all up, it’s not real. We’re just hysterical women, after all, or worse, angry women.

Even in these years of developing and concentrating my feminism, of being unapologetically radical, this impulse that I’m blowing things out of proportion still gets to me. The thing is, expecting the work to be easy and flawless is part of the trap-you don’t deserve liberation, it’s too hard, you aren’t allowed to feel complicated or conflicted or take any steps back, because it must mean you aren’t serious, or the cause isn’t real or worthy.

I saw a tweet by @withoutscene that speaks to all this confusion: “Being a feminist doesn’t mean you are suddenly a perfect superwoman or you never struggle or are never influenced by the patriarchy.” It’s an important truth to remember, especially when things feel hard and blurry and relentless.

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One thought on “in which I count names

  1. Ruth says:

    This one speaks to me. You can never tell if you’re blowing things out of proportion until you have actually counted the names! Someone has to do the nitpicking and then step back to see whether there is a pattern. That’s why feminism isn’t a good project to undertake on your own. You need a team of people to undertake the research and see the pattern. I think we get seduced into seeing feminism as a road to self-improvement, rather than a political movement, because it’s part of the nature of sexist oppression for us to see ourselves as in need of improvement, rather than society as a whole. (I’m going to post this comment even though I’m not perfect.)

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