Ms.CELLANEOUS:
*What?
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**Sisters Spin Talk
on Hip-hop
**
Two feminists who came of age with the music and the culture take a long, hard look at its impact--for better and worse--on young women, and reassess its importance in their lives. > by Tara Roberts and Eisa Nefertari Ulen

**The Mommy Wars**
How the media pits one group of mothers against another. It all boils down to the Haves versus the Have-Nots. > by Susan Douglas and Meredith Michaels
**Going Underground**
One woman's moving account of the painful decision to give up family, friends, and identity, and flee with her daughter to a safer life > by Anonymous Plus: Information about hiding in plain sight > by Hagar Scher

YOUR WORK:
*Road Scholar: Women in Academia
* Women's Work: Police Officer
* Worknotes

ARTS:
*Indie Filmmaker Christine Vachon
* It's Schapiro's Time
*Artswatch

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*Bold Type: Maureen Holohan

*Editor's Page
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* Women Organizing Worldwide
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Columns > by Patricia Smith and Gloria Steinem

*Making Waves
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**Turning the Tables on "Science"**
When Natalie Angier wrote Woman: An Intimate Geography, she took on accepted truths about women, poked holes in them, and offered an exciting revisionist view of our bodies. Oh boy, did she ruffle some feathers! > by Marilyn Milloy

NEWS:
*Ten Laws That Will Make Your Blood Boil
*Epithets Deleted: French Women Demand Respect
*Women in the House
*Free Kosovar Albanian Activist-Poet Flora Brovina
*Madrid's Back Alleys
*
Newsmaker: Dawn Riley *Reviving the ERA
*Opinion: Count Me In
*Amazon Bookstore Update: Beware the Lesbians!
*Pakistan's Turning Point
*A New Law for Unmarried Couples in France
*Recognition for African Women Farmers
*Clippings

 
 

 

Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man
by Susan Faludi > William Morrow and Company > $27.50

There are few more flaccid cultural barometers than the New Republic, so it was a shock to see its recent cover proclaiming that "Men Don't Need Susan Faludi to Pump Them Up." Inside was James Wolcott's predictably canine attack on Faludi's new book, Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man. Faludi's guide to the sorry state of masculinity is guaranteed to make a backlasher like Wolcott see red meat. Citing the enormous popularity of wrestling and bad-boy icons like Howard Stern, Wolcott concludes that there is no crisis of masculinity.


Tea
by Stacey D'Erasmo > Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill > $21.95
  Tea, the first novel written by Stacey D'Erasmo, is the deeply appealing story of Isabel Gold, an artist, feminist, and daughter of a suicide. Early in the book, we see Isabel as a child, unable to bring herself to touch her mother since she admitted wanting to die. Yet she fears this must be "dangerous," so when her mother falls asleep, Isabel, touches her "all over . . . with her eyes, for good luck."

This unfulfilled desire to heal haunts Isabel as she grows up and searches out her identity. She is troubled by the question: at what moment could her mother have been saved? Again and again, the answer is: "from the beginning and never." As a teenager, Isabel determines to become an actress, a dream her mother had pursued and then abandoned.

Her encounters in the theater world nurture her creativity and awaken her bisexuality. In these passages D'Erasmo's beautiful prose is especially effective. Any reader who has felt both lost and found in the space between straight and gay will be moved by the achingly charming depiction of Isabel coming out. From Isabel's waning love affair with her moody girlfriend in New York City, to her job at an arts foundation, to her feelings of hopelessness spurred by a brief visit to her hometown, D'Erasmo, who has achieved literary distinction as senior editor for the Village Voice Literary Supplement, creates a world that is both highly recognizable and exceptional.

--Anastasia Higginbotham
 
All About Love: New Visions
by bell hooks > William Morrow and Company > $22.00
The most surprising thing about bell hooks' new book, All About Love, is that she wrote it at all. Although she has never shied away from talking about her family life and sometimes star-crossed love affairs as a way of illuminating her continuing journey to feminist enlightenment, this volume is her most personal. Having identified a crisis of immense proportions, namely "our nation's turning away from love," hooks eschews talk of politics and patriarchy and urges us "to walk on love's path" as a means of transforming our world. And what does All About Love tell us about the nature of love? As it turns out, less than we might hope from a woman whose 17 previous books established her as a major voice in American feminism. All About Love feels like what it is--a first step.

Feminist authors rarely write about love without placing it in the context of feminist critique. New Age authors rarely acknowledge the problem of sexist oppression. As bell hooks struggles to see where her newly awakened belief in the healing power of love fits into her acute understanding of the dangers of sexism, she sometimes offers us ideas we've heard before ("Love heals"; "Choosing to be honest is the first step in the process of love"). and sometimes avoids the most important question she raises ("To this day I cannot remember when that feeling of being loved left me").

But in the midst of the woolgathering there are glimpses of the new world hooks longs for: "If all public policy was created in the spirit of love, we would not have to worry about unemployment, homelessness, schools failing to teach children." At these moments the book points to what will probably be the next phase of hooks' work: the exploration of the amazing nexus where love and feminism together can reshape society.

--Pearl Cleage
 
Maneuvers: The International Politics of Militarizing Women's Lives
by Cynthia Enloe > University of California Press > $17.95
Military matters have long been seen--by both champions and critics--as a purely masculine project. Yet militarism affects millions of women--and not just the relatively few who have joined the armed forces. In this expansive follow-up to her 1983 book, Does Khaki Become You?, Cynthia Enloe examines the "militarized experiences of women as prostitutes, rape victims, mothers, wives, nurses, and feminist activists," as well as service members. "To invest one's curiosity solely in women as soldiers," she writes, "is to treat the militarization of so many other women as normal."

Enloe demonstrates the intricate connections between militarism and male supremacy--from the ways in which military training can foster violence in the home to the impact of "camoflag[ing] women's service to the military as women's liberation." In many countries, women organize to resist both male supremacy and militarism, discovering connections between the two. Yet there is very little of such activism in the United States, and Enloe, disappointingly, doesn't attempt to explain why. But many of her questions are a good start. She asks, for instance, whether feminists can fight sexism and heterosexism within the military without furthering the cause of militarism, observing that in the U.S., recent attempts to fight sex discrimination and to overturn the ban on gays in the military have aggressively promoted the troubling idea that military service constitutes "first-class citizenship."

Enloe has a satisfying sense of the absurd. The U.S. military has rules about what kind of underwear female soldiers should wear (not too sexy) as well as the exact arch into which they should shape their eyebrows. Male soldiers are not allowed to carry umbrellas, even when it's raining; women are permitted this practical (though apparently sissy) accessory. All of which elegantly proves Enloe's point that the ways in which militarism is gendered are far from "natural."

Maneuvers offers a well-researched and urgently needed analysis. Even more admirable, Enloe approaches geopolitics and structural oppression with a refreshingly playful spirit.

--Liza Featherstone

 

 
           
     

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009