Chords, nerves: the thing is still circulating as I write. The point of the essay was never to suggest that I think I am notably oppressed. It was toChords, nerves: the thing is still circulating as I write. The point of the essay was never to suggest that I think I am notably oppressed. It was to take these conversations as the narrow end of the wedge that opens up space for men and closes it off for women, space to speak, to be heard, to have rights, to participate, to be respected, to be a full and free human being.
If you come across an ignorant person who pretends that sexism does not exist or that feminism has no merits, please direct them to this book. In her collection of essays Men Explain Things to Me, Rebecca Solnit articulates the problems that arise within the discourse of men and women. She uses brutal, saddening statistics to cement her arguments, but she always composes herself enough so that a wide range of readers will still appreciate her writing. This passage showcases her even-handedness:
Though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn't mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible. Women can and do engage in intimate partner violence, but recent studies state that these acts don't often result in significant injury, let alone death; on the other hand, men murdered by their partners are often killed in self-defense, and intimate violence sends a lot of women to the hospital and the grave. But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.
This collection of essays does suffer just a little bit from a lack of a unifying theme; Solnit wrote these pieces as individual arguments, so her effort to join them feels disjointed at times. However, she compensates for this slight scramble by writing about a wide variety of topics and how they relate to the conversations between men and women. She analyzes the effects of marriage equality on the patriarchal standards within heterosexual marriages, she pays homage to Virginia Woolf by commenting on her essays, and much more. Solnit's fire for feminism and equality simmers through the pages of this collection, and several individual passages burn as exemplars of original, meaningful thought. Recommended for everyone interested or disinterested in feminism, as this would make a nice companion to Roxane Gay's Bad Feminist. I will end my review with a final paragraph that stuck out to me:
We have more than eighty-seven thousand rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident. We have dots so close they're splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it's a human rights issue, it's everyone problem, it's not isolated, and it's never going to be acceptable again. it has to change. It's your job to change it, and mine, and ours....more
I openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as wellI openly embrace the label of bad feminist. I do so because I am flawed and human. I am not terribly well versed in feminist history. I am not as well read in key feminist texts as I would like to be. I have certain... interests and personality traits and opinions that may not fall in line with mainstream feminism, but I am still a feminist. I cannot tell you how freeing it has been to accept this about myself.
In her collection of essays Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay blends anecdote, critical analysis, and humor to create a set of pieces that feel human. She admits to not knowing all the answers, and to hear an empowered, intelligent, and independent woman say that feels so refreshing. She writes about a gamut of topics: feminism, race, pop culture, and more. She tears apart the abusive and unhealthy relationship portrayed in 50 Shades of Grey, she discusses how and why she loves The Hunger Games, she comments on the unhelpful way white directors portray black characters, and more. As a professor of English and an avid follower of pop culture, her ability to discern trends and patterns within the media shone through. This passage about the unnecessary prominence of likeable characters acts as just of her many thoughtful arguments:
In many ways, likability is a very elaborate lie, a performance, a code of conduct dictating the proper way to be. Characters who don't follow this code become unlikeable. Critics who criticize a character's unlikability cannot necessarily be faulted. They are merely expressing a wider cultural malaise with all things unpleasant, all things that dare to breach the norm of social acceptability.
Gay still stands out the most in her acceptance of imperfection. In her introduction, she writes that "feminism is flawed because it is a movement powered by people and people are inherently flawed" and that "we hold feminism to an unreasonable standard where the movement must be everything we want and must always bake the best choices." In this collection of essays, Gay accomplishes so much: she writes about the intersectionality of race and gender, she establishes a consistent, wry, and sharp voice, and she includes an entire chapter about Scrabble that made me laugh and want to read more, more, and more. But, even though she accomplishes so much, she recognizes her own contradictions and the contradictions inherent within the human condition. She strikes a rough and fitting balance by ending her book by admitting this:
I am a bad feminist. I would rather be a bad feminist than no feminist at all....more
A fabulous book I would recommend to any aspiring or current therapist. Irvin Yalom writes concise and easy-to-read chapters that span several pertineA fabulous book I would recommend to any aspiring or current therapist. Irvin Yalom writes concise and easy-to-read chapters that span several pertinent psychological topics, such as how to exude empathy and when to self-disclose. He hits on unique subjects like the relationship between sex and therapy, as well as the role of research in a therapeutic setting. His advice to focus on the present and to engage with clients in a way that transcends typical boundaries shows his expertise and insight to the field of therapy, and his use of case studies keeps The Gift of Therapy an inviting and intriguing read.
Once again, recommended to anyone interested in therapy at all. One of those books that excites me for my future career....more
While reading Man's Search for Meaning, I could not stop thinking: why can't I be a psychologist now? By the time I reached page 103, I wanted to highWhile reading Man's Search for Meaning, I could not stop thinking: why can't I be a psychologist now? By the time I reached page 103, I wanted to highlight passage after passage, or at least add them to my favorite quotes on Goodreads to preserve their impact forever.
Frankl divides his inspiring book into two parts. The first describes his experience living in Nazi death camps and how he dealt with the doom and decay that always surrounded him. He laces his story with astute, dispassionate observations about his emotions and the suffering of those around him. The second section explores a type of therapy that arose from his time in the death camps: logotherapy. Logotherapy focuses on helping people find meaning in their lives, to give them a greater sense of purpose and to push them past the obstacles they face. He writes that people can discover meaning in three different ways: 1) by creating a work or doing a deed, 2) by experiencing something or encountering someone, and 3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering (this last option is only meaningful when the first two are unavailable).
Overall, I would recommend this book to those interested in psychology, or those who want to read an inspiring tale by someone who survived the Nazi death camps and used his experience to transcend himself. Frankl veers into the spiritual side in the second portion of the book, which might perturb a few people, but for the most part he keeps his ideas open to everyone. For the rest of the review I'm just going to write down all of the book because it was so good a few of the quotes about logotherapy that stood out to me, so I can reference them later on. Feel free to read or skip.
(about man and meaning) "As each situation in life represents a challenge to man and presents a problem for him to solve, the question of the meaning of life may actually be reversed. Ultimately, man should not ask what the meaning of his life is, but rather he must recognize that it is he who is asked. In a word, each man is questioned by life; and he can only answer to life by answering for his own life; to life he can only respond by becoming responsible. Thus, logotherapy sees in responsibleness the very essence of human existence."
(about transcending the self) "By declaring that man is responsible and must actualize the potential meaning of his life, I wish to stress that the true meaning of life is to be discovered in the world rather than within man or his own psyche, as though it were a closed system. I have termed this constitutive characteristic 'the self-transcendence of human existence.' It denotes the fact that being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself - be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself - by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love - the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. What is self-actualization is not an attainable aim at all, for the simple reason that the more one would strive for it, the more he would miss it. In other words, self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence."
(about how we mistakenly use money and sex to replicate meaning) "Moreover, there are various masks and guises under which the existential vacuum appears. Sometimes the frustrated will to meaning is vicariously compensated for by a will to power, including the most primitive form of the will to power, the will to money. In other cases, the place of frustrated will is meaning is taken by the will to pleasure. That is why existential frustration often eventuates in sexual compensation. We can observe in such cases that the sexual libido becomes rampant in the existential vacuum."
Of course I would love to include a few more passages, but I want to avoid writing down the entire book. Perhaps I will purchase a copy, then....more
If I had a dollar for every time someone friend requested me on Goodreads because of my gender ("a guy who reads? wow!") I would probably have enoughIf I had a dollar for every time someone friend requested me on Goodreads because of my gender ("a guy who reads? wow!") I would probably have enough money to buy a new Kindle. As a male who loves books and aims for a career in clinical/counseling psychology - a more and more female-dominated field - part of me has always wondered whether I just lack the typical "male" brain. Are girls biologically geared toward the humanities and males toward the hard sciences? Do women really empathize more than men because of their brain chemistry?
Cordelia Fine offers a clear answer: no. In Delusions of Gender, she unravels the myth that we can chalk up gender differences to our neurology. With a keen and unrelenting eye, she examines scientific theories and misconceptions, like the role testosterone plays in the fetus. She dedicates a large portion of the book to knocking down neurosexism. In recent years several individuals have boasted about experiments that use fMRI and PET scans to detect differences in the brain; Fine makes sure to reveal the flaws associated with those studies and why we should be skeptical of the conclusions they espouse.
Instead of relying on faulty science, Fine approaches gender differences from a psychological and sociological perspective. As a psychology major, I loved her incorporation of self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotype threat, such as including a study about how women who had to check a gender box (either "male" or "female") performed worse on an exam than women who took the test without marking their gender. The section about gender-neutral parenting stood out to me too. It's not enough to just offer our children toys stereotypically associated with the opposing gender, especially when gender distinctions arise so soon.
Highly recommended for those interested in feminism, neuroscience, psychology, or gender studies. In contemporary society we often cling to claims made by people with scientific backgrounds, even though some of those claims have no legitimate support. I didn't go into too much depth about all of Fine's arguments in this review, but she invested a laudable amount of effort into Delusions of Gender: the book has about 100 pages of citations, and her writing conveys her passion as well....more
In her bold autobiography An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison details her struggle with bipolar disorder in the midst of her career as a clinical psIn her bold autobiography An Unquiet Mind, Kay Redfield Jamison details her struggle with bipolar disorder in the midst of her career as a clinical psychologist. First published in 1994, this book highlights Jamison's bravery: with such a prestigious academic position and a CV full of work related to manic-depressive disorder, she risked her reputation and her ethos by writing this wonderful, heart-wrenching volume.
The Chinese believe that before you can conquer a beast you first must make it beautiful. In some strange way, I tried to do that with manic-depressive illness. It has been a fascinating, albeit deadly, enemy and companion; I have found it to be seductively complicated, a distillation both of what is finest in our natures, and of what is most dangerous. In order to contend with it, I first had to know it in all of its moods and infinite disguises, understand its real and imagined powers.
Jamison reveals everything in An Unquiet Mind. She shares her family history, her scholarly successes, her romantic relationships, and how her bipolar disorder affected all of those facets in her life. Her writing, while full of emotion, maintains a professionalism and intelligence that never speaks down to the reader. Jamison has gone through many trials in her life, and though reading this book forces us to feel along with her, she adds words of wisdom and hope along the way.
But, ineffably, psychotherapy heals. It makes some sense of the confusion, reins in the terrifying thoughts and feelings, returns some control and hope and possibility of learning from it all. Pills cannot, do not, ease one back into reality; they only bring one back headlong, careening, and faster than can be endured at times. Psychotherapy is a sanctuary; it is a battleground; it is a place I have been psychotic, neurotic, elated, confused, and despairing beyond belief. But, always, it is where I have believed - or have learned to believe - that I might someday be able to contend with all of this.
The inspirational quality of An Unquiet Mind makes it a marvelous read. Even though Jamison contended with manic-depressive illness for several of the most important years of her life, she still earned success and acclaim. Her accomplishments speak to how mental illness should not be construed as a crutch that will inevitably handicap all those affected by it. Jamison also dispels the rumor that medicine will numb one's mind. She admits that taking lithium played a key part in her recovery, and while taking lithium, she worked and wrote and saw patients. Jamison acknowledges the stigma against mental illness, and she shows how she overcame it through her passion and dedication to the field of mental health.
Overall, highly recommended for those searching for a book about bipolar disorder or mental health in general. Powerful and honest writing sets An Unquiet Mind apart from other books, and I look forward to reading more of Jamison's works.
Another work of nonfiction with several quote-worthy passages. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that America's obsession with virginity hurtAnother work of nonfiction with several quote-worthy passages. In The Purity Myth, Jessica Valenti argues that America's obsession with virginity hurts young women. She focuses on the idea that if we teach girls to value themselves in terms of their bodies, they will fail to cultivate true virtues: intelligence, assiduousness, and compassion.
The desirable virgin is sexy but not sexual. She's young, white, and skinny. She's a cheerleader, a baby sitter; she's accessible and eager to please (remember those ethics of passivity!). She's never a woman of color. She's never a low-income girl or a fat girl. She's never disabled. "Virgin" is a designation for those who meet a certain standard of what women, especially younger women, are supposed to look like. As for how these young women are supposed to act? A blank slate is best.
Valenti discusses purity in several different contexts, including the intersection of purity and poverty, the damaging effects of abstinence-only education, and the harmful attitudes created by gender stereotypes. Even though some of her material might appear like old news, she includes a good amount of statistics and ties all of her points back to her overarching argument. Her writing style, while snarky at times, conveys information with conciseness and directness.
What's funny is that that statement essentially echoes the same hope I have for women: that we can start to see ourselves - and encourage men to see us - as more than just the sum of our sexual parts: not as virgins or whores, as mothers or girlfriends, or as existing only in relation to men, but as people with independent desires, hopes, and abilities. But I know that this can't happen so long as American culture continues to inundate us with gender-role messages that place everyone - men and women - in an unnatural hierarchical order that's impossible to maintain without strife. For women to move forward, and for men to break free, we need to overcome the masculinity status quo - together.
Valenti could have taken her analysis of purity a little further in certain parts of the book. Still, I give The Purity Myth five stars because it accomplishes what I think nonfiction should accomplish: it sets out a thoughtful argument and defends it with clear writing and lots of evidence. In the last section of the book Valenti calls readers to action as well, encouraging them to blog or attend local conferences or just educate themselves about feminism and the virginity movement. Overall, I would recommend The Purity Myth to anyone interested in feminism, the idea of purity in contemporary society, or gender roles....more
Caroline Knapp's Appetites stole my heart earlier this summer; if I could I would quote every single page of that book. Drinking, Knapp's ear3.5 stars
Caroline Knapp's Appetites stole my heart earlier this summer; if I could I would quote every single page of that book. Drinking, Knapp's earlier memoir, has a similar strength in its empowering vulnerability regarding Knapp's alcoholism. While this book lacks some of the insights within Appetites, it gives a searing look into the life of a former high-functioning alcoholic.
Of course, there is no simple answer. Trying to describe the process of becoming an alcoholic is like trying to describe air. It's too big and mysterious and pervasive to be defined. Alcohol is everywhere in your life, omnipresent, and you're both aware and unaware of it almost all the time; all you know is you'd die without it, and there is no simple reason why this happens, no single moment, no physiological event that pushes a heavy drinker across a concrete line into alcoholism. It's a slow, gradual, insidious, elusive becoming.
Knapp does a wonderful job deconstructing the stereotype-driven image of an alcoholic. She describes that alcohol affects a variety of people, not just white, middle-aged men. Her writing corroborates this point - it possesses a level of intellect that pushes her thought process forward while remaining relatable. She includes statistics about alcohol use and even touches upon the history of alcohol and some of the science surrounding it.
We see, we watch, we know, and together the wine, beer, and liquor industries spend more than $1 billion each year reinforcing this knowledge: drinking will transform us.
And it does, for a little while. It melts down the pieces of us that hurt or feel distress; it makes room for some other self to emerge, a version that's new and improved and decidedly less conflicted. And after a while it becomes central to the development of that version, as integral to forward motion as the accelerator on a car. Without the drink you are version A. With the drink, version B. And you can't get from A to B without the right equipment.
Knapp reveals a lot about her personal life too, ranging from an affair with one of her professors at Brown to her twisted, dark relationship with her father. Her familial introspection might deter some readers, but for those who enjoy reading self-reflection, Knapp holds no qualms about sharing it all: she shows just how much alcohol harmed her personal relationships and how it acted as a self-destructive force within her life. The personal anecdotes in Drinking give Knapp's analysis life and meaning beyond statistics about alcoholism on a spreadsheet.
In reality, though, the drinking merely complicated the sense of fragmentation, contributed to the gradual loss of control. And that's precisely how drinking works. Your life gets ugly and you drink more. You drink more and your life gets uglier still. The cycle goes on and on and on, and in the process you become increasingly isolated and lost, stuck in your own circle of duplicity and rationalization and confusion, the gap between your facades and your inner world growing wider and wider and more complete.
Overall, recommended for anyone interested in reading a memoir about a former high-functioning alcoholic. While I found parts of the book repetitive and some of Knapp's narrative choices strange, Drinking succeeds in placing you in the mindset of someone who has succumbed to drink as a romantic other. If you liked this book, I would recommend you check out Knapp's posthumously published memoir Appetites....more
I picked this book up because I had felt overwhelmed as of late due to my commitments as a full-time student at one of the most intense colle3.5 stars
I picked this book up because I had felt overwhelmed as of late due to my commitments as a full-time student at one of the most intense colleges in the country. A few pages in, I realized that I had it lucky, with my two jobs and my classes and my club activities; at least I did not have diapers to change or a family to take care of while working my jobs. In Overwhelmed, Brigid Schulte nails down how society constructs myths of the "ideal worker" and the "ideal mother," and she analyzes how these unrealistic models reduce productivity and siphon our time and our strength.
Schulte does a deft job of pulling together personal anecdote, research, and her own compelling arguments to highlight how American society spends so much time prepping for the future, worrying about work, and forcing ourselves into unbearable standards that we squander the present. She interviews professors, psychiatrists, and other professionals from various universities and fields. She travels to cities and countries such as Paris and Denmark to compare how they approach work, love, and play in comparison to the US. As an award-winning journalist from the Washington Post, Schulte knows how to research and write authoritative yet digestible nonfiction; she explains why we need to rethink time, gender, and work while supporting her claims with an amalgamation of sources.
While she packs in a lot of lessons in this book, one that stands out to me centers on the all-too-known-yet-ignored idea of living in the present. I feel like we hear that message and think "yep, gotta live in the present, will do" before jumping into our next activity, submerging ourselves in what Schulte calls "the overwhelm." By reading Overwhelmed and receiving that message over and over - that we must cherish our time and truly live in the present - backed up by research spanning science, sociology, and more, I hope we all progress in our paths to time serenity.
Two questions nagged at me while I read this, the first pertaining to the diversity of the people featured in the book. While Schulte devotes a little bit of time to nonwhite, non-straight individuals, for the most part Overwhelmed revolves around white, straight people, and I would have appreciated her making certain sections more concise to feature a wider pool of individuals. Also, this book focuses the middle to upper-middle class: what do the people do who cannot afford to take time off for themselves amidst struggling to support their families? I would have liked to see more challenging, divergent solutions for people of all socioeconomic brackets, not just those who can make the conscious decision to play more without suffering severe consequences.
Overall, a read I would recommend to those interested in time management or to those feeling overwhelmed in their own lives, especially to women who have kids. An intriguing work of nonfiction that I can only hope will become less relevant over time....more