There are several things to appreciate about this book--for instance, the fact that it exists. I'd be excited (and grateful!) to get recommendations fThere are several things to appreciate about this book--for instance, the fact that it exists. I'd be excited (and grateful!) to get recommendations for books that cover sexual violence (NOT Against Our Will, the person who wrote that needs to fully examine the implications of their thesis!-- in my humble opinion) as sensitively yet humorously as this book did. A second thing to appreciate is the diversity of perspectives and backgrounds. Related to this, the range of topics discussed is astounding-- I was extremely pleased, for example, at the essay "When Pregnancy is Outlawed only Outlaws Will Be Pregnant" with its examination of how low-income, addicted women of color are persecuted unfairly regarding the law. Another favorite contribution is an essay which focuses on the sexual assault of immigrant women, and how feminist solutions for rape, centered on our perspectives on sexuality and on individuality, cannot help these women. Another refreshing thing was the how personal this book was-- the personalities of the authors shined through in even the most academic writings, and I felt intimately connected with people who shared their experiences and thoughts. Finally, though people may think of this as a disadvantage, I really like the fact that I can find most of these essays online! It makes it easy to point friends in the direction of good writing without having to lend out my book (kind of possessive of my books...) and poor college students can read about important issues without breaking the bank!E-books and book-readers be damned, I can't snuggle up to my laptop at night.
And yet, while it's really difficult to want to criticize this work, I do have a few qualms. While Yes Means Yes lives up to its promise of demonstrating how sexual assault is connected with other oppressions, it offers little in the way of non-individualistic, real alternatives. This isn't to say that we should be telling other women to beg their senators to take rape seriously (we've been doing that for decades) but shouldn't we still be demanding sufficient sex ed (which is, thankfully, suggested) along with (more) public protections, like a guarantee that rape-kits will be tested, more publicly funded self-defense (which is not a solution, but until the revolution happens I'd like to know how to protect myself) along with officials declared AND demonstrating that ultimately the responsibility for rape belongs with rapists? It seems to me that politicians, in a non-superficial way, need to recognize that rape is a societal problem and needs to be tackled ways similar to how we (should) tackle other problems: with the involvement of a community, in a way not relegated to school curriculum (which can only be delivered to school-aged people-- an important population, but not the only population which needs to know these things). These issues do involve women, but the relegation of rape and violence against women into "women's issues" tackled only by women privately or in a very restricted public setting (unfairly, yes, but nevertheless) sort of renders the issues invisible. I understand that not having faith in politicians to understand and respond to "women's issues" is in itself a response to the failures of our political machine(ESPECIALLY when it comes to "women's issues") and a need for women, especially regarding these issues to lead this movement, but I don't think that means that these issues and their solutions should be a matter of sequestering them to sympathetic women's organizations which depend on donations or gratefully accept a pittance from governments. We should instead fight for our space in the political and personal realm and demand that rape be tackled not as some after-thought during the month of March, but as an issue as real and important as the economy, education, and healthcare-- it's certainly more real for more Americans than the threat of "terrorism" for instance, and in a real way, it IS a terror. How about we wage a "war" on rape? (Problems with waging a war against something which is ultimately violent aside, and assuming the it won't look anything like the war on drugs, that is...) How about politicos realize that wars often use rape as a tactic? While this was hinted at, it didn't come out as strong as I'd liked. In addition, essays, especially those near the end, often felt premature because they were finished too early. I mean, maybe in another life I was an English professor(and maybe this is why I have literary pretensions without actually knowing anything about literature!) but I really wanted to write EXPAND in red pen on a lot of these essays. Another thing that bothered me was the insistence that women declare that they want sex. Let me expand (:P): There is nothing in and of itself wrong with this message... except for the fact that women are told to want sex all of the time. Women are told THEY want sex, for themselves, all of the time. What's missing is the need for the desire to have sex to come, organically, from these women. And an equally important message to convey is, it's also perfectly fine and natural for you to not desire sex (with another). Yes, most people like to share things that feel good with others, asexuality is rare, and this message needs to be conveys carefully because women have often been rendered asexual, but it still needs to be conveyed. I just don't know if, "It is normal for women to desire sex and we should be able to act on that desire!" is the primary answer to this in a society that pressures and bombards women with images of (unhealthy) sexualities. This came out in some essays, too, but not nearly as much as I'd like.
Also, if you're going to attempt to mirror the whole hyperlinking thing in your book, you should probably actually, um, hyperlink (like, include the freaking PAGE NUMBER, and not just the essay title). Yes, this is a superficial criticism, and doesn't apply to my experience because I read the work cover-to-cover, but flipping back to the ToC to find the page number to an essay is not fun. The writers include a table indexed by topic with page numbers in the back of the work, but that is equally inconvenient!)
And er, this isn't really a criticism, and maybe this relates to the fact that this book focuses on rape which presumes two parties, but there was a surprising dearth of essays on masturbation and how it can be both healing and frustrating for women who have been assaulted. While this would be one of those individualistic solutions (which aren't bad in and of themselves, it just sucks when those are the majority of the solutions) it's still worth exploring (In depth! NOT merely mentioned!). After all, what is sexual liberation if you still depend on another person?...more
A very important book on the history of medical abuse meted out upon women of color and how this practice, rooted in racism and the epitome of objectiA very important book on the history of medical abuse meted out upon women of color and how this practice, rooted in racism and the epitome of objectification, unfortunately still continues today. While Dorothy (whose other writings on bioethics I've enjoyed) lays an important outline of oppression and abuse of (mostly) black women medically, she mentions-- but doesn't much chronicle-- their resistance to these practices leaving the reader unsatisfied. Stories of resistance are just as important as stories of oppression, they force us to remember that the subject of oppression has dignity, has remained human, with an identity other than that of "victim" and is thus capable of fighting for their own rights. Otherwise, though, the book is enlightening, horrifying, and infuriating, all at the same time.
P.S: Also, perhaps she didn't wish to tread too closely upon Angela Davis' "territory" but I was surprised that she failed to mention medical abuse which goes on in prisons. This occurs in both genders, but is particularly grotesque during instances in which the prisoner is female....more