Rose's Reviews > Enlightened Sexism: The Seductive Message That Feminism's Work Is Done

Enlightened Sexism by Susan J. Douglas
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Apr 26, 2010

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Recommended for: everyone

This one's a curious book in that, in terms of quality, I think it easily earns five stars. Then why did I only give it three? Because it kept making me angry. Not because I disagreed with what Douglas was saying (for the most part, I think much of what she had to say was absolutely spot-on) -- but because I _agreed_, and it made for frustrating, difficult reading. It is frustrating to realize how much feminism still has to achieve ... and, for that matter, how much, in some ways, it has backslid.

But the concept of enlightened sexism -- which, as she explains it, is basically the idea that, "Hey, feminism has done its job! There's no such thing as sexism anymore! So women can go back to using their sexuality and physical appearance as their sole source of power, because sexism has been conquered! And using your looks as power is what you gals want anyway, right?" -- is an important one. Douglas looks at how enlightened sexism (and its surprising counterpart, embedded feminism) affects our culture (particularly our pop culture), and the result is that you come out of the book unable to look at things in quite the same way. Which is annoying and freeing at the same time.

Read this book. It might make you mad, and you probably won't agree with everything (I know I didn't). But there's a lot of food for thought here -- and, more than that, there's the point at the end that, if we don't like the way things still are, we can fight to change them.

We are quick, in our cynicism, to roll our eyes and say that society is the way it is and there's nothing we can do to change it, so we might as well SIU (Suck It Up) and deal. Douglas reminds us, however, that the women's lib movement in the 60s and 70s (and the suffragettes fifty years earlier) have already brought about huge changes and advances for women. The belief that we can't do anything to change things is mistaken.

So read the book -- and start acting.
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