I recently got the chance to finish up reading Manifesta by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards. If you haven’t heard of it before the book is more than just another introduction to feminist rhetoric, it goes in depth with the feminist movement, and makes the information relevant for current feminists to carry forth into the future.
Opening with a look at what a day without feminism would look like, the reader is immediately immersed in a parallel culture that drastically differentiates from the world we live in today. This develops into an ongoing discussion of the impact and importance of the movement.
While written over ten years ago the messages still ring true today. As the book says “you can’t continue change if you don’t know the process that got you this far.” The historical aspects of feminism are so carefully written that the often confusing and sometimes contradicting past of the movement is simple and relatable.
As a male feminist I think it was personally enlightening how so much of this history has been buried. Of course you hear of Susan B. Anthony, maybe a brief mention of Harriet Tubman, and just a passing quotation from Eleanor Roosevelt, but I never would’ve guessed how influential each one and more were to establishing equality in history.
Who would’ve guessed Susan B. Anthony defiantly voted illegally and was arrested, or that 70 years before that Margaret Brent had appeared before the Maryland State Assembly to request the right to vote? How would I have known of the progressive and scandalous lives of Lucy Stone or Elizabeth Cady Stanton?
It’s clear that the cultural focus really is on history instead of herstory.
I work within the field of media relations, and I think the most influential chapter looked at how feminist rhetoric in the media is potentially dead. I personally had never put the two within the same category or mindset, so it was already an influential and thought-provoking chapter to read.
By the end of it I had realized that I, like most of the media, had just compartmentalized them into their own separate categories. I was apart of the growing issue of separating the two; through major media coverage original “women’s and feminist issues” like welfare and child abuse would become “social issues”, completely ignoring the credit of the original spearheads behind the issue.
By the time I reached the conclusion, a day with feminism, I was profoundly grateful and cognizant of the benefits feminism has had on our culture. I can’t stress enough how powerful this book is and has been on my personal life.
Again, if you’re someone who wants a concise history of feminism and its implications on future activism, Manifesta is the way to go. Rich with detail yet never overbearing, it makes the complicated and deeply buried history of feminism engaging and lively. Baumgardner and Richards do an amazing job of compiling all the information for a current or future activist into a digestible, and may I say enjoyable book. If you’ve read the book or have any questions leave a comment below and I’d love to talk or help you out!