Thursday, March 02, 2006

riotgrrrls, alphabetically

Heywood, Leslie L., Ed. The Women’s Movement Today: An Encyclopedia of Third-Wave Feminism, Vols I & II. Nov. 2005. Greenwood Press. Vol. 1: 423 p; Vol. 2: 515 p. bibliog. illus. index. ISBN: 0-313-33133-2 (Set); 0-313-33134-0 (Vol. 1); 0-313-33135-9 (Vol. 2). $199.95.

for Library Journal

The second volume of Leslie Heywood’s feminist encyclopedia set, The Women’s Movement Today, is twice as useful as the first. While the first provides quite a limited listing of third-wave entries, the second is more informative: 515 pages culled directly from luminaries’ landmark books and magazine articles.

These selections resonate with a message common in most variations on third-wave themes: contemporary feminism thrives as polemics in praxis. Within Heywood’s second volume, frontrunners Rebecca Walker, Jennifer Baumgardner, Amy Richards, Ariel Gore, and most other leading third-wave feminists debate the agenda: cultural, legislative, and electoral activism; racial politics, globalization, and emergent technologies; motherhood; the wage gap and social justice; and the fallacy of the dominant male jock.

Noted editors, authors, and activists such as Lisa Jervis and Anita Harris refine the very definition of third-wave feminism and its distinction from the ostensible postfeminist age—recalibrating social, sexual, racial, chronological, technological, and economic variables to strike a new balance in feminist objectives.

These thinkers write aggressively, addressing issues of women, race, and class, as when Michelle Tea dismisses Barbara Ehrenreich’s undercover working-class reportage as intellectual noblesse oblige. We find Susan Bordo critiquing the cult of youth & beauty as she pulls apart the empire of images and the Guerilla Girls comically protesting women’s marginalization in their Bedside Companion to the History of Western Art.

The weaker of the two volumes, the first, an encyclopedia of names, issues, and events, buckles under its organizational irregularities, including categories too general for practical use (education, media, sports, visual art) and omitting from the list of entries several topics well worth inclusion: ecofeminism, erotica, International Women’s Day, lesbianism, the Nineteenth Amendment, and Title IX, for example. Categorization flaws notwithstanding, the two volumes still dovetail exceptionally well as a sound response to the common quandary over where to start one’s feminist education.

Highly recommended for all public and academic libraries.—Elizabeth Kennedy, Berkeley, CA