The Feminism Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained
One of the latest releases in the series, although I am also interested in feminism as a modern political ideology, its beginnings, diversity and disparity of opinion, different schools of thought, keynote thinkers and the like.
This is pleasingly comprehensive, it covers A LOT of trends and tendencies which I have found are not known about, in the main, or only seem to be known about by staunch supporters/devotees or staunch opponents/detractors. So, to that end, I checked to see, for instance, if the book had anything about "Anarcha-Feminism" for instance, I was not disappointed, a complete two page spread on it with keynote thinkers, quotes, pictures etc.
Then I considered would they have anything on all but forgotten trends such as "political lesbianism" or "compulsory heterosexuality" (two significant ideas/schools of thought during the eighties, which have simultaneously been "figures of fun", ie the comic character Ali G's repeated equation of feminism with lesbianism, and hotly debated). Those are present too, comprising very factual accounts in condensed form, usually (like I say some these trends and schools of thought have been hotly debated, from almost every single conceivable angle, it will be insufficient or just barely sufficient in scope for some readers perhaps but for a DK book I think it is what would be expected. Practically a book on a modern political ideology like this one could have run to a series of volumes). There are some more niche or margin ideologies or trends which are not represented, which are interesting to anyone who has had a more exhaustive interest in modern political ideologies, associated with feminism, such as the "Amazon" movement (which stressed strength and physical prowess, campaigned for equal roles in the military, first responder units and policing).
As with all of the DK range, I would praise the structuring of the content, it is set out into different phases or waves, so there is the "birth of feminism" (18th to early 19th century), the struggle for equal rights (1840 - 1944), the personal is political (1945 -79), the politics of difference (1980s), a new wave emerges (1990 - 2010) and fighting sexism in the modern day (2010 onwards).
Of course when it comes to feminism the use of the word "wave" denotes a particular idea, hence the chapter A New Wave Emerges, which has as its first sub-chapter "I am the Third Wave". This vindicates a particular idea that feminism itself is a singular or monolithic ideology which has progressed through a series of different developments or iterations denoted as waves, first, second, third.
I personally dont think this is the best way to consider the topic and have always preferred instead other considerations of it, which without assuming any sort of factionalism or internal sectarianism, feminism as being divisible into separate ideological schools of thought, ie liberal, socialist, marxist, radical, ecological. It is perhaps a minor complaint, it is also fair that the idea of waves itself is included.
However, that said, a consistent feminist liberal (sometimes libertarian or individualist, "iFeminist") would take issue with some versions of "the personal is political" as it may not permit a private and public/social sphere of life, the limited nature of political and public life or obligations and duties is a significant part of liberalism in at least its classical iteration at least.
Also the idea of progressing in a linear fashion through a series of waves of development ignores, to a certain extent, a certain "euro-centric" or "western" or "anglo-sphere" bias, if you want to describe it as that, as there are many parts of the world in which liberal, socialist, marxist iterations of feminist thinking have never emerged and later developments, such as political lesbianism (and the heterosexual or lesbian rejection of the idea), are almost inconceivable.
One thing this kind of time line has in its favour is that it can be a useful "foil to the discussion" of whether the various developments and innovations are signs of growth and diversification or instead deterioration and fragmentation (I've read convincing consider of either accounting for changes or tendencies).
The book ends with the MeToo movement, which is perhaps a good a point as any, there is a large glossary of terms, which is useful, directory of persons and an index. I think this is a really great addition to the range, I would hope that there are other modern political ideology books, conservatism, socialism and liberalism surely would possess as much topical range and development to warrant their own books. Recommended.