Jules' Tools for Social Change: F-Bomb by Lauren McKeon
Welcome to this month’s edition of Jules’ Tools for Social Change, a column that features a book, author or publisher whose work deals with issues of race, gender, sexuality, ability, colonialism, economic justice, or other social justice topics.See more details below
Welcome to this month’s edition of Jules’ Tools for Social Change, a column that features a book, author or publisher whose work deals with issues of race, gender, sexuality, ability, colonialism, economic justice, or other social justice topics.
This month's featured writer is Lauren McKeon, author of F-Bomb, published by Goose Lane Editions. F-Bomb is a deep dive into some of the reasons women are leaving, and even actively opposing, the feminist movement. What has gone wrong with feminism? Where are the rifts and deficits, which ones need repair, and which ones need to be overcome?
From the publisher: "F-Bomb takes readers on a witty, insightful, and deeply fascinating journey into today's anti-feminist universe. Through a series of dispatches from the frontlines of the new gender wars, Lauren McKeon explores generational attitudes, debates over inclusiveness, and differing views on the intersection of race, class, and gender. She asks the uncomfortable question: if women aren't connecting with feminism, what's wrong with it?"
Read on for Lauren's answers to my questions about the book, the role of intersectionality, and more.
'Til next time,
Julia Horel: How did you come to write this book, and how long did it take, including all the research and interviews?
Lauren McKeon: I started researching and writing this book in 2014 as part of my MFA in creative non-fiction at the University of King’s College. And, because we really wanted this book to feel of-the-moment, I didn’t finish my first draft until January 2017. It was important, I think, to address how the backlash against feminism hit the world stage with Donald Trump—and to explore, as much as time permitted, how the backlash against his actions galvanized a whole new generation of women. His election is when a lot of people (including his supporters) began to realize the mainstream appetite for the trends and belief systems I’d been researching for the past two years.
JH: Who is this book for?
LM: This book is for anyone who’s asking the question “what happened”? I thought feminism had won and equal rights were a done deal—what happened? Don’t we all support feminism now—what happened? Don’t we all support women now—what happened? I think it’s for anyone who’s ready to have a discussion, too, about where feminism is, where it can go from here, where it’s stumbled, and why it’s so important that we do confront the backlash, not only against the movement, but against the very idea, and foundation of, equal rights.
JH: You quote Bitch co-founder Andi Zeisler, who says “I have a bad case of empowerment fatigue,” in reference to the use of the word to describe practically anything done by a woman, used by both feminists and anti-feminists. There are instances throughout the book in which some of the anti-feminists you interview use language we might associate with feminism, such as “choice.” Is this “plurality of meaning" a disconnect we should work to resolve, or a reality to accept?
LM: It’s something we should acknowledge and interrogate. What does that person, group or movement, really mean when they say “empowerment” or “choice”? What does that empowerment, that choice look like—and who’s benefitting? Or, put another way: Who’s getting left behind? When language is co-opted we must think about the consequences, and what it’s a wider symptom of—and those things, I think, are where we need to put our energy, and what we need to work to resolve.
JH: You mention intersectionality—the term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw to describe the multiple intersecting identities and systems of oppression experienced by people who are multiply marginalized—throughout the book, and cite it as a weakness and a top concern for feminism moving forward. Where can feminists, especially white feminists, learn more about it and how can we apply it to our work? What’s on your intersectional feminist reading list?
LM: Certainly, I don’t think intersectionality itself is a weakness; it must be the future for feminism. I think our weakness comes in refusing to acknowledge that, and, more so, refusing to put it into practice—to rigorously explore what it means for the feminist movement. That’s an ongoing process. And it’s a journey of loving self-reflection and self-criticism for the movement, and it’s one we’re already on. It cannot be stopped now. But it can be helped along. We all have part of the answer as to “how” and I think that, surely, part of it has to involve listening: listening to those who feel the movement has shut them out, listening to criticism, and listening to other perspectives and voices. We must be intentional about diversity and whose voices we choose to elevate.
I think a lot of us, even those who have more opportunities and privileges in life, have experienced the feeling of being told to be silent, to shut-up, that our thoughts and opinions and contributions are not valuable. We’re afraid that if we cede some of the spotlight, we’ll lose our voices again. It’s understandable, but frankly BS. Sharing that spotlight—helping it to shine on others—will only make the movement richer and stronger.
My intersectional reading list, including books read and books on my to-buy list, is not made-up of only capital-F feminist books, and I think that’s okay. It includes many essay collections, such as Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll All Be Dead And None of This Will Matter, Durga Chew-Bose’s Too Much and Not the Mood, Roxane Gay’s new book Hunger, and Samantha Irby’s We Are Never Meeting in Real Life. There’s the anthology Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World. And poetry, like Vivek Shraya’s Even This Page is White and Aisha Sasha John’s I Have to Live. We could go on and on (and I have five overflowing book shelves, so really, I could). Surely, the publishing world desperately needs more diversity, but we have no excuse to not widen our own reading lists.
JH: You cover so much ground in this book, but there must have been issues you had to leave out. What else might you have included in a book twice the size?
LM: I don’t know if it’s a matter of making my own book bigger, but wanting more books on feminism that cover different ground entirely. We need to know more, and expose more, for instance, about how violence affects women, particularly Indigenous women in Canada. We need more voices that span the full spectrum of diversity. We need more books from the perspective of young feminists, of the next generation. We just need more, more of everything.
JH: What are you working on now, and where can readers find more of your work?
LM: Right now, I’m working on a feminist-y magazine feature for The Walrus, where I’m the digital editor—but I cannot scoop myself! And I’m also working on an essay for an upcoming anthology on healing from sexual violence. Speaking of anthologies, you can also find me in Best Canadian Essays 2017. And, much of my work is also linked to www.laurenmckeon.net
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