Do Female Bloggers Have an Obligation to Promote Feminism?

March 30, 2016 Uncategorized 57

SURVEY TITLE

This recent post at The Mary Sue about the ways women are asked to justify themselves when they produce media with a feminist message and also when they choose not to is what first got me thinking about this blog post. Reading a post from Geoff at The Oddness of Moving Things about a memoir from a female rockstar made me realize that I sometimes feel that pressure myself. I’ve noticed a lot of memoirs and biographies being published recently about female rock stars, who are almost always portrayed as very strong women. Although I’m not particularly interested in the subjects of these memoirs, I often feel some pressure as a feminist to read about their experiences. Today, I’d like to try and unpack some of the social issues going on here and think with you about whether we bloggers, especially female bloggers, have an obligation to promote feminism or female authors and characters.

You Do You

Despite the slightly provocative post title, I’m really trying to think about this for myself and am sharing with the blogging community because I’d love to hear your thoughts. I recognize that even if I decide I feel some responsibility to feminism or other women, to each their own, so I’d like to open by saying your blog is your space and I support you doing you 🙂

Promoting Other Women Doesn’t Have to Be Motivated By Feminism

One problem I see with the expectation that anyone promote women for feminism is that I think it can easily blur into assuming that anyone who promotes women is only doing so for feminist reasons. This excludes the possibility that someone is promoting a particular woman just because she’s awesome. Personally, I read a ton of books by female authors, but this is entirely dictated by my choice of books. Unless subconsciously, I am not picking my books to specifically promote female authors. I read what I like. If I noticed that my reading was skewing towards entirely male authors though, I probably would do something about it in the same way that I’m trying to read more books by authors who identify as LGBT or as people of color. I like to keep my reading diverse in order to encourage diversity in publishing and to expand my own horizons.

A Book Starring A Woman Doesn’t Make It A Feminist Book

Part of what got me thinking about this particular issue is a comment in the Mary Sue post that inspired me to tackle this topic. They mention that the new Ghostbusters movie is expected to be feminist just because it stars an all female cast, not unlike the kerfuffle about Mad Max being “too feminist” or not feminist enough simply because it co-starred a female action heroine. Personally, I’d like to work towards a world where it is no stranger to have an all female cast or a female action hero than it would be to have an all male cast (perhaps with a token woman) or a male action hero. Character gender alone does not a feminist statement make. Or if it does, I think it’s unfortunate that having female characters is rare enough that this is the case.

Obviously, how the women in any given media are portrayed is more important than simply their presence, although that’s a good start. I do think it’s important as female book bloggers to call out books that portray sexist characters in a positive light; condone rape or other coercive behaviors towards women; or objectify women.

Helping Other Women Overcome Sexism Is a Great Cause

I’m thinking about Madeleine Albright’s quote a lot as I write this post and I generally find it too extreme. Personally, I’m passionate about getting everyone interested in science and technology but especially young women, because I do think they fight messages from society that suggest that women can’t be good at those things. However, I don’t believe that everyone must work for this good cause, any more than I believe everyone must volunteer at animal shelters or food banks, even though those are obviously nice things to do.

I also feel as though the constant admonishment that women should get along with one another is a particularly insidious form of sexism. It’s masquerading as feminism and female empowerment, but it’s really a product of the belief that women are catty. Women are no more likely to be supportive of one another or petty towards one another than they are to be supportive of or petty towards men. Likewise, they are no more likely to be supportive or petty towards other people than men are. There is a special place in hell for this gender stereotype 🙂

But Women Aren’t Obligated To Help Other Women

Personally, I would like to use my blog to:

  • review books that include women in history, especially female scientists
  • review books that teach me new perspectives on feminism
  • occasionally write a post sharing my thoughts on feminism or gender issues with you
  • and promote the many authors I love of both genders

The reasons I make these choices are complex. Some of them, especially the content of my posts on feminism, will obviously come from my feminist perspective. Others, such as my choice to read about women in history, stem from my curiousity about little known stories in history and my desire to read about people who inspire me. And my desire to promote many authors comes simply from my love for books.

I don’t think women have an obligation to support women. For instance, the idea that all women should support Hillary just because she’s a woman bothers me. Would we want all men to support a different candidate just because they’re men? If you can’t swap the genders in an idea and be comfortable with it, it’s probably sexist. I apologize for getting a little political, but I think that’s a great example of this phenomenon. I think both women and men should support the candidate they think will be the best president. Likewise, I think women and men should do what they like with their blogs and support authors they love. Women should not be expected to support other women just because they’re women.

So far, I have always chosen to pass on books I feel an obligation to be interested in, but am not really interested in and I will continue to do so. Life is too short to read books I’m not excited about.

2016-Discussion-Challenge

57 Responses to “Do Female Bloggers Have an Obligation to Promote Feminism?”

  1. Laura Roberts

    Great post, and great questions! I definitely disagree with Madeleine Albright (on a lot of things…), so I agree with your analysis that there’s a special place in hell for that quote. 😉

    I think it’s silly to suggest that all female bloggers have an obligation to promote feminism at all times. Hey, sometimes we just want to write about our weird obsession with baking cupcakes, and shouldn’t have to defend that. Likewise, if we want to explore feminist issues, we shouldn’t have to contend with rabid hoards of MRA/PUA dudes bashing the crap out of us on social media, just because we tagged the post #feminism.

    Some of the memes I have seen floating around social media lately, however, strike me as useful in this regard. The ones that point out how feminism helps EVERYONE are great, because it’s not just women who want and need to break out of patriarchal culture, as men suffer too and would be just as liberated by things like equal pay for equal work, paid family leave, better access to healthcare and mental health treatment, etc.

    It would be nice if we didn’t have to debate whether or not we are feminists, and why, wouldn’t it?

  2. BookerTalk

    In short my answer is no. I don’t feel under any obligation to do anything. Feminism is about having a right to choose for oneself so I’m exercising it by saying that if I want to talk about feminism I can but if I dont then that’s my cal and shouldn’t be made to feel pressured to do it ( not suggesting yiu ar doing that by the way)
    BookerTalk recently posted…450 and countingMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I agree with you completely, so I’m glad this didn’t come across as pushing people into doing anything. Especially as someone who does want to be non-traditional in some ways (career focused, not planning on children), it’s important for me to make sure I remember that feminism isn’t about not doing the traditional, just about having options 🙂

  3. Valorie Grace Hallinan

    I don’t feel an obligation as a blogger to promote feminism, nor do I think other female bloggers should. At the moment I don’t feel moved to get into an in-depth discussion of feminism, especially one that tends toward the academic. I will say that I read the Albright quote differently. Having been in the business world many years, I’ve seen many, many sexist women who seem to make it harder for other women, whether consciously or not. They treat women differently than they treat men. Maybe Albright is referring to those types of scenarios and doesn’t mean we should all make it our mission to help women. I will say, though, that having worked in both business and academia/health care, I see a tremendous amount of sexism in the workplace, on the part of men, women, and institutions, some of it subtle, much of it overt. I don’t think all women should support Hilary, but I do see some women holding her to impossible standards that they wouldn’t apply to men. I am not sure about your swapping genders idea; in an ideal world that should be true, and maybe if we did that more consistently, things would be better; in reality things are far, far, from equal in our culture, and that needs to be taken into consideration.
    Valorie Grace Hallinan recently posted…Happy Spring! Duck Eggs DailyMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Really great points! If I understand what you’re saying about the Albright quote, it seems to me that she is saying that women in particular have an obligation to throw off socially ingrained sexism, in which case I might still disagree with her, but it’s definitely an interesting thing to think about.

      I do see that there are some problems with the swapping gender idea. Some things that would strike me as sexist if a woman was involved wouldn’t as much with a man. For instance, if an attractive woman is objectified in a commercial, it annoys me because it carries with it the weight of the many horrible, historical ways in which women have been treated as objects. If an attractive man is objectified in a commercial, I feel as though that’s restoring some balance to the universe. So I do think current and historical inequalities can shape how I interpret the same event involving a person of the opposite gender. I still like the idea of swapping genders as a check on whether something sexist is going on here, but it’s an idea that needs some refining 🙂

  4. looloolooweez

    Do female bloggers have an obligation to promote feminism? No — or at least, no more than any blogger would be obligated to promote any political/cultural ideals on a non-political/cultural blog. Book blogs in particular don’t always have to address serious topics like that, unless they’re discussing books on those topics of course! In fact, I prefer to get my feminist news fix from non-book-blog sources. (Not saying book blogs should never get political, just that political discourse isn’t really the point of this topic niche, generally.)

    That said, I do highly regard honesty in blogging on all topics. If you think a book includes a problematic treatment of rape or single moms or lady anatomy or whatever, then yeah — tell us about it! Discussions can’t happen if no one starts talking, right?
    looloolooweez recently posted…Classics Club | In the Shadow of Man by Jane GoodallMy Profile

    • Briana @ Pages Unbound

      Ah, this is a bit of what I was trying to get at in my comment! Though I think we all at times feel compelled to use our audiences to preach the causes we think are important, the fact is that we’re book bloggers. People follow me to hear me talk about books. I follow other book bloggers to hear THEM talk about books. If they get too political, I get less interested. Partially because I didn’t sign up for politics. Partially because I assume, if you’re a book blogger, your expertise is literature. If I want to hear about politics, I’ll follow a blogger who is specifically an expert on that.
      Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted…Tolkien Talk: Stephanie from Chasm of BooksMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I agree with you there! I definitely prefer the book blogs I read to be pretty apolitical so that we can all just enjoy talking about books, whatever our political leanings. But I do also like when bloggers are socially conscious and note problems in books. I think it’s important and leads to some great discussion, discussion that can often be less divisive since it takes place within the safe confines of a book 🙂

  5. Shay

    There are so many books by and about women that you can be conscious of who you are reading without having to read about topics that don’t speak to you. If lady scientists are more your jam than lady rock stars, go with it. In the same vein, write about feminism if the topic seems relevant to a particular read, but don’t feel like you have to work it into every post. Maybe you would be interested in Roxane Gay’s book Bad Feminist, which talks a lot about our idea of what it means to be a “good” feminist.
    Shay recently posted…Fire Touched (Mercedes Thompson #9)My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      It’s true! It definitely would be possible to choose to read all female authors or all books about women without having to pick up books I wasn’t excited about. I am very interested in picking up Bad Feminist. The number of different takes on feminism constantly surprises me and I always enjoy learning more about it.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Lab GirlMy Profile

  6. Briana @ Pages Unbound

    This is an interesting discussion because I think we can ask this question about a lot of issues: Do I have an obligation to fight certain injustices, help certain people, make clear my opinions on a certain matter, etc.? I’m sure there are different answers depending on how “grave” the issue is, but, in general, I want to say that no one has an obligation to promote a certain cause in a certain way in all areas of their lives.

    Do I consider myself a feminist? Yes. Do I go out of my way to say that on my blog? No. For two reasons. 1) There are different ways to be feminist. One way is the “quiet” way of reading and reviewing books by and about and that are supportive of women. (I think of the issue between Demi and Taylor that Buzzfeed stirred up into drama, and the anger about which one was “correctly” supporting Kesha and feminism.) There isn’t necessarily a correct way. People have different strengths and support feminism in different ways.

    2) I don’t think we have to make our blogs into platforms for causes. Now, I struggle with this a little because part of me says “If you have an audience of 2000 people online, don’t you have a duty to USE it?” But part of me says “I’m a book blogger on my blog and on social media. People follow me to hear about books, not about feminism or the US election or anything else.” And, frankly, I have recently unfollowed many book bloggers on Twitter who were spending more time venting about politics than talking about books because I hadn’t followed them to hear their political views.
    Briana @ Pages Unbound recently posted…Tolkien Talk: Stephanie from Chasm of BooksMy Profile

    • Stacy

      Ditto everything Briana said above. With an addendum.

      I raised 2 girls who are now 22 & 23. I raised them to be strong, self-reliant and yet take care of the little guy {I worked in non-profit for 20 years so they were raised seeped in helping}. I’ve thought so much about feminism the past several weeks because of the differences I see in them as female adults as opposed to myself as a 44 year old woman. I’m so proud of who they are and yet also watch with fascination the choices they make as strong ‘feminist’ women. Not sure my point other than I’m a feminist but on the quiet side and feel my point is made through my actions not my words.

      Excellent question Katie. Thank you for bringing it up and allowing us to talk openly about it.
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    • DoingDewey

      I agree very much with both of your points. There are many right ways to support feminism. Personally, I think it’s not especially in keeping with feminist views to tell other women they’re doing it wrong 🙂 I do sometimes wonder if I should use my blog as more of a platform, but I agree with you that it’s not really the place for it. If I wanted to write that sort of blog, I expect I’d become part of a group of bloggers who were interested in talking politics, but I don’t. I’d prefer to focus on books and, like you, I am unlikely to follow people who get to political.

  7. Melissa W

    To put it simply…no. We are as bloggers are to blog what interests us as individuals, not blog about certain topics because we are a part of a group of people. I read what interests me as a reader, not because I have an obligation to read a specific gender. As much as women are to uplift other women, women are also notorious for bring each other down as well.

    • DoingDewey

      I hate that women are thought of as commonly bringing each other down. As Masanobu, when this is the case, it seems likely that social pressure and media portrayals of women have something to do with that, rather than women just being intrinsically catty. I was thinking more about this after replying to Masanobu’s comment and I also think part of this is just the way gender interactions are perceived. I know in high school, the guys were just as cliquey as the girls, but their behavior was never described as catty.

  8. Geoff W

    Great thoughts! I had to go back and check my post to make sure I didn’t say anything too stupid when linked to from such a great post! I know particularly with Gordon’s book, but memoir’s in general a lot of what I’m concerned about when it is a woman author is how much of their story is a front. How much of it is that “hard hitting successful” woman. A lot of that comes down to what you know about them and what is “believable” through their writing. It is always interesting how the memoirs (the majority I’ve read) are more frank about mental health issues than feminism or gender issues. (It’s probably because I’m reading mental health books, but still some are feminist icons!)
    Geoff W recently posted…Book 433: Fool Me Once – Harlan CobenMy Profile

  9. Audra (Unabridged Chick)

    Oh, obligation! Really appreciated your post and the comments, and it seems like the consensus is “no”! Which resonates with me. I suppose the only thing a book blogger is “obligated” to do is write about books, but I actually don’t even agree with that! 😉

    Now, my book blog is shaped by my feminism (and other held beliefs) and I like sharing them — but I don’t think it’s an obligation. (I suppose I feel like it’s an obligation to be polite and conscientious, esp when talking about people with marginalized identities, but not feminism, per se.)

    As others have pointed out, when beliefs strongly color a blog, it can be offputting if they aren’t your beliefs — when Christian book bloggers get heavy into their faith, that isn’t my thing — but I try to read a wide range of views/values to keep myself outside the self-confirming bubble — does that make sense?

    Anyway, thanks for offering this forum and this discussion — gave me lots to chew over the last day or so!

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve really appreciated reading the comments too! I feel as though a lot of what other bloggers have to say on the topic is exactly what I meant, but said even more clearly. I definitely agree with you and others who have said that their feminism shapes their blog, without being the focus of the blog. I feel the same way. I do appreciate when bloggers are careful to deal with issues of diversity politely and when they point out when authors could do better about that.

      I also agree with you and others about blogs that are too strongly influenced by religious or political beliefs, it can be offputting. Those are such divisive issues, I try to mostly avoid them so we can all just be friends and talk about books 🙂

  10. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I love this post. And I don’t think anyone is “obligated” to promote anything. I think female book bloggers should promote feminism if it’s something they’re passionate about or like to see in their reading.

    I don’t do much promoting of social issues on my blog, but I do read lots of female authors (like you, just because their books look interesting to me, not because I’m trying to hit any goal) and I usually end up with at least 50% of my books a year by a female. I love books about badass ladies and tend to enjoy books with a feminist lean (particularly about a woman’s role in marriage)…and I always promote those books because they’re awesome! Maybe the feminism angle is part of the reason I think they’re awesome, but I don’t normally construct my whole viewpoint around that.
    Sarah’s Book Shelves recently posted…March 2016 Monthly Round-UpMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks Sarah! “Obligation” was probably too strong of a word, but I did start writing this wondering if it was something I “should” be doing more with. I’ve noticed that many of the bloggers I interact with enjoy the sort of books you describe, with badass female leads or interesting feminist perspective, and I really do too. I’m glad we’re able to find so many books that sit well with my feminism, even though I don’t think I want my feminism to define my viewpoint either.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Lab GirlMy Profile

  11. Heather

    My reading also ends up about 75% female without trying. I think because I am a feminist that I notice a lot of things that bug me in books that I wouldn’t if I didn’t have that perspective. I tend to discuss those issues in reviews because that is what stands out for me. I don’t go looking for the feminist point of view.

    • DoingDewey

      I’ve fallen behind on my stat tracking this year, but I wouldn’t be surprised if my reading is also about 75% by female authors. I’m not sure if my feminist views push me towards books by women. I think it might, since I know a lot of the nonfiction I pick up is about women in history or about feminism and these books seem to mostly be written by women.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Lab GirlMy Profile

  12. Krysta @ Pages Unbound

    I think it can be argued that simply by blogging women are promoting feminism. Blogging is a person saying “I have a voice that deserves to be heard. This is my space and I get to talk about things of interest to me” and I think that’s important. Very often women are not heard and it takes courage to create a space for yourself where you say, yes, my thoughts are worth sharing.

    I don’t think anyone needs to talk about feminism 100% of the time. Quite frankly, that would be exhausting. I struggle as a woman every day. I walk out the door and I have to deal with men catcalling me and following me down the street in their cars. I have to go to meetings where my opinions aren’t valid until suddenly a man repeats what I said and the room thinks it’s a genius idea. I have to watch my language and my body language at all times because I can’t be too aggressive but I also can’t be a doormat. I listen to my male colleagues assert their authority with ease with words I would never be able to say without receiving a backlash. Then I go home and watch women be objectived on the TV or in magazines. So do I want to just read a book sometimes and take a break from it all? Yes. I can’t be in fighting mode all the time or I’d have no fight left.

    That being said, as I woman, I find it impossible not to be feminist on some level at all times. When I read, I notice the female characters in ways that men have told me they have not. I think about their representation and what they’re doing and how it might affect readers. And that’s going to affect the way I think of the work and review it, even if I don’t directly announce “Hey, everyone, I’m a feminist and I’m going to talk about feminism today.”

    • DoingDewey

      I really like what you have to say about this. I agree that it’s a powerful thing for women to be able to say what they point and put their perspective out in the world. I love that the blogging community provides us with one opportunity for doing that. I also think you’re very right that sometimes it’s important to take a break, but feminism and/or being a woman are likely to color our opinions anyway.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Lab GirlMy Profile

  13. Masanobu

    Polemic title! But great post 🙂

    Of course, the answer to your question is no, nobody is under obligation to do anything. That’s truly how it is, about feminism or whatever other issue. In my case, I just can’t help analyzing everything through a feminist point of view. It’s just how it is for me, but I don’t expect everyone to do the same. I even don’t expect to reject a book just for its portrayal of women. I enjoy Marvel comics, and if that isn’t problematic from a feminist POV, I don’t know what is.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts, but have a minor quibble with something: women are not catty. We are not, intrinsically, catty, but I’d actually argue that our sexist society throws each of us against the others. It’s expected that women will fight against other women to establish their expertise/authority/assertiveness and to distance themselves from other women to present themselves as worthy as men (not like other women). This attitude is amplified through reality TV and tabloids. This is terrible, of course, but as a social construct that is drilled upon us since childhood, I find that (at least where I am from) a lot of women unconsciously fulfill this role, in the same way that many men fulfill the role of unemotional bros. Both stereotypes are damaging, but both are still there.
    Masanobu recently posted…BBAW: Book Bloggers Have the Best RecsMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, yeah, the title might be a bit much, largely because I agree with what you said – no one is obligated to do anything. I also tend to see things through a feminist perspective, but don’t always choose to avoid books that are problematic. For instance, I really love the Wheel of Time series, but I hate what a big deal the author makes of differences between genders.

      I was actually thinking a little more about the cattiness thing myself and I agree with you – there is social pressure to be catty. I was thinking it might stem from all the social pressures on women. For instance, I think we’re judged on our appearance a lot more than men are, so it’s easy to be more judgemental of each other. Your suggestion that people may unconsciously fulfill stereotypes also seems likely to me. On the bright side, I can honestly say I don’t know any women that I’d describe as catty. So from my personal experience, this seems like an outdated stereotype.

  14. Jackie

    I identify as a feminist, but I’ve never felt obligated to promote feminism on my blog. I guess I feel that my identity as such shapes the way I read and perceive a book, and perhaps that occasionally comes through on my blog, but it’s never been an “agenda” to just read female authors or books about women’s issues or even books about strong female characters (what does that even mean?!)
    Jackie recently posted…The Book that Made Me Blush | The Sisters of Versailles by Sally ChristieMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Haha, yeah, the strong female character thing is another whole discussion. It strikes me a little like the way people make a big deal when a woman is the lead in an action film. I wish female characters could be any kind of character and it shouldn’t be remarked upon as strange just because they’re a woman. At the same time, I do like “strong female characters” – women who control their own destiny, do exciting things, or take on roles it’s unusual for a female character to fill.
      DoingDewey recently posted…#FuturisticFriday Review and Giveaway: Lab GirlMy Profile

  15. Amanda

    As a woman writer, I feel a duty to promote other woman writers. Woman writers are so often overlooked in the mainstream media that I want to promo them as much as I can.

    Beyond that, I think our identities and what we care about can clearly be seen in any honest, authentic book blog. What we read reflects what we care about, as does what we choose to highlight in our reviews. Any book blog that isn’t authentic fails to hold my interest.
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    • DoingDewey

      I didn’t think about how this post might apply to female writers as well. I do think it’s important for women to support other women, especially in traditionally male dominated fields, even though I hate to say that because I don’t want to sound as though women need to be told to support each other instead of being catty.

      I agree about an authentic blogging voice being important. And, although of course my blog will evolve with me overtime, I don’t think it would be true to my desires or my blogging voice to suddenly start blogging about books just because they seem feminist.

  16. Allison @ The Book Wheel

    I love this post! Last year I read a few of the “must-reads for feminists” books and was completely underwhelmed by them, which made me feel guilty, of course. I think everyone has their own definition of feminist and everyone who is a feminist is a feminist in their own way but I completely agree – we are not required to throw our weight behind a woman simply because she is a woman (and to do so discounts everything else about them – talent, voice, work, etc., which is just as bad, in my opinion). That said, I don’t support YOU because you’re a woman, I support you because you’re talented, amazing, and a good friend. You just also happen to be a woman, so yay for that.
    Allison @ The Book Wheel recently posted…“No one can hit their target with their eyes closed.”My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I find it really interesting how many different ways of being a feminist there seem to be. To me, it’s just about women and men being equal, but it gets so complicated in practice. And awww, you’re the nicest! I support you because you’re awesome and smart and a good friend too 🙂

  17. Jennine G

    I usually end up wanting to do the opposite of what everyone is pressing. The more a topic sprouts up, the less I’m willing to join in usually. This is one of those topics. If I feel people assume I should be supporting women just because they’re women or acting feminist in whatever way they believe I should, I am very likely to do an about face. It may be done passively, but opposite just the same.
    Jennine G recently posted…March Fitness UpdateMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I feel as though that could be part of why I enjoy your blog so much. Your writing or perspective often strike me as unique in a very good way. I do personally prefer the view of feminism as fighting for women to have options, rather than fighting against women making traditional choices.

      • Jennine G

        Thank you very much. And that’s a great way to look at it – “for women to have options rather than fight against women making traditional choices.”
        Jennine G recently posted…Begin the Week with WordsMy Profile

  18. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I identify strongly as a feminist, and I’d like to think that my blog carries over that sensibility, even when I’m not in particular “promoting” feminism. But I SO agree with you that books starring women aren’t necessarily feminist — this gets lost really easily, with books for sure but also and particularly with movies and TV shows that star women. It shouldn’t be a Big Statement just to have a female protagonist! It infuriates me that it is (and then at the same time, I’m always so excited to see women in those roles). Not an easy issue to sort out!
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    • DoingDewey

      Great point! I don’t typically write posts specifically about feminism, but I do think my own feminism influences the way I read, review, and blog. I have the same mixed feelings about women seeing women in starring roles. I love it, but I hate that it’s so uncommon that I get excited about it.

  19. Melinda

    I love this post. I am a feminist, but I’ve never felt that because of that, I HAVE to support females. When it comes to my reading, I’ve never made the conscious choice to read more female authors, sometimes it just so happens that a lot of books I read are by female authors.

    What I do tend to dislike is sexism in books or books where females are portrayed as the weaker sex or generally as an old stereotype. I really enjoy books with strong female characters. Some examples are The Nightingale (WWII related, where 2 women were the heroes) as well as The Lavender Garden and The Villa Triste.

    I will continue to read books I like, female author or not. But I do feel strongly about female rights etc, but I’ve never used my blog as a platform to promote or speak out about it.

    • DoingDewey

      Thanks Melinda! I agree with you completely about disliking books where women are portrayed as fitting outdated stereotypes. Although I came down on the side of feeling I don’t have an obligation to use my blog as a feminist platform or to specifically support women authors, I do really appreciate when bloggers point out sexism (or other biases) in books. I think it helps me to read more thoughtfully and/or to avoid books that are outright offensive.

  20. Nordie @ Writing about books

    I try to consider the word “Equality” rather than “Feminism”. So everyone gets equal pay for equal work; equal access to parental leave (paternal or maternal); equal treatment for illnesses that affect all/both sexes (e.g. men get breast cancer too…..).

    Don’t use Feminism to promote some extremist view (e.g. all hetero sex is ultimately male dominance over the female form) when first things first – I want to be paid the same as that man over there who’s doing the same job as me…Once we have equality for the majority, we can look at equality for the minority.

    So anyway: for me and blogging. I read what I want to read. I promote what I read equally, no matter the sex, creed or colour of the author or characters. I don’t read purely WASP fiction (I read a reasonable amount of Asian and Indian-produced literature). If I like the sound of your book, I will read it. If I like what you produced I’ll rave about it. If I like the premise enough to try it, but end up not liking it, I will say so.

    In other words: I will read you if I want to, and I will judge you on the quality of your work, not on your naughty bits. .

    • DoingDewey

      That’s a good point about the phrase “equality” vs “feminism”. I think in relation to this post I was talking to another blogger who pointed out that we don’t typically have a word for people who are in favor of rights for a specific group. It’s the people who are in the wrong and against granting a minority rights who are labeled. I’m not sure that’s universally true, but I certainly think that should be true in this case. Either you’re a feminist – in favor of equality – or you’re a sexist and those are the only options. I know this is wasn’t you were saying, but it’s how I feel about it.

      I also think it’s a shame that feminism seems so divided. We need to accept that feminism means different things to different people and as long as everyone is working towards equality for everyone, we’re on the same side – even if someone believes having sex with men is somehow anti-feminist and I don’t 🙂

      I’m pretty sure I judge books ignoring the author’s gender as well, although I’m not sure if I’ve broken my stats down that way or not. I’ll have to try it and see if I’m biased!

  21. Nicola

    I think to say that female bloggers have an obligation to promote feminism is in itself sexist, because it holds women to a higher moral standard than men.

    However, this post got me wondering if maybe there’s an argument that all book bloggers have a moral obligation to call out sexism – and racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, etc. – when they identify it in a book, or to educate themselves on these things so they don’t unwittingly promote offensive books. On the one hand, I think that as a society, we, collectively, have an obligation to do just that, but at the same time I’m deeply uncomfortable at the notion of dictating what people should say on their personal blogs. So I’m not really sure where I stand there, but I do think any obligation to promote feminism or call out sexism is on all of society, not just women.
    Nicola recently posted…Tropes I Love and HateMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Agreed! It would really be a better question to ask if everyone has such an obligation, but I think I personally feel more of an obligation because I’m a woman. I know I personally appreciate when bloggers are aware enough to notice books that are problematic for feminist or other reasons, but I agree we each can do what we want with out little corners of the internet 🙂

  22. Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight

    I don’t think any blogger has an obligation to promote anything. Unless someone’s blog is specifically about feminism, I don’t expect them to talk about it. But this is kind of funny since I actually do have numerous posts typed and scheduled to be posted soon that are about feminism lol. It’s not because of any obligation though, it’s simply because these are things I’ve noticed, thoughts in my head that I want to share because, as you said, it’s my blog, it’s my space to talk about things I care about.

    Also, you mention that a book starring a woman doesn’t mean it’s feminist, and I wholly agree. In fact, some of the most feminist novels I’ve read had male protags. And the absolute worst, anti-feminist, I’m-ashamed-be-even-be-of-the-same-gender-as-this-character books had female protags. So I think it’s really all about how the characters are portrayed.
    Kristen @ Metaphors and Moonlight recently posted…Discussion: Why Having Different Taste in Books is a Beautiful ThingMy Profile

    • DoingDewey

      I agree with you that no bloggers have an obligation to promote any specific agenda. I mostly wrote the post around that question because I do feel a certain responsibility to use my blog for good 🙂 Like you though, when I do talk about feminist issues, it’s just because that’s what on mind at the time – and typically in a book related way, if I’m going to be posting about it here. And I definitely agree with you that it’s about how characters are portrayed.

  23. Got My Book

    As I was reading your post, I was planning to mention the Hilary thing so I was glad that you included it. I should not have to vote for someone I think will be a bad president, just because she’s a woman (speaking generally, not about her specifically). Nor should I have to promote a bad book just because it is written by a woman, or any other marginalized individual. In fact, I think that doing so is more harmful than helpful, as it increases the burden of bad opinion.

    I think our only obligation is treat people kindly. (Wouldn’t the world be a different place if we all did that?)
    Got My Book recently posted…text: 3 Blogging Conundrums: Can I Get a Little Help? [My Musings]My Profile

    • DoingDewey

      Such a good point! I don’t see the benefit of rating a book more highly just because it is by a diverse author or includes diverse characters. It’s tempting to, because I’d like to see more books like that, but I think that’s a strategy that’s likely to backfire and that also does a disservice to anyone reading my reviews. It seems like the best solution to that problem is probably to read enough diverse books that I find ones I can honestly rave about 🙂 I do always try to write even negative reviews kindly and without any author-directed snark though. Like you, I think that’s the most important thing.

  24. Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

    This is such an interesting question! Like you, I’ve sometimes felt pressured to promote “feminist” ideals, even if they don’t match my own (or don’t interest me) and it frustrates me a bit. Especially when those ideals aren’t even really feminist at all. Of course, I do believe that, as women, we should try to support each other, but I don’t think I need to actively promote feminism just because I’m a blogger and have a voice in the community. My opinions can still be my own and I can choose what’s important to me!
    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted…#BEA16 Day One Wrap-Up & Giveaway!!My Profile

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