Books about women, by women

I honestly don’t remember why I wanted to read A HISTORY OF WOMEN’S BOXING by Malissa Smith, and it was definitely more information than I needed to know (which is not the author’s fault). Still, it was an interesting and informative work, showing that women’s boxing has been around since at least the 1700s, with bare-knuckles brawlers such as ass-driver Ann Field, who fought in the 1720s. Needless to say, women boxers suffered from mockery, sexism and a lack of support on into the 20th century — as amateur boxing associations wouldn’t accept women as members, that limited the experience they could get before turning pro. Even so by the late 20th century, women’s boxing was on a firm footing, though as bedeviled as the male sport by manipulative promoters and celebrities (Muhammed Ali’s and daughter, Smith writes, sucked a lot of attention away from better boxers). There are several interesting profiles in here, such as Barbara Buttrick, a 4′ 11″ Brit who became known as the Mighty Atom when she was boxing in the US in the 1950s. I sooo want her to be a superhero on the side.

ASKING FOR IT: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture — and What We Can Do About It, by Kate Harding, does an excellent job covering its subject. Chapters deal with the fear of false rape charges, the desire to blame the victim (“Even if both parties are drunk, so what? We don’t excuse a drunk driver because the person they hit and killed was drunk too.”), persistent failures in investigating and prosecuting rape (cops are often quick to conclude there’s nothing to investigate) and the assumption the victim should have done something different like pack heat or take self-defense courses (as she points out, one woman wound up with a three-year sentence for firing a warning shot at her attacking husband). Harding predicts in her intro that events will outstrip her book and she’s right. She celebrates the then-new Title IX protections for rape victims and now Betsy DeVos (who says she has no idea whether there are more fake rape accusations than true ones) is dismantling them; that Harvey Weinstein was a major figure in the push to let Roman Polanski return to the US without being imprisoned for rape has more significance now than it would have then.  Despite that, it’s still a very strong book on the subject.

When I first read THE BEAUTY MYTH: How Images of Beauty Are Used Against Women, by Naomi Wolf, I found it both brilliant and frustrating; rereading it, I felt the same. The frustrating part is that in showing the overpowering effect of beauty on women’s lives, Wolf strains and interprets facts more drastically than they deserve (her arguments about Beauty as Religion just don’t work for me). But enough of her analysis hits home I’m glad I reread it. For example, discussing how women have been fired for looking too sexy, not looking sexy, wearing too much makeup, not wearing makeup, looking feminine and not looking feminine — there’s simply no rule that can guarantee she looks “right.” And the constant emphasis on beauty in society leaves women vulnerable to doubt and insecurity (e.g., “Yes, you’ve put on weight, but I think you’re incredibly sexy” doesn’t go over well … er, not that I’ve ever said anything like that) to say nothing of the added expense looking attractive requires (even earning the same salary as men, the makeup and fashion expenses will cut into it). Despite its flaws worth reading.

#SFWApro. 1912 photo shows Fraulein Kussin and Mrs. Edwards boxing. Public domain, courtesy of wikimedia.

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Filed under Reading, Undead Sexist Cliches: The Book

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