Instructive anecdotes, garnered from the authors’ own experiences and those of women they’ve known, illustrate some successful tactics of feminist activists.
As they did in Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (2000), Baumgardner and Richards address women in their 20s and 30s who make up what is known as feminism’s “Third Wave.” The present work is designed to provide specific, useful answers to their questions, many originally voiced to Richards’s online “Ask Amy” column. The first chapter describes the authors’ attempt in 2002 to reinstate New York City’s recycling program: the steps they took, the mistakes they made, and the take-home lessons they learned from the experience. Subsequent chapters address, in order, high-school students, college students, women just out of school, and working women. Each begins with personal essays by the authors, usually written individually but sometimes jointly, in which they place themselves back in the milieu of the target audience. These are followed by stories about feminist activists in that demographic, describing the ways they’ve worked to bring about social change and the advice they have for others who want to do likewise. A chapter on the link between creating art and transforming culture has a fascinating account of how Eve Ensler created The Vagina Monologues in 1996 and, with the help of many others, turned the play into an amazingly successful and durable tool for raising awareness and money for feminist causes. (There were 629 productions in 2004 alone.) Many would-be feminist activists will probably be most reassured by the final chapter’s message—activism should be of you, not outside of you—and by its examples of small forms of activism in daily life. An appendix provides a substantial chapter-by-chapter resource guide listing helpful publications, organizations, Web sites, checklists, and action plans.
Less a field guide than an extended advice column, full of encouraging and friendly words.