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News & Features » January 2016 » Review: The Feminist Utopia Project, edited by Alexandra Brodsky & Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

Review: The Feminist Utopia Project, edited by Alexandra Brodsky & Rachel Kauder Nalebuff

The Feminist Press | October 13, 2015 | Reviewed by Rebecca Patis

feministutopiaproject“We want more.”

That is the simple phrase that Alexandra Brodsky and Rachel Kauder Nalebuff’s Feminist Utopia Project opens with. Comprised of speculative vignettes, poems, essays, interviews, and artwork, the contributors in this book weigh in on several topics—including but not limited to health care, education, workplace environment, sports, body image, and reproductive rights—and discuss what these topics would look like in a feminist utopian future.

One thing that I particularly liked about this book is that, although each piece is completely unique, both in terms of format and subject matter, they all share a common purpose: they all imagine a world in which women are equal in every sense of the word. Education and sports are fully inclusive. The workplace is a completely level playing ground, and does not punish women who become mothers. Women do not have to walk the streets in fear, worrying that the man they smiled at took their friendliness as an invitation for something more. Teen mothers, parents of color, LGBTQ women, women with disabilities, and families that do not conform to the “standard” model are accepted and have rights that are clearly laid out in the Constitution. All of these pieces highlight the fact that, although we have made significant progress toward gender equality, what we have now is a far cry from equal and is not something that we should be complacent with by any means. The pieces imagine a future that we should be striving toward now, because what we have now is not enough.

One piece that particularly stuck with me was an interview between the editors and professor, critic, author and television host Melissa Harris-Perry. At the beginning of the interview, Harris-Perry discusses Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” (or “I Have A Dream”) speech, and points out that although King says that he has been to the mountaintop and seen the Promised Land, he never articulates what that “Promised Land” looks like. Perry talks about how that choice to not describe the Promised Land is a meaningful choice on King’s part, one that allows each of us to imagine our own personal utopia, whether that utopia concerns racial equality, marriage equality, or gender equality.

In addition to her interpretation of this iconic speech, Harris-Perry also discussed what she thought any feminist utopia should look like. Harris-Perry argues: “A world in which nothing is wrong and there is no struggle is not a compelling human existence and isn’t particularly fulfilling . . . For me, a feminist utopia is the time when our struggles, our anxieties, our challenges to overcome are based on our human condition and not on our identity.” A utopia is not a tranquil world in which everything is happy and easy all the time, because it is through pain and personal struggle that we learn and grow as human beings. A feminist utopia is, according to Harris-Perry, a world where the problems that women must overcome are rooted in who we are, and not in the ways in which other people choose to label and identify us.

There were quite a few pieces in this collection that were difficult for me to read, in the sense that I had an extremely hard time imagining them as a reality. However, I believe that this is what the editors were going for when they put this book together. In showing us an ideal future that is completely alien to us in every way imaginable, this collection highlights just how far away we are from a truly equal society. The future that this project imagines is not for us. It is not for ourselves, or for the women who are around us at present that we are urged to fight for. Progress is slow, and the contributors make it clear that we are fighting for a future that most of us (if any of us at all) will not live to see. Rather, it is the women of future generations—our daughters, granddaughters, great-granddaughters, and so forth—that this project urges us to fight for, and to take the crucial steps now toward a future in which the various forms of inequality that are commonplace to us today are alien and unimaginable to them. This book does not deign to give us any quick or easy solutions to the problems that women are currently dealing with. What it does do, however, is invite us to dream of how things could be and proceed from there.

*

For more information, please visit The Feminist Press’s website.

The Feminist Utopia Project: Fifty-Seven Visions of a Wildly Better Future
edited by Alexandra Brodsky & Rachel Kauder Nalebuff
October 13, 2015
Trade paperback
ISBN: 9781558619005

Posted: Jan 19, 2016

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