Monday, November 7, 2011

APW Book club: How to be a woman

This weekend I was in  Antwerp for the Benelux APW book club meetup . It was Fiona and me. We went for lunch to Le Pain Quotidien (again) , it has to  my favorite place for lunch and breakfast. You know, organic everything and delicious bread, tartines cakes, quiches, meringue, homemade jam and all kind of oven delicious things , anyway I digress.
 About the book:
1- What we found the most relevant was how the book is inciting women to reclaim the word feminism and fight for it again. As in this fragment:

"We need to reclaim the word 'feminism.' We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminists—and only 42 precent of British women—I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue,' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?"

We discussed, how in my case, having a mexican background, I am guilty. I was until recently scared to align myself as a feminist because of fear of all those negative connotations associated with the word. Even though of course I was clearly spoiled with all the benefits of feminism and probably took all those things for granted. Sure I was always interested in reading about girls in history, Simone de Beauvoire, etc, but I would not say it out loud. Fiona is an anthropologist and she even had the chance to take classes on gender during her studies, so she would always consider herself one, though it was still a shock to see those figures, mentioned in the book. All this is probably better summarized in her discussions with Lady Gaga:

"We had concluded that it was odd most women shy away from declaring feminists , because it really doesn't mean man-hating". "I am a feminist because I believe in woman's rights and protecting who we are , down to the core" .

And then this :

"... It doesn't need to be a `man vs woman´ thing. It's just a tiff between The Guys. Seeing the whole world as 'The Guys' is important. The idea that we're all, at the end of the day, just a bunch of well meaning schlumps, trying to get along, is the basic alpha and omega of my world view. I'm neither 'pro-women' nor 'anti-men'. I'm just 'Thumbs up for the six billion'. Because I don't think that 'men'/maleness/male sexuality is the problem here. I don't think sexism is a 'man vs woman' thing."

2 -We also talked about how to balance a career with a family , when the kids come. We talked about how society has changed, how it is in a way a "western" problem since in other societies or in previous generations the community or tribes or extended family help with the care of kids. We discussed how there is a whole spectrum of possible solutions, if one of the partners can work from home, or part time, or take some days off a week, and of course, how if your close family is near, then that can make a big difference. We also shortly talked about the article "All the single ladies" by Kate Bolick that I read thanks to Zan who talks about it here.
"Ladies!, Being a woman is ... very, very, very expensive. Tampons, hairdressers, childcare, beauty aids, women's shoes being three times more costly than men's - the combination of the things we need (Lil-lets) combined with the things we feel naked without (proper haircut) is already ruinous. And that's before we factor in both women earning 30 per cent less than men and being the ones who usually have to watch their career go all -titanic when the question of  'Who will look after the kids?' raises its head. "

3- And then, well we talked about how funny the book is, how it had us laughing all the way, specially the parts about getting a bra that fits properly and how it can change your life haha and about how her whole experience with high heels reflects ours (I find them pretty but I can not really walk graciously no matter how hard I try).

"I've spent my whole life in trainers, or boots but it's very clear that if I am to properly make a go of my twenties, I will just have to go out and get some heels. The women's magazines I read are all unequivocal about heels:they are a non-negotiable part of being a woman, along with the potential to lactate and the XX chromosome. Women are supposed to adore heels more than they adore their own bodies or thoughts. They're also supposed to have a great many more shoes than body or thoughts. Unlike your thoughts of revolution, you just can't have too many shoes. .... Ladies I'm going to say what I have gradually realised and what we all secretly knew anyway the first time we put heels on: that there's only ten people in the world, tops, who should actually wear heels. And six of those are drag queens. The rest  of us need to... give up. Surrender. Finally acquiesce to what nature is telling us. We can't walk in them. We might just as well be stepping out in anti-gravity boots... "

And well... I guessed we talked more...about more subjects, like weddings, and boys, and pop culture,  and the fantasy world in every girl's head.  Much in the same way that Amelie imagines all those possible scenarios happening to the boy of her dreams. Mostly it was great to meet another APW girl live and in person , and well, Antwerp is a really nice city :)
Post edit: If you want more, you can read the whole online discussion of the book at A practical wedding here. And if you want a sneak peak of the book club meetings all over the world, and snippets of the conversation go here. Finally, here is a post that really strung my cords, about combining career aspirations with actually enjoying being a homemaker and, new term, homeworking. Or in Meg's words: "about a complex internal battle: wanting to stay home and be her family's primary care giver, but also feeling a responsibility to go out and do things in the world."


  1. Hola,

    tengo dos días con el post abierto porque quería leerlo con calma. Ya por fin lo logré y me encanta la idea del libro y de su conversación, cómo extraño esas conversaciones jaja. En fin, la cuestión del feminismo como concepto negativo, creo, ha sido culpa del extremismo que en todos los casos termina por acabar con lo positivo de los pensamientos.

  2. I really hope next time I can make it too! Uh.. Oh, right. You don't know, but I've been visiting your blog occasionally, and I really enjoy it and the idea of joining and APW-event makes me all excited.

    Here's to hoping next time I'm not so swamped in wedding-prep and deadlines that I'll have time to order and read the book, travel to wherever you people meet and hang out with you :)

    That is.. assuming you join in again, next time. Will you?

  3. Yes, took me long to read it all, too. :) I kept being interrupted (oh these guys I work with!!)...

    Thank you for taking the time to share this. I'm definitely curious about the book.

    You know that I know a bunch of guys that sacrificed their work in order to have time for the kids and to support their wife's career? Thank God, minds are changing.

  4. @ Zarawitta, si definitivamente el extremismo hacia cualquier lado solo trae consecuencias negativas. Pero estas conversaciones son necesarias, yo lo daba por sentado, al menos en parte, pero si queremos cambios, a luchar por ellos !

    @thesmittenimmigrant, so happy to see you here. I think I also visited your blog once or twice before. It loks very familiar. And I would be so excited for a meetup again, so, there will be a next time for sure . And the great thing about Europe is that it is quite easy to move around. Thanks for reading and good luck and energy with the wedding preparations. So hopefully, meet you sometime :)

    @ Ines, yup, the book is worth it, very british, and I do not necessarily agree with every single word, but it definitely is thought provoking and an eye opener and for that it-s worth it. And yeah, it is great that minds are changing, actually the boy says if I had the career, he would not mind working from home or being a stay at home dad so to say.

  5. That's sweet :) I know mine would too. Well, he already sacrifices too much for me to have some sort of a career...


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