Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism

Jennifer Baumgardener and Amy Richards
(FSG, 2005, 306 pp, RRP £6.84)

The girls behind Manifesta- the primer on third-wave lipstick feminism- are back with their guide to becoming an activist in your everyday life. Courting the kind of class privileged, consumer feminism which may make many women shudder- women are given permission to wear Nike trainers while petitioning against sweat-shop labour, for example- Baumgardner and Richards show you how to deal with what you’ve got, including contradictions, and organise for improving women’s lot; from high-school kids who form feminist clubs, to grassroots projects like Haven, where women offer up their houses and time to look after women travelling to have an abortion, to ‘dress for success’ programmes where well-off women donate suits to poor, unemployed women to wear at job interviews. The grand emphasis is on taking action now, not waiting until you are perfect, conflict free, uber-feminist (which ain’t ever gonna happen, we are have our faults and limitations). Countless in-depth profiles of self-made projects in action –at university, the workplace, and in your community- provide simple models for starting up and getting other folks involved, all whilst working within the system. The book is rounded off with a chunky appendix of US organisations and resources, a glossary of activist terms, and a peek into the diaries of the authors (which whilst attempting to show what they do is manageable, paints a portrait of a networked, financial comfortable, American-style philanthropy which is the undertone of the book itself).

Reviewed by Red Chidgey.

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