you need to read more.
i’m not just saying that because i’m a literature major and all i do with my time is read great writing and compose shitty writing and analyze any text with which i come in contact. i know, i’m biased. but, you do need to read more.
start with some bell hooks. read feminism is for everybody. then read some alice walker. read in search of our mothers’ gardens. then some gloria anzaldua. read “speaking in tongues: a letter to third world women writers,” and then read the whole of la frontera. and read louise erdrich’s love medicine.
do you have a pen and paper? are you writing this down?
read these. you can buy a copy online from a used book seller, or you could even borrow my copy. read these and understand that not all feminists are white. read these and see that racism is real. read these and appreciate the quality of workpersonship on the pages, but do not qualify it with “for a black woman; for a chicana; for a native american; for a woman.”
read some classics. read aristotle. read socrates…well, read what plato wrote that socrates supposedly said. read jean-jacques rousseau. read sigmund freud. read brigham young. read the words of the powerful, white men and understand that some of our most celebrated minds said some incredibly messed up things about women. countries were taken over and governments were built on the foundations of these ideas. the most powerful of these governments still exist today.
i know, it seems like i’m just name-dropping. but bear with me.
read some foucault. start with the “discipline” section of discipline and punish, and then read the whole thing. then read the history of sexuality, vol. 1. i promise, it gets easier to process as you read more of it. read michel foucault and think about the changes that have taken place in the “north-western hemisphere” in the last 300 years. think about how our hospitals and schools were built to resemble prisons. learn how power produces things and, though these things may be imaginary, they have very real consequences. learn why we need a feminism that dismantles, rather than conforms.
read the queer nation manifesto. let it offend your sensibilities. let it incite you to anger. and then go to the nearest college campus and count the number of queer couples you see. count the number of incidents of queer pda. if you reach more than one or two an hour, let me know. i want to move to where you are.
read judith butler, and never stop. read about gender performativity. ponder on your own gender identification. stop performing it. i dare you.
and then read nella larsen’s passing. read all the harlem renaissance writing you can get your hands on, and think about how you read faulkner and whitman and hemingway and steinbeck but never harlem renaissance writers — especially not female ones. read passing and think about closets as metaphors. think about definitions of race and sexuality and gender, and pare them down as you examine just how painful imposed standards of normality are.
read. read everything you can get your hands on. read writers from countries other than your own. read writers of color. read queer writers. read trans* and gender-nonconforming writers. read poetry and essays and philosophy. and, for god’s sake, read women writers.
read. and listen. your brain, from now on, will always be under construction. your world will fall out from underneath you. your system of navigating through your world will fail.