‘Girls & Sex,’ by Peggy Orenstein

Back in the 1980s, Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” filled the airwaves, and its colorful, sassy video rotated almost continuously on MTV. In the song, a rebellious daughter returns home “in the morning light,” having enjoyed a night of “fun,” and expresses her unwillingness to be hidden away from the world by marriage. This catchy tune was the perfect soundtrack to a time when it seemed possible to reject stale ideas about feminine propriety and celebrate a girl’s right to pleasure.

Marriage Equality Keeps on Winning

Six months ago, when Marc Solomon went to press with his new book, Winning Marriage: The Inside Story of How Same-Sex Couples Took on the Politicians and Pundits—and Won, there were 17 states with marriage equality and the movement was gaining ground at an unprecedented pace. In recounting the struggles that led to that point, Solomon, a long-time fighter for lesbian and gay marriage rights, expressed amazement at how far the country had come and how much progress had been achieved.

For Amy Poehler, Writing is Hard, Feminism Comes Naturally

You’ve probably heard the saying, “Dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Well, Amy Poehler makes comedy look easy, but her new memoir, Yes Please, nearly killed her. Or so she says at great length in the preface (aptly titled “Writing is Hard”). Anyone who has ever written anything will relate to her account of the procrastination, avoidance, psych-outs and psych-ups that went on behind the scenes in writing the book.

The Private Life and Natural Feminism of Sally Ride

When astronaut/physicist Sally Ride passed away in 2012, her obituary revealed for the first time publicly that she was a lesbian. In the recently published biography, Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space, Lynn Sherr fills out the story of this American hero, who worked tirelessly during her lifetime to encourage girls and boys to stick with their interests in science and to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Ride also fiercely guarded her privacy, because she worried that coming out would jeopardize her ability to do good in the world.

'The Secret History of Wonder Woman,’ by Jill Lepore: review

Suffering Sappho! Wonder Woman has been keeping secrets! Her double identity of Amazonian superhero disguised as secretary Diana Prince is only the beginning. If it makes your head spin to imagine a skimpily clad pop culture icon as (spoiler alert!) a close relation of feminist birth control advocate Margaret Sanger, then prepare to be dazzled by the truths revealed in historian Jill Lepore’s “The Secret History of Wonder Woman.”

'Sally Ride: America's First Woman in Space,' by Lynn Sherr: review

Americans can be hard on their heroes. We expect them to be exceptional yet bound by convention, leaders with a common touch, and super-humans who stop to sign autographs. We scrutinize their every move. They belong to us, and we take their stories personally. Sally Ride was an American hero. Even more, she was America's "sweetheart," a special category reserved for the women we love that amounts to an asterisk next to the hero status.

Novels Are Not the Only Books

IN THE FALL OF 1996, I traveled from Southern California to London to interview Jeanette Winterson for the Paris Review. I was in my mid-thirties (one year younger than the author) and had recently left a heterosexual marriage to embark on what would become my new life as a lesbian. I had been teaching Winterson's novel Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit in my college English classes since its appearance in 1985, when it catapulted Winterson onto the international stage as a serious literary figure, and so I was elated when I got this assignment.

Amy Erdman Farrell, Fat Shame—Stigma and the fat Body in American Culture: Review [PDF]

When Amy Erdman Farrell appeared on The Colbert Report in October 2009 as part of a segment in which Stephen Colbert satirically claimed to be defending the rights of fat people in a "crusade against weightism," she found herself in the unenviable position of siding with her host. "I think I might be agreeing with you, which is probably the first time ever in my life," she remarked.

Rereading Women’s Lit with “Madwoman” Sandra Gilbert

When I pulled my well-worn copy of Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s 1979 classic The Madwoman in the Attic off the shelf the other day, I found these words scrawled across a Post-it, tucked inside its pages. Not in my handwriting (most likely written by one of the many students with whom I have shared this pioneering study of 19th-century women writers), the note–with its provocative question followed by a Click!–perfectly captures the spirit of the 1980s, when Women’s Studies was in its infancy and feminist literary criticism was learning to fly.

F is for Funny, Feminist, Fey

Tina Fey isn’t afraid to throw around a few F-words in her new memoir, Bossypants. She stands up for funny women, and says to those who don’t like–or believe in the existence of–women comedians, “We don’t fucking care if you like it.” Throughout, she makes clear that she views herself as a feminist and offers witty commentary on sexism in the workplace (it’s good to be a bossypants), double standards (they’re still with us) and the boys’ club of comedy writing (they pee in cups!).
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