The Feminist Bookclub Paris at Shakespeare and Company
The Feminist Bookclub (FBC) Paris gets together once a month to discuss literary projects, written by diverse female authors, that elevate the status of women. It aims to shed a light on feminism that is representative and inclusive by reading, listening and discovering as a group. No subject is off the table: so far it has already tackled porn, raising feminist children, sex work, education rights, queer culture, trans identities, motherhood and beauty shackles. Here is a selection of the books discussed so far.
Feminist debates about sex work can quickly homogenize the profession and get stuck on the same question: is it inherently harmful to women? It is clear to us that legalizing sex work and listening to all sex workers will help us to understand their needs and demands. This allows for the safest possible working conditions thus minimizing the exploitation that is rife within the industry.
Sex Work Matters contains chapters written by sex workers, scholars and activists, to explore the economical and sociological aspects of sex work. Sex workers share insights on how they handle the financial aspect of their job, as well as managing intimate relationships with all the stigma surrounding their work and the daily harassment from police. Offering case studies from all corners of the world, Sex Work Matters is a worthy contribution to literature on sex-worker rights.
Motherhood by Sheila Heti
Motherhood is one 30-something woman’s quest to decide whether or not to have a biological child before it’s no longer an option – but it is not the confessional, anguished cry for help one might expect. Motherhood is not a polemic; it is intensely personal, but pinpoints a subject of universal interest to both women and men.
Heti’s narrator’s back and forth indecision results in some uncomfortably astute observations about parental behaviour, sentimentality, societal approaches to women’s value, and womanhood itself. Heti’s trademark intellectual, wry voice treats motherhood as an object of close personal inquiry, and she succeeds in highlighting truths that many people would rather ignore – such as the fact that people sometimes become parents for bad reasons, and the fact that there are legitimate reasons why couples without children might feel totally alienated from their friends who do have children. Heti identifies all of the small thoughts that niggle and make us uncomfortable – and then prods around until she names exactly what the problem is. At the very least, it’s a book full of wisdom from lessons lived and learned.
King Kong Theory by Virginie Despentes
King Kong Theory is a one of a kind manifesto, punctuated with raw frankness, that serves up some hard to swallow truths about gender. Using her own story as a self proclaimed « non conforming woman », the French writer, novelist and filmmaker Virginie Despentes deconstructs the binary categorization of male and female identities in an accessible way that will drag you out of your comfort zone nonetheless.
This collection of personal essays highlights the performative aspect of assigned gender roles – masculinity and femininity is one big performance act – a topic that the great Judith Butler explores in more detail in Gender Trouble (1990). A thought-provoking book that highlights the extent to which women’s bodies are appropriated by the patriarchal State, resulting in their political, economic and sexual subjugation.
The Power by Naomi Alderman
What if, someday, women acquired an ability that gave them physical superiority over men? What would they do? What would YOU do? This novel by Naomi Alderman raised some uncomfortable questions. How does power influence gender-roles? Is patriarchy just about physical strength? We followed a group of characters through this dramatic change and mostly discussed their reactions to this newfound power, and compared that with our own perceptions of power. It was destabilizing: based on everyone’s personal experiences, certain scenarios in the book left us uncomfortable, others felt satisfying but generally speaking it was a mix of both.
The FBC Paris meets every 3rd Sunday of the month from 18h30 to 20h30 (free) in the upstairs library at Shakespeare and Company. To sign up for the Feminist Book Club and find out which titles will be discussed, click here.
For more information on workshops and bookclubs held at Shakespeare and Company, please visit our website.