Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Gloria Steinem, feminist activist and founder of Ms. magazine, has been a writer throughout her career. Most of her works have been essay-length magazine articles, and this book is a compendium of selections of those writings. It is a volume of essays that give, in various ways, insights into the experience and character of the author. Some of the essays are comic (“If Men Could Menstruate”), some are sad (“Ruth’s Song”), and others evoke horror (“The International Crime of Genital Mutilation”). Some are autobiographical (“I Was a Playboy Bunny”) and others are about public figures (“Marilyn Monroe: The Woman Who Died Too Soon”). All are told from a feminist perspective; that is, they flow out of Steinem’s conviction that women matter and that women’s needs are important. These essays are widely varied in content and focus. What they have in common is that each illustrates an aspect of Steinem’s view of the world and her commitment to women’s concerns.
The volume begins with an introduction that tells the reader something about Steinem’s feminist activism, including her work in founding Ms. magazine in 1972, at that time the only magazine editorially controlled solely by women. More than an introduction, however, this initial portion of the book is an essay in itself, whose purpose is to explain the experiences and observations that shaped the author of all the essays that follow.
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions is not a self-important, scholarly analysis of women’s issues, but instead is simply a volume of essays about very ordinary topics. This book has value precisely because it is about topics everyone can relate to, as thought about by a woman who, though famous, sees herself as ordinary, as only one of many feminists in a wide and diverse sisterhood (which also can include men).
The humor and warmth of the essays make them easy to read, yet each packs a punch that stops the reader in her or his tracks with moments of insight—or, in Ms.’s language, “clicks.” The light goes on—something new must be thought about or something old must be viewed in a new way.
The book is pro-women without being anti-men. It analyzes each subject from an unqualified female perspective, from inside a woman’s experience. It looks at women and women’s experiences with gentleness, love, and immense understanding. Reading this book could help women accept and love themselves as women, and it could help men see what few men have had the opportunity or have taken the time to see: what things look like from inside a woman’s mind.
More even than her later book, Revolution from Within, which is more self-consciously introspective and autobiographical, this book helps the reader see who Gloria Steinem is. In the process of writing about a great variety of topics, she discloses herself, and the reader can see inside the mind and heart of this woman who has been so influential in the second wave of the women’s movement.
Bibliography (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Davis, Flora. Moving the Mountain: The Women’s Movement in America Since 1960. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. This history of thirty years of the feminist movement will help the reader understand the events and issues in which Gloria Steinem has been deeply involved. Steinem is mentioned several times in the book, allowing the reader to see how her journalistic and political work has been woven in with the efforts of others.
Freeman, Jo. The Politic of Women’s Liberation. New York: David McKay, 1975. This early analysis of the women’s movement helps the reader understand how it got started, and the various factions and their emphases. Steinem’s work in founding Ms. and the National Women’s Political Caucus is described.
Henry, Sondra, and Emily Taitz. One Woman’s Power: A Biography of Gloria Steinem. Minneapolis: Dillon Press, 1987. Written for younger readers, this highly readable biography includes an afterword by Steinem herself. The book takes the reader from Steinem’s childhood through her years as a young journalist, the founding of Ms., and her political activism to the publication of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions.
Steinem, Gloria. Revolution from Within: A Book of Self-Esteem. Boston: Little, Brown, 1992. Steinem’s second book is an examination of the importance of self-esteem in women’s lives. Using the language and concepts of the self-help movements of the 1980’s and 1990’s, this book is self-revealing as well as analy-tical.
Wandersee, Winifred D. On the Move: American Women in the 1970’S. Boston: Twayne, 1988. An analysis of the feminist movement in the 1970’s from the perspective of a later time. It discusses the controversies between liberal and radical feminists, and the political strategies and events of the seventies, including Steinem’s contributions.