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Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future Paperback – October 4, 2000

4 out of 5 stars 36 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Two youthful alumnae of Ms. magazine present not a manifesto, but a talky defense of contemporary feminism, directed in part at disappointed Second Wave foremothers. Arguing that feminism is already all around us, the heart of the book is a long, unbridled paean to tough and sexy "girlie culture," as represented by Xena, Ally McBeal, the Spice Girls and little girls wearing Mia Hamm jerseys. Sporting green nail polish and Hello Kitty lunchboxes isn't infantile, the authors declare, but a "nod to our joyous youth." At the same time, they caution young women not to stop and rest on the success of cultural feminism, but to develop political lives and awareness. The book suffers mightily from its determined evenhandedness; Baumgardner and Richards typically temper any negative comments with an immediate positive note, and vice versa. Whether this feminist duo's ambivalence reflects schisms in the movement, their own fear of offending other feminists or simply the awkwardness of joint authorship, the result is shallow, both as a critique and a call to arms. Analysis of the few Third Wavers who are already visible in the media ought to have been surefire; instead, the chapter "Who's Afraid of Katie Roiphe?" comes too late (after 200-odd pages) and is too tame and indecisiveAthe authors pointedly clamp down on their own irritation with Roiphe, referring to her simply as a "controversial" figure among left-wing feminists. Fewer history lessons and more pique might have given this book more force. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Baumgardner and Richards, two writers with Ms. affiliations, start their analysis of U.S. feminism with a wonderful assumption: that "girl culture," from women rock stars and athletes to female entrepreneurs and inventors, have become an integral part of the national psyche. Thanks to Second Wave feminist agitators, today's young womenDthose who grew up believing that they could be anything they wanted to beDhave unprecedented opportunities. Now, as responsibility for women's liberation falls to them, decisions about goals, strategies, and direction have to be made. Manifesta, which is far less shrill than the name suggests, urges young women to pick up where their mothers, aunts, and adult mentors left off. Their challenge? To fulfill feminism's promise of justice, equality, and sexual freedom for all. Complete with appendixes to teach novices the nuts-and-bolts of community organizing, this book is a reasoned and passionate call to action and an exciting how-to guide for both burgeoning and seasoned Third Wave feminists. Recommended for all high school, college, and public libraries.DEleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (October 4, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374526222
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374526221
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (36 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,367,060 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Perhaps my problem with the book came from the fact that it was written by two people working together, which probably contributed to its uneven tone. Jennifer and Amy (as they call themselves) try to encompass quite a bit of description and critique of certain youth-oriented trends in feminism, and sometimes it falls apart by the sheer width of their scope. And even though they continually point out that they are members of the Third Wave, the younger wave of feminist women, sometimes they seem strangely removed from the ideas that they purport to describe. For instance, they feel obliged to dismiss Girlie feminists as ineffectual, when this brand of feminism probably attracts more young people to the movement than any other. They were also dismissive to the huge contributions that Third Wavers have made to incorporating men to the cause. On the other hand, they were particularly adept at dismantling some of the myths that are commonly believed about feminism, which is a valuable task for anyone, Second or Third Wave. It's worth reading, but don't accept it as encompassing as a manifesta should be. Even the authors ask this of the reader.
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Format: Paperback
(This review was not actually written by Anthony Schmitz. I'm Anna Schmitz, his 15-year-old daughter.)

I suppose this book had good intentions. The writers seem smart, and the book probably rings true for their select group of dinner party friends (young, urban, in the media business). However, the research is shoddy, the authors' arguments often become long-winded whining, and the arguments themselves are occasionally absurd.

It's unclear whether the authors simply grew bored of their book, or if a deadline was rapidly approaching, or if research was unavailable, but too often the authors rely on "according-to-my-friend-Jane" in lieu of actual research. In an actual quote from the book, in an argument for Take Back the Night, Baumgardner and Richards assure you that Take Back the Night remains important because "Jennifer Gottesman, a junior at Barnard College, confirmed that her college's Take Back the Night rally and march are the most important political events on campus." Say no more! If Jennifer thinks Take Back the Night is the most important event on campus, it surely is.

However, even this she-said research is often overshadowed by the authors' whining about their lack of importance in the eyes of Second Wave feminists. As important as it is to feel approval, it seems that the best way to gain it would be to carve out one's one niche instead on relying on older feminists to advance concerns that they may not fully understand. The authors complain about feeling patronized and disrespected by Second Wavers, about not being invited to speak at panels, and although these concerns are legitimate, it's not hard to see where Second Wavers are coming from when reading "Letter to an Older Feminist". The letter is patronizing and petty.
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Format: Paperback
This book does an excellent job of evaluating the feminist movement from an insider's perspective. However many of the threads involve women who work either in the movement or live in a liberal cultural environment. I am disappointed though that it doesn't address what I see as an important current problem: why does feminism fail to connect with a large percentage of women who are reluctant to identify themselves as feminist. Until the voices/minds of the apparently apathetic nurse/beautician/receptionist and "annoying dissentors" etc are explored (and considered "valid" not just "unliberated") I am afraid that feminism will remain in its ivory tower and not as effective as it should be, perhaps hijacked from the "ordinary" "unliberated" plebs. These women vote. (Why would a women's shelter volunteer be put off by her women's studies class?) The authors didn't explore why many women (and potentially supportive men) are totally put off by their women's studies class and never want to be associated with the feminist label after that. Where does an orthodox Jewish women fit into this picture. Is she just too stupid to know she's oppressed since she doesn't share the "agenda". What does she think? I haven't found a book who's interviews explore these marginalized, "unliberated" women's perspective with respect. The attitude of "support our troops" (feminist or otherwise) seems to pervade our society.
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Format: Paperback
I was raised from the ages of four to thirteen by some dianic, pro-communistic, ass kicking women. However, I was pretty stifled as a child about what I could or could not wear, whether I could experiment with "girly" things, or even if I could have my hair long. My grandma even made my barbies lesbians. She told me I could not join the Girl Scouts because they were Nazi's.When I left my house at age thirteen, I was a hardcore feminist that believed makeup was a kick in the shins to strong women everywhere, and that dresses were for sissies. I slowly started moving out of that shell around ages fourteen to fifteen, experimenting first with eyeshadow and then moving up to dresses and boys. I realized my feminism isn't downplayed by my feminine wiles and that yes, I could wear a dress and kick ass at the same time. I even came to the theory that capitalism isn't half bad, but mixed economy is still probably better.

However, there are not many books out there for Feminists my age (ages 25 and under). Sure, there are Zines, but for my sisters and brothers that are not technologically efficient, its pretty hard to network, especially in smaller towns. So when I saw this book at my local Women's Center, I had to pick it up and read it. The women who wrote the book are my sisters' ages (early thirties), but they had a lot of wisdom to bestow upon the younger ages, and say that feminism is NOT dead. Women are still undervalued in this society, and the sexes have yet to become equal without the stigmas attached to both disappearing. I loved the pieces about Kathleen Hanna, nail polish, and riot grrls, myself growing up as one during my stint as a teen of the nineties.
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