Review: Spinning and Weaving: Radical Feminism for the Twenty-first Century
By Spider Redgold
Spinning and Weaving is a big book; I think it will become an important book. Elizabeth Miller, the Contributing Editor, has gathered writing from over thirty-five radical feminists who are active now. These are new writings on radical feminism. We are all used to being referred to the still accurate and incisive writings from the last decades of last century, the second wave, but these are new writings from this century. It is exactly what the subtitle promises, radical feminism for the twenty-first century.
The contributor list is impressive. Some names from the second wave and names of current popular activists and thinkers, and an occasional YouTube star. Some have survived the cancel culture that cost them their social lives and livelihoods. Some are already known for their writings, while others for their art, music, or direct actions.
Miller says, "Radical feminist political theory as a blueprint for helping women achieve our liberation from patriarchy is necessary." This book is categorised into the major issues in the current foreground of radical feminism. Seasoned feminists and recent explorers can dip into a section of interest and find viewpoints from across the planet and from women and lesbians of colour as well as the standard white academics. I found a satisfying weight of non-academic women writing for this book. A delightful aspect of the book is that I can read opinions of women of colour, women whose first language is not English, and women from the southern hemisphere alongside the North American voices.
This is a bold book. The sections address intersectionality, pornography, prostitution, lesbianism, women's sexuality, and the transgender agenda. There are writers represented who disagree with each other on some aspects of radical feminist theory and practice. This anthology represents speakers from opposite positions on butchness. Radical feminist theory is not set in stone, it is a tough and winding road to develop radical feminist theory and there are robust debates between radical feminists. This book does not focus on those debates. It is more outward looking. The contributors present contemporary radical feminist theories of the external world to assist readers in grasping that the values disseminated by patriarchy do not favour women, and that there exists a coherent, rational, exciting realm of thought and analysis that is logical and will withstand all blades and arrows hurled by misogyny.
Linda Bellos, who wrote a chapter for the book entitled “Against a Hierarchy of Oppressions,” says "I cannot write about contemporary radical feminist theory without addressing the current argument about trans politics, because it is not possible to meet another feminist without our meetings being sabotaged rather like the KKK disrupted meetings of Black activists fighting oppression.” This book manages to address radical feminist theory beyond discussing trans. The discussion is ex-centric, it reaches out from the centre of our theory. The contributors have the privilege to write without defensiveness, with the expectation of radical feminist readers who read with interest. This is not the experience of radical feminists who dive into discourse through social media and the challenges of these communication channels is addressed directly by Fain, the creator of www.spinster.xyz, in her chapter entitled “A Chatroom of Our Own: Building Online Spaces by and For Women in the Era of Big Tech Censorship.”
I can't review the physicality of the book because I am reading digital files. This is sad for me because I love a new print book. Of course, I love an old book too. The smoothness of a new cover, opening it with heightened fingertips to ensure full opening without splitting the spine. Luxuriating in the first touch of the inner paper pages flicking over my thumb skin as a I test the spring and bendiness of the chapters slipping past. Readers will be able to explore the tactile and aromatic sensuality of a new book as it will be available in print. Assessing the weightiness of this book cannot just be on the physicality, it is the contents, and the rippling impact of new and old theories colliding. So many writers in this big book, surely it is a thick book but not one that needs to be read in page order from front to back. Is it a bedtime read, or after lunch in the garden? These essays can be dipped into, sometimes a paragraph is enough, sometimes the paragraph tantalises the reader in to staying for a whole chapter and the decision to return quickly for the next tantalising way of seeing.
The title suggested more connection to the women's spirituality movement than is present in the book. The elephant in the room is the ideological awkwardness in the international radical feminist community between the goddess women and the materialist feminists. There are strong radical feminists in both camps. Paley, Menasche, Verrall and Gerlich mention spirituality or spiritual needs only in passing but this book does not address through theory the apparent disconnect between these groups of radical feminists. Personally, I wish it had. That personal wish does not reduce my enjoyment of what the book is, and what it offers.
There is a flurry of radical feminist texts being released this year. It feels like this year is the beginning of a resurgence of resistance. A few warriors have been holding the line for decades and now women are ready to push forward, reclaim what has been lost and spiral onward. Rebellion without theory does not promise sustainable progress. This book offers theory to feed our hopes for a sustainable radical feminist future.