I found Radical Feminist Therapy by Bonnie Burstow in a thrift shop. I suspect it was a textbook for Women’s Studies in a college or University.
There were a couple of things I found interesting about it.
First, it’s Canadian.
Second? Well, this will take longer to explain.
I’ve talked a little about my history with feminism HERE. So, it will come as no surprise to you that my mother did not see me as a feminist warrior. However, an uncomfortable conversation in 2003 has come to mind – more than a few times – over the years. In fact, I thought of it again today, as I reached for this book.
2003 was the year of living apart from my husband, discussed in many places throughout this blog. If you need a refresher, this is the post that will most shed light on what happened. My mother was finishing up her Ph.D. that year and did a lot of work from home. Dad went to work at their business office in town. This meant, Mom and I had several hours alone in the mornings. More often than not, we’d begin the day with discussions about all sorts of things… from relationships to ghosts… from weight control to… well, you guessed it… feminism.
I can’t remember what I said. I DO remember what she said, though.
You are NO feminist.
She meant no harm. It was a statement of fact.
I had done nothing over the years to put action to words, although I believed in equal pay for equal work and voiced it. I remember saying – quite often – that men and women were equally important. Not equal, but equally important. <<< What do you think of that? I’m seriously asking.
Anyway, about what my mother said…
I felt… embarrassed, disgusted… ashamed.
I wondered how I dared to be a card-carrying woman if I couldn’t understand how important feminism was (and is).
If you checked out that earlier link of mine, you’ll know that a lot of my beliefs originated with fundamental churches. The trouble with them … especially for a woman like me… is that I’m strong. I was never a simpering wife who allowed her husband to lead. Oh, well… maybe, I tried… but I just couldn’t help myself.
Give me the reigns, dammit… you don’t know what you’re doing! I do!
So, uh, yeah. Not only was I not a good feminist. I was also not a good anti-feminist.
After that conversation with my mom, I knew I needed to rethink my position. When I saw this book, it grabbed me by the collar and shook me.
(The contents did, too!)
It reads (more than a little) like a textbook but doesn’t use overly technical language. It goes back to the basics and leads straight up to today, even though it was written in 1992.
The text inside the book is small and there’s so much crammed into 300 pages that it will take you a month to read, especially if you’re trying to absorb all it’s saying.
It’s written for professionals but I found it interesting, helpful and full of suggestions on how to translate what you learn in its pages to psychotherapy, social work and personal experiences with women. Even yourself.
As someone who has been abused, the triggering stories are all throughout this book. That’s my only caveat. Otherwise, it’s quite excellent and worth the read – even if you go slowly. Maybe even especially if you do.