Books for International Women’s Day 2011

Today is INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY, an annual event held throughout the world aiming to inspire women and celebrate their achievements. Whether it’s Georgian history, Middle Eastern politics or feminist theory, Yale University Press offers a wealth of books on contemporary women’s studies, feminism and women’s history.  Here is a small selection of books that aim to educate and celebrate how women have shaped the world and continue to do so…

Sexual Personae
Art and Decadence from Nefertiti to Emily Dickinson
by Camille Paglia

Is Emily Dickinson “the female Sade”? Is Donatello’s David a bit of paedophile pornography? What is the secret kinship between Byron and Elvis Presley, between the Medusa and Madonna? How do liberals and feminists – as well as conservatives – fatally misread human nature? This audacious and omnivorously learned work of guerilla scholarship offers nothing less than a unified-field theory of Western culture, high and low, since the Egyptians invented beauty – making a persuasive case for all art as a pagan battleground between male and female, form and chaos, civilisation and demonic nature.

Butterfly’s Sisters
The Geisha in Western Culture
by Yoko Kawaguchi

In this fascinating and wide-ranging book, Yoko Kawaguchi explores the Western portrayal of Japanese women – and geishas in particular – from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. She argues that in the West, Japanese women have come to embody certain ideas about feminine sexuality, and she analyzes how these ideas have been expressed in diverse art forms, ranging from fiction and opera to the visual arts and music videos. Among the many works Kawaguchi discusses are the art criticism of Baudelaire and Huysmans, the opera Madama Butterfly, the sculptures of Rodin, the Broadway play Teahouse of the August Moon, and the international best seller Memoirs of a Geisha. “Butterfly’s Sisters” also examines the impact on early twentieth-century theatre, drama, and dance theory of the performance styles of the actresses Madame Hanako and Sadayakko, both formerly geishas.

The Corset
A Cultural History
by Valerie Steele

An essential element of fashionable dress from the Renaissance into the twentieth century, the corset has been viewed not only as an object of eroticism but also as an instrument of torture and subjugation. This lavishly illustrated book explores the cultural history of the corset. Named one of the Best of the Year 2001 by the Toronto Globe & Mail. Selected for inclusion in the Books to Remember list by the New York Public Library. Winner of the 2002 Milia Davenport Publication Award sponsored by the Costume Society of America.

A Quiet Revolution
The Veil’s Resurgence from the Middle East to America
by Leila Ahmed

In Cairo in the 1940s, Leila Ahmed was raised by a generation of women who never dressed in the veils and headscarves their mothers and grandmothers had worn. To them, these coverings seemed irrelevant to both modern life and Islamic piety. Today, however, the majority of Muslim women throughout the Islamic world again wear the veil. Why, Ahmed asks, did this change take root so swiftly, and what does this shift mean for women, Islam, and the West? Richly insightful, intricately drawn, and passionately argued, this absorbing story of the veil’s resurgence, from Egypt through Saudi Arabia and into the West, suggests a dramatically new portrait of contemporary Islam.

The Gentleman’s Daughter
Women’s Lives in Georgian England
by Amanda Vickery

Eighteenth-century women have long been presented as the heroines of traditional biographies, or as the faceless victims of vast historical processes, but rarely have they been deemed worthy of rigorous historical enquiry. Based on a close examination of letters, diaries and account books, this study offers an insight into the intimate and everyday lives of genteel women and transforms our understanding of the position of women in this period.

Women, Work, and Politics
The Political Economy of Gender Inequality
by Torben Iversen, Frances Rosenbluth

Looking at women’s power in the home, in the workplace, and in politics from a political economy perspective, Torben Iversen and Frances Rosenbluth demonstrate that equality is tied to demand for women’s labour outside the home, which is a function of structural, political, and institutional conditions. They go on to explain several anomalies of modern gender politics: why women vote differently from men; why women are better represented in the work force in the United States than in other countries but less well represented in politics; why men share more of the household work in some countries than in others; and why some countries have such low fertility rates. The first book to integrate the micro-level of families with the macro-level of national institutions, “Women, Work, and Politics” presents an original and groundbreaking approach to gender inequality.

The Madwoman in the Attic
The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-century Literacy Imagination
by Sandra M. Gilbert, Susan Gubar

In this work of feminist literary criticism the authors explore the works of many major 19th-century women writers. They chart a tangible desire expressed for freedom from the restraints of a confining patriarchal society and trace a distinctive female literary tradition.

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Are there any books on women’s studies you would like to recommend?

Links

Official International women’s Day Website: http://www.internationalwomensday.com/default.asp
Yale Books on Women’s Studies: www.yalebooks.co.uk
The Fawcett Society: http://www.fawcettsociety.org.uk/
The F-Word blog: http://www.thefword.org.uk/blog/

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