Reviewed by Catherine Redfern
I had picked this book up from the local library and intended to begin it some time later, but after browsing the first few pages, I was hooked. This book reminds us that what happened in the 1960s-70s was a real revolution for women; and we would be fools to forget it. Susan Brownmiller wrote this book, she says, “with a sense of urgency because I could see that much of the movement’s story had already been lost or distorted.” The book is her “attempt to recapture a vivid piece of radical history that changed the world.” It seems timely; today feminism is often seen as an embarrassing, unfashionable ‘stage’ we were going through. Although first-wave feminism (suffragettes etc.) is taught to schoolchildren, everyone forgets that only 30 years ago our own, more recent, amazing revolution occurred.
The book looks at the women’s liberation movement from the inside, focussing on the personalities, the conflicts, the debates, the excitement, fervour and passion that had such an effect on the society we live in. Susan Brownmiller is an excellent writer, and she manages to capture and explain the spirit of the age very well. She doesn’t shirk away from the rifts and bitter arguments that split feminists (“We’re lucky this is a women’s movement,” said Gloria Steinem to Brownmiller, “In other movements they shoot each other.”) but records them honestly, and with humility even at her own mistakes. Although some British readers may be less interested in a book that focuses completely on the U.S. feminist movement, I found it a fascinating reminder of where we came from and how we got here. We should be very proud of our feminist revolution and history. This book will help us reclaim it.