I’m an avid reader. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved books. I’m also an avid promoter of all things grrly and feminist. I’m currently in the middle of an incredible non-fiction book about all things woman, and it inspired me to do several posts about my favorite female-centered books (by and for women; but men, you should definitely read them too!).
So here’s your first book review/introduction!
Gurlesque: the new grrly, grotesque, burlesque politics (poems and artwork by a variety of women, compiled and introduced by editors Lara Glenum and Arielle Greenberg).
This book completely changed my life, both personally and in regards to my writing. I’d always been interested in gender studies and feminism, but it wasn’t until I engulfed myself in this incredible collection that I realized I could merge my poetry with gender/stereotypes/inequality/femininity/sexuality/etc. I realized that I could charge my words with an electric current of feminism – in whatever form or style I wanted. I could be ferocious or seductive; I could play coy or innocent. I could make statements and challenge ideas. I could play into stereotypes and make them implode messily. The female writers and artists in this anthology are my literary sisters – it didn’t take me long to realize that I too was a member of the Gurlesque movement.
Speaking of which, here’s an excerpt from Arielle Greenberg’s intro describing, in her words, what the Gurlesque is:
The Gurelsque was born…in Burma and Ohio and Korea and New York and Olympia, WA and other places. Her ancestor was Ophelia, running around singing spooky songs with her hair all drippy. Her grandmother was Alice in Wonderland and Eloise and Ramona the Pest. Her mom was a Second Wave feminist and a hippie and a lady who had never been to a consciousness-raising group but sometimes watched Maude and an immigrant and a farmwife and a former Girl Scout…Her aunts were Angela Davis and Nan Goldin and Hello Kitty and the Guerilla Girls and Dolly Parton and Exene Cervenka and Cindy Sherman and Poly Styrene, the fifteen-year-old multiracial girl with braces on her teeth screaming “Some people say little girls should be seen and not heard, but I say: Oh, bondage, up yours!” as she fronted the band the X-Ray Spex in a 1977 punk club. (The Gurlesque, 1)
Every time I read that description I get the most wonderful sort of shivers. It makes me eager to start writing, eager to call up my girlfriends, and proud to be a woman.
The Gurlesque – whether in regards to poetry, music, art, or lifestyle - is quirky, unapologetic, controversial, beautiful and at times even repulsive. And the women who represent it, write about it, and live it are all of these things and more. They – I should say we - are little girls in pink tutus and seductive women in black lace; we are stuffed animals and fishnet stockings; we are rainbow glitter and birth control. This movement and this book are about innocence and lust, pain and pleasure—female sexuality in all its chaos. From Gurlesque poets like Glenum, Greenberg, Chelsey Minnis, and Nada Gordon, to artists like Lauren Kalman, Lady Aiko, E.V. Day, and Hope Atherton, to musicians like the women involved in the earlier and inspirational Riot Grrl movement and modern musicians (perhaps Lady Gaga, Sky Ferreira) the women of the Gurlesque are as special and as varied as their creative works. But through writing, singing, blogging, drawing, sculpting, etc., they all explore modern femininity and what it means to be a female in today’s society.
Whew! It sounds amazing doesn’t it? It really, truly is. I strongly urge every woman to pick up a copy of The Gurlesque. The poetry and photography are inspiring, disturbing, and eye-opening. Every woman owes it to herself to at least learn about the Gurlesque movement
It might seem strange or even frightening at first, but trust me – the Gurlesque can change your life in a lot of crazy amazing ways.
As Greenberg says at the end of her introduction, “Take the girly. Shake it up. Make a milkshake. Make it throw up.” Let go of your inhibitions, your fears, and your insecurities. Grab your stilettos, your tiara, your blue jeans or whatever the hell you want and READ THIS BOOK!
(And stay posted – my poem this week will be inspired by these writers and artists, and there will be several more book reviews in the coming weeks!)