Feb 18, 2013

100 Books by (White) Women Everyone Must Read

Inspired by For Harriet's list of 100 Books by Black Women Everyone Must Read, I have compiled a complimentary list of books written by white women. The colour of their skin, however, was less important to me than the fact that they are and were women whose names are mostly unknown. This is because only very few female authors received important literary prizes in the past, and because even today most authors featured in popular book recommendation lists are male. By offering this very subjective list of books written by European and American women, I am hoping to add a few names to those that come to mind when you think of great female writers. There could have been many more featured on the list. If you miss someone, please feel free to leave your own recommendation in the comment section.   
As to the list itself: The authors are sorted by surname, not importance. I have consciously decided not to link to online shops but to the authors' Wikipedia pages instead (regarding the four cases I couldn't because there was no article yet - is anyone up for writing them?). Personally, I like to support small local bookshops by stopping by and ordering my literature through them. If you spot a mistake or can provide me with any of the first sentences that are still missing - great, let me know!
And now, finally, please follow the jump for the 100 Books By White Women Everyone Must Read!

Feb 8, 2013

Why Kino MacGregor's Choice of Clothing Isn't Feminist (but a Feminist Issue)

Mad skills: Kino's got Ashtanga Yoga figured out for sure! Photo via KinoYoga.com.
Three days ago, Ashtanga Yoga wild child Kino MacGregor published a long piece on her prominent role within the traditionally very low key Ashtanga Yoga lineage of teachers. Confessions of a loved & hated Ashtangi is a reaction on all sorts of criticism Kino has been subject to. Amongst other things, some people take offense at the (little) clothing Kino wears, both during her practice and in her promotion material. Sick of continuously having to defend herself, Kino lists a bunch of reasons for her choice. Surprisingly to me, besides Miami's hot weather and skin-on-skin friction in arm balances, Kino credits feminism for her breezy Yoga wear:

"I’m not going to apologize for my choice in clothes, whether they are too small, skimpy, bright or whatever. At the risk of sounding callous and elitist, I think the discussion about telling women to cover their bodies lest they offend or stimulate someone’s sexual desire belongs to a by-gone era, not the year 2013. The men’s traditional yoga gear is a loin cloth that barely covers anything. [...]
If you don’t like shorts, don’t wear them. If you don’t like seeing my wear shorts, don’t watch. My freedom of choice is rooted in the history of women who gave their heart and soul to feminism so that I could vote, wear mini-skirts and tiny shorts, burn my bras, go to college, pursue any career that I am qualified to do, lift up into handstand and marry whomever I want freely. I will not betray the heart and soul of feminism to appease anyone’s else’s discomfort with my skin." (Source)

Kino MacGregor by John Miller. Via
Interesting. I've actually been wondering about the appropriate attire for my own Ashtanga practice for a while now. Wondering, as I'm a little torn. There's a lot of sweat involved, but does that make half-naked my only option? Obviously not.

Some of you might remember a German language piece I wrote last year. Loosely translated, I called it 'Why Looking Slutty Is NOT Hot'. I had written it on the occasion of my first - and probably last - Berlin SlutWalk. My point was that young women shouldn't mindlessly put on immobilizing outfits. Instead, the clothes we wear should make us feel comfortable, free and safe. Young girls who do not need or want to prostitute themselves should go for a shoe and leg wear combination that will allow for running away if worse comes to worst. While no kind of clothing legitimizes assault or sexual harassment, and as sad as my proposition sounds, we must protect ourselves.

Traditional, yet somewhat inappropriate: Guruji Sri K. Pattabhi Jois in his Calvin Klein briefs. Via
Now, generally, no one needs to flee a Mysore room. That is, unless from very smelly fellow practitioners.  Eew! And, following Kino's reasoning, I can see how Miami is one endless urban beach. And even though I do understand that long leggings and possibly even sleeves are counterproductive to building up actual core strength, I have issues with the better part of Kino's rationale.

For example, I do not see the point of men practicing Ashtanga Yoga in their underpants. Short pants, yes, but briefs? Like most anything, the appropriateness of clothing - or the lack of it - depends on its context. Underpants are for bedrooms, night swims, protests and muddy festivals. As are bare chests. And just because some men see nothing wrong with exhibiting their belly hair - or, yes, hard abs - to anyone who does or doesn't want to watch, equality in the feminist sense doesn't mean us women have to do likewise.

While short shorts and sleeveless tops might bear advantages in a few poses, there's no necessity for  belly tops or deep necklines. Sportswear manufacturers, of course, hardly ever get that. Many women with larger breasts, including myself, would actually much appreciate a greater choice of more supportive and less revealing items. We have no interest in presenting our cleavage to our Yoga teachers. When I want to find out what practicing in my underwear feels like, I can unroll my mat at home. And when I realize that practicing without a bra feels best, which it does, then I get to decide whether I feel comfortable enough to do so at the studio.

"Don't approach Yoga with a business mind looking for worldly gain." Sri K. Pattabhi Jois and Kino MacGregor. Phtoto via KinoYoga.com
My assumption regarding Kino is that she has been a very clever business woman. (As she points out in her article, she wants to be the Oprah Winfrey of Ashtanga Yoga.) Kino has a great way of presenting her personality online. She comes across friendly, bubbly, and fun. She's got mad writing and entrepreneurial skills, and her understanding of the physical aspects of Ashtanga Yoga is beyond impressive. I even think it's great she brought up feminism in such a widely-read piece, and by that carried it into the Yoga community. I also agree with her that there is no need to apologize for her choice of clothing. Just to give the issue some more feminist thought, perhaps.

Certainly, "the discussion about telling women to cover their bodies lest they offend or stimulate someone’s sexual desire" does not belong to a by-gone era just yet. Unfortunately, if not in Miami, this discussion is very much alive in many countries of the world. Especially in India, where sexism is still rampant today. And, unlike Kino, I do not think it matters what men wear during their Yoga practice beyond where I am made to feel uncomfortable. In this case, it especially does not matter what men wore in Yoga traditionally, as, after all, we are indeed living in 2013. I find her "if you do not like it, then don't watch" approach difficult, too. If we were to look away from what we do not like, Hitler would have won World War II. (Sorry for that one, but I'm from Germany.) Like the rest of us, Kino knows that attractive women in little clothing sell stuff. My discomfort with her seemingly only existing half-naked is my worrying about her selling herself out. Far below value. Which is the opposite of feminist, really.

And while I wouldn't want to compare Kino to pole dancers and pantyless pop stars, three books touching upon the topic of partial and full female nudity in the media are:

Meat Market by Laurie Penny
Female Chauvinist Pigs by Ariel Levy and
Living Dolls by Natasha Walter