I'm very much a feminist, but I haven't read a lot of feminist writing. In fact, I've read almost none-- and most of what I have read is fiction, rather than theory. One of the things I'm planning to do in the next couple weeks, in addition to job searching and wedding planning, neither of which are exactly my idea of fun, is to go read some of the actual text that's been published on feminism and gender studies. Here at home I have the new translation of The Second Sex, a copy of The Feminine Mystique, and a very short book by Andrea Dworkin (which, based on the quotes of hers that I've read before, is probably all I can take of her in one dose). I've got a couple of Jessica Valenti's books on order from the library, as well as Butler's Gender Troubles. To even things out a bit, I'm even thinking of getting some books on gender studies from a male point of view-- Lionel Tiger style, or Warren Farrel, or someone else who I'm highly likely to disagree with-- but as with Twilight, I'll do them the justice of reading their material so I can back my distaste up. I think it's a pretty good starting base, but I'm very open to other suggestions as well.
One of the things I'm wondering is how much reading most people do on things they strongly believe in-- whether it's feminism, or religion, or a lifestyle path-- and how much of our decisions and opinions we come to on our own. For me, my mindset is mostly a product of experience and observation, with some internet reading thrown in once I hit college. In high school, I was a feminist, though I didn't really know what the term meant, and I certainly didn't realize that there were people out there who might disagree with me. My parents were super egalitarian in the way they raised my brother and I, and I was always the smartest kid around. I didn't watch TV, and I played super heroes with my guy neighbors, and went to ballet lessons. It wasn't until I got older and started paying more attention to the rest of the world that it hit me that something was off.
It started in highschool I guess-- but there, it started with religion, not feminism. One of the ministers at my church had been caught in an affair with a married member of the congregation when I was in 8th grade. I refused to attend church-- suddenly the authority I'd placed in ministers and religion had been smashed. I read the entire Bible from start to finish my freshman year of highschool and concluded that I was totally cool with God and Jesus, even if humans sometimes messed up in pretty awful ways.
My embrace of feminism didn't start until sometime in college though, because I still was naive and insulated somewhat from sexism as sexism-- but I discovered it in college. I still hadn't read anything at all that could be classed as feminist discourse, though-- I had to formulate my thoughts on my own, and came to decisions that, for the most part, I still hold to. When I joined a sorority, when one of my roommates became a sugar baby, when I went to frat parties-- I hadn't read any of the things out there that talked about the implications of any of it. And as a result, I made the decisions that made me-- and though my sorority may not have labelled itself as feminist, it was the first truly feminist group I ever became a part of.
I came to feminism and to identifying as a feminist, even with the negative stigma from the unrealistic stereotype, without ever reading any major feminist texts. I came to feminism without even reading any of the major online blogs! And yet, my take on feminism seems to be fairly consistent with the modern view-- that agency, autonomy, and choice in lifestyle and actions matter, that equality is what is important, and that women-- our bodies, our health, our decisions, our opinions-- are not disposable. And yet, I still feel like I ought to read older texts, and any new ones that have prominence, whether I'll agree with them or not-- because I feel like I ought to know where feminism came from, and what ideological changes have occurred along the way. It's funny, because I've never really been tempted to read any theological books-- I'm fully satisfied with my take on Christianity being based on my understanding of the Bible and discussions with ministers-- but for feminism, I want to read the ideological texts. I want to know what other people are saying, what they think, and why they think it.