Outstanding Academic Titles 2020: Gender and Women’s Studies

This week's sneak peek from our 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list: books about gender and women's studies.

This week’s sneak peek from our 2020 Outstanding Academic Titles list: books about gender and women’s studies.

1. Why we can’t sleep: women’s new midlife crisis
Calhoun, Ada. Grove Press, 2020

Countless articles and books have been written about the Baby Boomer and Millennial cohorts, but Generation X, the small cohort of now-midlife adults born between 1965 and 1980, has generated far less ink. In this meticulously researched and vividly written book, Calhoun digs deep into the inner lives of Gen X women, exploring why today’s midlife women, raised with unbounded hopes fueled by the feminist movement, are so exhausted and disappointed. Weaving together insightful interviews with Gen X women, observations from popular culture, and rigorous empirical studies, Calhoun offers insights into women’s worries about finances, work-family balance, caregiving, health, and menopause and aging—concerns that cannot be adequately addressed by quick-fix and shallow recommendations like life hacks and “me time.” Calhoun rightfully argues that solutions require structural, political, and economic changes. Most important, a new cultural narrative is needed, one that quashes the myth of “having it all” and “doing it all” and instead involves adapting expectations to realities facing women today.
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2. Good reasons to run: women and political candidacy
ed. by Shauna L. Shames et al Temple, 2020

Starting from the premise that more women could and should run for political office, this collection of essays makes a wide-ranging attempt to understand the role, ambition, and strategies of potential female candidates. Focusing largely on the US context, the more than three-dozen scholarly and professional contributors use a wide variety of impressionistic and empirical approaches to help explain why women run, or avoid running, for office. Considerable attention is given to strategies for increasing the number of female candidates, in particular the role of parties and non-profits in serving as training grounds for women. Going well beyond conventional wisdom about such matters as differential ability to raise funds, the analyses provide a nuanced set of arguments about context, strategies, and resources. With references to the elections of 2016 and 2018 and the primaries of 2020, the discussion takes on a contemporary cast. Despite the relative success of Democratic women, the book’s treatment is evenhanded, looking at strategies and behavior of both Republicans and Democrats.. View on Amazon

3. Gender in the Middle East and North Africa: contemporary issues and challenges
ed. by J. Michael Ryan and Helen Rizzo L. Rienner, 2020

This collection of scholarly articles explores the complex subject of gender and gender relations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While the status of women in the region has been the focus of much research and debate, the perception and treatment of masculinity and transgender identities have been generally neglected. This volume makes up for this lacuna by probing the various social dimensions of a wide spectrum of gender identities as they are embedded within regional sociocultural systems. Addressing a variety of subjects, essays explore the relationship between gender and religion as well as the complex relationship between the state and religion (whereby legislatures often enforce Islamic norms), which varies across the region, among other topics. Another chapter, for instance, examines the morally and politically sensitive and contentious issue of female circumcision and activists’ strategies to combat and eradicate this practice. As noted by several authors, women’s activism on social media is increasingly becoming an integral component of the general call for political and social reform throughout the MENA region..
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4.Data feminism
D’Ignazio , ​Catherine. by Catherine D’Ignazio and Lauren F. Klein MIT, 2020

D’Ignazio (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and Klein (Emory Univ.) examine how power and privilege operate in data science and in the real world. The authors address how racism, patriarchy, cissexism, heteronormativity, ableism, colonialism, and classism influence data collection, analysis, and consumption. Presenting seven principles of data feminism—to examine power, challenge power, elevate emotion and embodiment, rethink binaries and hierarchies, embrace pluralism, consider context, and make labor visible—they draw on the feminist theories of intersectionality, the matrix of domination, situated knowledge, and emotional labor as developed by Patricia Hill Collins, Donna Haraway, and Arlie Hochschild. Pertinent, real-life examples are drawn into the text, such as showing readers how Google searches may be powered by and re-create sexism and racism, exploring how “Black Lives Data” can create change, and examining the history of voting rights. The authors prioritize marginalized perspectives as they advocate for data equity and through their arguments provide tools to help achieve this goal. They charge that “those of us in positions of relative power must learn to listen deeper and listen differently—with the ultimate goal of taking action against the status quo.”
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5Women speak nation: gender, culture, and politics
ed. by Panchali Ray Routledge, 2020

This collection of essays is a fascinating snapshot of the relationship between women and nation in present-day India. The essays, which focus on topics spanning crimes against women, women’s dissent, and how the fragility of the environment and development affects women, are a powerful admonition of the political landscape of 21st-century India. In her introduction, editor Ray, an independent researcher, posits that trends in India have resulted in “… freez[ing] both land and women as static ‘objects’ to be possessed, guarded, and defended.” In their individual essays, which emanated from the 2016 “Women Speak Nation: Intersections and Identities” conference at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, the contributing authors note that the complexities of navigating India’s caste and class systems, as well as the multi-religious terrain, complicate democracy in unique ways. Notable is the shift toward the platform of the Hindu right, which is often reinforced by upper-caste, middle-class women, further complicating the relationship between women and nation.
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