Friday, July 7, 2017

FFB: PULLING OUR OWN STRINGS: FEMINIST HUMOR & SATIRE edited by Gloria Kaufman and Mary Kay Blakely (Indiana University Press 1980)

This 1980 volume somewhat unsurprisingly gathers materials from the 1970s and might be surprised by the eclecticism of those materials, including short stories, essays, novel excerpts and others from longer works, one-panel cartoons, comic strips, poetry, quip quotations, letters to editors of various publications, transcripts of a couple of standup duo Pat Harrison and Robin Tyler's comedy routines, and songs, some with the actual sheet music included along with the lyrics. C0-editor Gloria Kaufman in her introduction draws a distinction between what she sees as "female humor" and feminist humor: the former is usually full of bitterness, as it is mostly about the impossibility of the improvement of women's plight in society, and if anything celebrates working around while accepting rather than working against traditional limitations, while feminist humor is predicated on the possibility of change for the better, for liberation and equality, and highlights the absurdity of misogyny as well as its not at all necessary evil; Mary Kay Blakely in her introduction notes that feminist humor is often tasked with being the only humor of an oppressed group that really shouldn't ever hurt anyone's feelings in any way, and the impossibility of that task. While some of what is collected here, being satire and other comedy from a disadvantaged group and the wits within that group and their sympathizers, is at times bitter or angry, that's justified, and not all of it is by any means...a fair amount of whimsey and gentle observation appear alongside, or even within the same works.

In large format, and with pages laid out in a manner more reminiscent of a magazine than more traditional books (but less busily than most slick magazines are today), the editors gather their selections under several chapter-headings, as transcribed from their table of contents in WorldCat thus:

192 pages : illustrations, music ; 29 cm

"Dear Gloria" / by Mary Kay Blakely --
Introduction / by Gloria Kaufman --

Becoming a Tampax junkie / by Ivy Bottini --
Ragtime --
Periodical Bea / by E.M. Broner --
Splat / by Marilyn French --
A person who menstruates is unfit to be a mother / by Hadley V. Baxendale --
A crowd of commuters / by Mary Ellmann --
If men could menstruate / by Gloria Steinem --
Walking the knife's edge / by Lisa Alther --
Mosquitoes and menses --
New discoveries hailed as birth control breakthroughs / by Jane Field --
Superpower sought on the contraceptive front / by Carol Troy --
Jumbo, colossal and supercolossal --
To the editor / by Shirley L. Radl --
The natural masochism of women / by Hadley V. Baxendale --
Revolutionary contraceptive / by Roberta Gregory --
The perfect job for a pregnant woman --
A few words about breasts / by Nora Ephron --
Mammary glands / by Kristin Lems --
What do you say when a man tells you, You have the softest skin / by Mary Mackey --
Keeping abreast of what men want / by Mary Kay Blakely--

On sleeping with your kids / by Alta --
The day's work / by Barbara Holland --
The pee-in / by Sheila Ballantyne --
Fairyland Nursery School / by Sheila Ballantyne --
Molly's beginnings / by Rita Mae Brown --
The Christmas pageant / by Rita Mae Brown --
Needle-and-thread envy / by Sheila Ballantyne --
Raising sons / by Elizabeth Cady Stanton --
The pros and cons of motherhood / by Mary Kay Blakely --

Clicking --
A bargain with the judge / by Florynce Kennedy --
Don't you wish you were liberated too / by Shirley Katz --
The man was right / by Ellen Goodman --
Clunks / by Jane O'Reilly --
Pandephobium / by Sue Held --
Clothes make the man / by Sally Sertin --
Untitled / by Alta --
On stage with Harrison and Tyler --
Clowning with Ivy Bottini --
Monumental prophylactic --
Men: beware the ATR --

WE MEASURED 56-480-47-277-30-19, AND NOW WE MEASURE MORE! --
Carrie Chapman Catt --
When taxes are taxing --
A consistent anti to her son / by Alice Duer Miller --
The woman question in 1872 / by Fanny Fern --

Predictions for 1979 / by Yenta --
A Flo Kennedy sampler --
The lifting power of woman / by Joan Honican --
Why we oppose votes for men / by Alice Duer Miller --
How the women sang their way out of jail / by Mary Harris Jones --
The human-not-quite-human / by Dorothy Sayers --
I laughed when I wrote it / by Nikki Giovanni --
Liberation of the Yale Divinity School library men's room / by Carol P. Christ --
We need a name for Bernadette Arnold / by Joan D. Uebelhoer --
On a different track / by Sharon McDonald --

The Saturday night special / by Naomi Weinstein --
How to avoid rape --

A great satisfaction / by Dorothy Sayers --
The aroma of "Miss" / by Virginia Woolf --
Marginal workers / by Hadley V. Baxendale (
David Frank Phillips II?) --
Letter to the editor / by Joan D. Uebelhoer --
A writer's interview with herself / by Mary Ellmann --
Crooked and straight in academia / by Susan J. Wolfe and Julia Penelope --
The conference / by E.M. Broner --
MLA / by Mary Mackey --

Lady in red / by Ntozake Shange --
Sterner stuff / by Sue Held --
Marriage quickies --
Dishwashing & suicide / by Maxine Hong Kingston --
The politics of housework / by Pat Mainardi --
We don't need the men / by Malvina Reynolds --
Of bikers, brides & butches / by Sharon McDonald --
What Mother never told me / by Sharon McDonald --

No one has a corner on depression but housewives are working on it / by Gabrielle Burton --
Multiple penis envy / by Hadley V. Baxendale
What God hath wroth / by Charlotte Painter --
Mother's Day poem / by Pauline B. Bart --
I'm sorry, you're sorry / by Mary Kay Blakely --

Don't wear your guitar, darling Mother / by Shirley Katz--
Football / by Crazy Hazel Houlihingle --
Aaaaaaaaaargh! / by Sheila Ballantyne --

Application for employment / by Rhoda Lerman --
The creation of man / by Rhoda Lerman --
To whom it may concern / by Rhoda Lerman --
Quips of a high priestess / by Zsuzsanna Budapest --
You are what is female / by Judy Grahn --
The House of Mirrors / by Mary Daly --
Norma Jean's theory / by Sheila Ballantyne --
Honk if you think she's Jesus / by Mugsy Peabody --
Why little girls are sugar & spice and when they grow up become cheesecake / by Una Stannard --

S/HE-IT --
A feminist alphabet / by Eve Merriam --
"Him" to the weather / by Judith K. Meuli --
Overcoming a man-nerism / by Naomi R. Goldenberg --
Talkin' gender neutral blues / by Kristin Lems --
An eight-letter word / by Mary Ellmann --
Letter to the editor / by Patricia Miller --
Dear Colleague: I am not an honorary male / by Joanna Russ --
Another name for "down there" / by Sue Held --
Pickups, puns, & putdowns --
Josie takes the stand / by Ruth Herschberger.

As one can see, there's quite a mix of mostly fairly contemporary writing and other art, along with some classic examples, many from 19th Century feminists and some few from earlier yet (you can't leave out Mary Wollstonecraft), and the TOC doesn't cite the comics contributions, including multiple items by Jules Feiffer, Gary Trudeau and Johnny Hart as well as Nicole Hollander and Bulbul. And, given that Kaufman taught in South Bend and Blakely lived in Fort Wayne, Indiana, at time of assembly, certain bits of locally-published material appear at various points in the book that editors elsewhere would likely not've seen, giving this somewhat unusual university press item a regional flavor that probably didn't hurt in getting through the approval process. Certainly the Nora Ephron essay has since become a bit of a classic itself, and others here should've; excerpts from now largely overlooked former bestsellers as Kinflicks and The Women's Room are useful to have at hand, as are the multiple excerpts from Sheila Ballantyne. Those who remember Joanna Russ's "Useful Phrases for the Tourist" fondly will find "Dear Colleague" cuts a similar path rather closer to home. Inexpensive copies of the 1980 and 1994 reprint editions (I hope the later printing had better binding than mine does) are to be had from the usual sources, and one can definitely do worse.

This very late entry in Friday's Books hopes to join Patti Abbott's selection of same as detailed and linked here; next week, I will be gathering the list again. 


George said...

Another book I've never seen before. Very cool!

Todd Mason said...

Happily one of the less disappointing humor anthologies of those I've written up for FFB.

Prashant C. Trikannad said...

I don't think I have read feminist humour and satire, not in a collection at least. But this anthology is cool, as George says. I know I'd enjoy reading such variety, Todd, and especially "the one-panel cartoons, comic strips, poetry, quip quotations, (and) letters to editors."

Mathew Paust said...

I thought when I saw the title you were a braver man than me. Then I saw it was collected by females. Still, I'd probly wanna read it in one of those plain brown wrappers at the beach.

Mathew Paust said...

...especially were I expecting to laugh out loud.

Todd Mason said...

Prashant, I suspect you and your wife and your daughter would find a fair amount of interesting work gathered here.

Matt, I suspect the editors and most other women would be pretty happy to see you reading, and laughing as you read, this might want to be circumspect around Men's Rights Activists and similar snowflakes...

Casual Debris said...

Hi Todd,

Giving you an early head's up for the upcoming FFB as I am now heading out of town so posting early. Thanks in advance.

The Doll


Todd Mason said...

Thanks, Frank!