So tomorrow is v-day and whether you’re of the mind that it’s a ‘mass-marketed scam’, or you’re totally indifferent, the cultural powers-that-be have made it almost impossible to ignore entirely. For some of us, it’s obviously ideologically empty, but still a fun excuse to love on and be loved, to eat extra chocolate, to fill the house with roses, and to try sex on a waterbed or standing up or some equally exciting-in-principle yet, oh-so-awkward position. I mean sure, Valentine’s Day is now so over-commercialized that it’s legitimately difficult to muster any sincere feelings of romance, but why not take advantage of its presence to wear red lipstick, drink bubbly and lick something spreadable and sweet off your playmate? And who doesn’t like presents? Why not have a day where you exchange tokens of lurrrrve with your hotty-bo-body?
What should you buy for your seductive sweetheart? Well if s/he is a feminist, we have you sorted! There is nothing so tantalizing as a new book, and no new book as titillating as feminist prose. Enter Icon, a collection of essays written by feminists of all stripes, edited by Amy Scholder, and published by The Feminist Press.
Aside from it’s conveniently relevant Valentine’s colors (nothing says v-day like hot pink), Icon is a wonderfully readable collection of writings reflecting on the complexities of feminist desire, love, and admiration. Throughout the nine essays, feminist writers, performers, journalists, and cooks examine iconic women whose lives for them provided inspiration, fascination, and sometimes even a sort of compelling repugnance. Contributors such as Mary Gaitskill rehash memories of cultural icons like Linda Lovelace; Jill Nelson offers steamy and evocative recollections of Aretha Franklin’s early music; Johanna Fateman revisits her complicated, yet loving relationship with the works of Andrea Dworkin. This book is as much about the contributors as it is about the various women who are framed as ‘Icons’. And in fact, I would say that it’s more about the delicious, multilayered feelings these icons evoke in the authors of these essays. The book could equally be called ‘Desire’, ‘Fan-Girling’, ‘Seduction’ or, sometimes ‘Empathy’. Each essay elicits a whole new range of feels and gives the feminist reader a much-needed hall pass to both adore and feel critical of a public figure. Icon beautifully captures the dynamism of what it is to be a feminist in a culture where iconic women can make us feel both exhilarated and sceptical.
What’s better is that Icon collects women authors of many persuasions, and similarly, examines an appropriately diverse group of women. The contributors are white, women of color, trans*, well-established, outside-the-establishment and for good measure, there is even a feminist man (although he never states as much and was the cause for my one of my few reservations. What can I say, I want to see your colors tacked to the mast if you are going to board this otherwise all-woman ship). The women who act as icons for the above mentioned contributors are sex workers, models, writers, women of color, performers, working class, survivors, anti-social, activists, and sometimes total enigmas. The metaphorical conversations that take place between the authors of each essay, and the women on whom they focus, are full of powerful memories, vivid sensation, lingering adoration and occasionally, disappointment. These essays, in short, provide a cathartic micro-theater in which the polyvalence of feminist relationships play out in nine acts.
Let me just put it bluntly, this book is sure to get you laid (or snuggled, or squealed at delightedly, or whatever it is y’all do). It, like chocolate, is totally consumable. It’s fabulous to look at and comes in a read-on-the-train size. It provides a space for many women’s voices and allows them to explore love and desire in innumerable ways. It’s a love-fest for the feminist brain.
And you, you who have procrastinated because you couldn’t decide if you were really going to capitulate to this ‘capitalist joke of a holiday’, can get your mitts on it without trial. Hit up your local Foyles or download the e-Book today!
If you really can’t stand to prop up Valentine’s Day, why not buy Icon in protest? This little book also has enough revolutionary umph! to inspire anyone who is more interested in flipping the proverbial bird to The Man than in love-letters and brain-smooches (shout-out Riv!) Go on, give your radical feminist pal a copy to read in celebration of your total disavowal of all things mainstream. She’s sure to fist-bump you in solidarity and appreciation.
Icon, the perfect feminist Valentine’s gift (…or not).