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Kirkus ReviewsThis ungainly book constitutes Russ's personal canon of classic radical feminist ideas of the 1970s and '80s that are most worth rescuing from small-press and pamphleteering obscurity for use as a basis for recharging the women's movement.
Best known as a Nebula Awardwinning author of science fiction (notably The Female Man, not reviewed), Russ is also a pioneering teacher in women's studies and a feminist critic (How to Suppress Women's Writing, 1983). She is totally exasperated by the development of an academic feminism that has lured too many of her students into following a mainstream careerist model rather than dedicate themselves as rebel outsiders to the pursuit of liberating truth. The perspectives of socialist feminism in early Barbara Ehrenreich and Ann Oakley, the insights of lesbian feminists like Cherie Moraga and Adrienne Rich, and the righteous oppositional stance of women of color theorists like Barbara Smith and Gloria Joseph are what Russ reclaims and seeks to propagate. She criticizes the emphasis on the special psychology of women by theorists like Dorothy Dinnerstein, Nancy Chodorow, and Carol Gilligan for displacing our focus from the psychology of oppression. Her energetic exploration of the complex, paradoxical ways that the interdependent systems of capitalism and patriarchy oppress women and benefit men has its compelling moments. But as Russ spins her web of ideas, she is given to asides, digressions, and burying interesting insights in long footnotes and supplementary chapters mischieviously labeled "Leftovers." There's a lack of pretension and a spirited commitment here that's appealing, but the self-indulgent presentation isn't likely to make new converts.
Still, hardy veterans of the feminist wars may find this useful as a refresher course in the bolder feminist ideas of the '70s and '80s and will be moved not only to murmur "Right on, sister," but also to an occasional hoot.