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Sisterhood is Forever: The Women's Anthology for the New Millennium    Editor Robin Morgan order for
Sisterhood is Forever
by Robin Morgan
Order:  USA  Can
Washington Square, 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Sisterhood is Forever follows previous anthologies (compiled and edited by Robin Morgan) Sisterhood is Powerful and Sisterhood is Global. Though its 580 pages are somewhat daunting, there is something for everywoman inside. It provides an important update on the state of U.S. feminism (now perhaps more of an institution than a movement) at the beginning of a new millennium.

As someone who has accepted and rejected the label of 'feminist' at different stages of the movement's evolution, I found it especially useful to gain such a broad perspective on the development of feminism on many different fronts, and on its current and ongoing issues. Robin Morgan's summary, in her introduction, of the progress of American women, makes clear that there is still a way to go. She tells us that though 13 women now sit in the U.S. Senate and 60 in the House, 'not one committee in the 107th Congress is headed by a woman.' She states the task of 21st century feminism as 'Dismantling systemic patriarchy and replacing it with humane values, policies and practices'.

I found the keynote essay, Natalie Angier's Biologically Correct to be brilliant and energizing. Dismayed by the widespread and credulous acceptance of current pop theories in evolutionary biology, she takes hilarious shots at them. Angier advises us that 'Any theoretical framework that slights our plasticity, that declares all or most men to be like this, and all or most women to be like that, is a framework fit only for kindling.' Absolutely.

Most of the essays, while informative and effective, are not as entertaining to read; they tend to be on the dry side, full of facts and stats. They provide excellent reference material on: reproduction rights; electoral politics; race and gender discrimination; the evolution of women's studies; parenting; the media; the politics of aging; health and sports activism; sexual harrassment, pornography and prostitution; different groups of women such as Native or Asian Americans and women with disabilities; women in various workplaces from 'pink collar workers' to those few involved in space exploration; and much more.

Some discussions, like that on Traffic at the Crossroads: Multiple Opressions by Kimberl9 Crenshaw, are at a theoretical level. Others are direct and inspiring, such as Andrea Dworkin's perceptive description of the processes of abuse and rape in Landscape of the Ordinary: Violence Against Women. Suzanne Braun Levine envisions schools becoming true community centers in Parenting: A New Social Contract, and Judy Norsigan covers topics like 'Prescription Drug Advertising' and 'New Reproductive Technologies' in a timely essay on women's health activism, Our Bodies, Our Future.

Both negative and positive aspects of the Internet are addressed - negative with respect to its involvement in the pornography industry, and positive in people's ability to network and make very effective grassroots protests (see Amy Richards' and Marianne Schnall's Cyberfeminism). It was fascinating to read about changes in some of the more traditional jobs, as well as women's more recent roles as firefighters, and in the military. I could relate from my own experiences to discussions of high tech management roles and also to the invisibility of being Just A Housewife?!

Sisterhood is Forever is one of those books you really should read. You won't agree with every statement (personally I've never been enthusiastic about the notion of 'liberating language') but you're bound to find sections that fit your own situation in this inclusive compilation of essays on women's issues. And there is the danger, as is the case for democracy itself, of the erosion of what has already been won, something that concerns us all. Robin Morgan ends with advice to young feminists, 'Run for office, go into space, write songs, save the world. Make love, demands, policy, a fuss, miracles.' I really hope they do.

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