Everywhere & Nowhere: Contemporary Feminism in the United States
Is feminism in our society today all around us, or is it instead lacking and perhaps nowhere at all? The idea that feminism is simultaneously set into the groundwork of culture in America, while also lacking presence amongst American popular culture is analyzed by author Jo Reger in Everywhere & Nowhere: Contemporary Feminism in the United States as the primary theme throughout. This non-fiction novel was published in 2012 by Oxford University Press with 242 pages of in-depth descriptions regarding Reger’s perceptions of contemporary feminism. For only $28.95, you find yourself engulfed in the stories and histories of three feminist communities in various regions of the United States. Reger takes you on a trip through these communities containing second and third wave feminists, providing the different viewpoints from different generations. The following review provides a summary of Reger’s work while evaluating the strengths and weaknesses of her findings as described in the book.
Everywhere and Nowhere compares and contrasts the views of both second and third wave feminists in three distinct areas: the metropolitan area of Green City, the “feminist bubble” of Evers, and the conservative region of Woodview. Using these three cities to make her point, Reger argues that feminism is both everywhere and nowhere. For second wave feminists, feminists of the 1960s through 1980s, the focus of activists was on gaining rights through further legislation. Meanwhile, third wave feminists, from the 1990s onward, seem to “surface” into becoming activists based on the feminism of ancestors, the media, and their environment. Reger gives a thorough analysis using people of different genders and sexual identities to explain the various levels of feminism based on the acceptance and development of the community, while exploring what caused these feminists to “surface”.
In relation to the unit’s theme, much of the book stresses the importance of historical efforts in the improvement leading to women’s rights today. Although the title implies that only contemporary feminism is discussed, it is stressed that the efforts of first and second wave feminists have paved the way for activists today. From the old feminist bookstore continuously referred to throughout the book, to the signing of the 19th amendment allowing women the right to vote, Reger incorporates the history of feminists into the contemporary ideals intact today. The term “everywhere” in the title of her novel she explains as representing “the idea that as social movements continue over long periods of time, their ideas and goals are pervasive, becoming a part of everyday cultural beliefs and norms”. Her definition of feminism being something that is everywhere in the United States stresses that contemporary feminism is shaped by the ancestors of these present day feminists. This follows Unit 1’s theme of a historical overview by backing up current ideas with explanations of past endeavors.
I found this to be a thought-provoking and informative read that held my interest. It didn’t feel like reading a textbook; however a great amount of information can be found squeezed between these pages. Instead of preaching feminism from a subjective outsider point of view, material is presented through the interviews of people of all ages, races, backgrounds, sexual identities and upbringings. Such objective views displayed this way made for refreshing insight. While feminism seems to be everywhere at times in the United States, outlooks often seem to be displayed in an aggressive, sometimes irrational, way. Being a feminist myself, it’s hard to feel like the presentation of some people’s opinions ruin the validity of their points regarding gender equality. Reger gives a fresh perspective on contemporary feminism while informing the reader of feminism’s history, without making you feel the author’s view is being shoved down your throat.
While I did find this to be a pleasurable yet insightful read, it lacks a global context. Feminism and gender equality are very prevalent in America, but it is not only the United States that faces the issues laid out in this novel. Upon completing it, I felt very well informed of many standpoints, but only in one nation. Reger fails to acknowledge the movements and struggles of women around the world, leaving me somewhat unfulfilled. One cannot expect one book to provide them with all the knowledge they need, but for the feminist that’s beginning to surface, it would be beneficial to merely acknowledge the existence of feminist strife worldwide.
Reger’s non-fiction novel is one that is ideal for a newly surfacing feminist, but is also entertaining for the already surfaced activist. The comparison between the different waves of feminists makes the read enjoyable for all generations. Hearing about the events that sparked the interviewees’ feminism is a way to relate to people who have had similar experiences, or help inspire one into becoming an activist. Everywhere and Nowhere doesn’t provide insight and ideas from a certain age, race, or geographic location, making the book itself relatively unbiased and relatable for readers. As far as recommendations, I feel that anyone with an interest in feminism would have an appreciation for this book. However, those who seem to teeter toward the side of anti-feminism, this is simply not the read for you.