• Isabelle Osborne

Reviewing 'Cupcakes and Kalashnivoks: 100 Years of the Best Journalism by Women'

'What is a vote but a voice in the affairs that concern us all? Surely there was never a time in which we could see so clearly as now that the interests of all the people are closely interwoven, and that everyone must have a vote in the management of the world.'

- Sylvia Pankhurst, 'Human Suffrage'


Pankhurst's perception of voting captures the essence of this book - the commitment of all contributors to female empowerment. A compilation of journalistic articles written by different women on engaging topics, Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs: 100 Years of the Best Journalism by Women is a must read for anyone who is thinking of a career in journalism or is interested in hearing the (often sidelined) female perspective on current and historic issues.


Edited by Eleanor Mills, Cupcakes and Kalashnikovs offers female perspectives on a range of different - from crime and punishment to emancipation - and travels through the 20th century right to the early 2000s. Their ideas are controversial, challenging, honest and insightful, especially those publicised in a time where female voting didn't exist and women's rights were a distant dream.


'Journalism is so important simply because it is the first, most urgent and visceral glance at history...And women's voices in journalism are so important because, as this collection makes so painfully clear, it takes a century of first glances by waves of engaged, passionate minds at a single issue...for those first glances and impassioned reactions to turn into a readiness for society as a whole to enact the kind of change that finally turns the historical page.'

- Naomi Wolf, Introduction


I really enjoyed this quite different read, as I've never had the opportunity to read such engaging articles in one space before. As an aspiring journalist, I began to form my own opinions on the issues discussed and to formulate my own arguments. I also found it very beneficial for seeing how journalists write and how they express their views. My favourite section was the ‘Emancipation and Having It All’, whereby the writers consider the position of the female in society and how we are constantly battling against a patriarchy that doesn't seem to want to disappear. Whilst some articles were admittedly dense and didn't particularly grip me, the vast majority were incredibly interesting and thought-provoking.


'Although women can report 'objectively' as well as any man, what women have really brought to newspapers is a more confessional, intimate voice.'

- Eleanor Mills, Foreward


It is hard to give a review of a book that talks about dozens of separate articles, so I've picked my favourites from each section of the book that stuck with me, and which I highly recommend you read...


War


Martha Gellhorn, 'Dachau' :

This article focused on Gellhorn's experience on reporting on the liberation of Dachau concentration camp.

'But nowhere was there anything like this. Nothing about war was ever as insanely wicked as these starved and outraged, naked, nameless dead.'

- Martha Gellhorn, 'Dachau'


Julie Flint, 'Mountainsides of Hell'

Flint considers Saddam Hussein’s expulsion of the Kurdish people, and offers an insight into the atrocities of the time.


Susan Sontag, 'Regarding the Torture of Others'

Sontag explores how photography will always express reality, no matter how we try to censor it, focusing specifically on Abu Ghraib and how American soldiers photographed torturing Iraqi soldiers.


'...the president was shocked and disgusted by the photographs - as if the fault or horror lay in the images, not in what they depict.'

- Susan Sontag, 'Regarding the Torture of Others'

Home and Family


Crystal Eastman, 'Mother worship'

Eastman reminds us of the strength of an independent woman.


Mary Scott, 'Learning to be a Widow'

This was a touching article whereby Scott offers her experience of being a widow.


'Hey, baby, don't nod off, we're supposed to be bonding.' More like bondage. Constrained affection...It's all part of the mystification in which the whole process of childbirth os so richly shrouded.'

- Angela Carter, 'Notes from a Maternity Ward'


Sarah Baxter, 'My Brave, Wounded New World'

Baxter explains the challenges of moving her family to New York in the midst of the 9/11 terrorist attack.

Politics, Race and Society


Nellie Bly, 'Ten Days in a Madhouse'

This was really insightful, as Bly goes into a mental hospital and witnesses the injustices.


Alice Walker, 'The Right to Life: what can the White Man...Say to the Black Woman?'

Walker considers the importance of equal representation in this thoughtful article.


Emancipation and Having It All


Djuna Barnes, 'How it Feels to be Forcibly Fed'

Barnes offers an insightful account of the experience of force feeding as she fought for female suffrage in 1914.


Joreen Freeman, 'The BITCH Manifesto'

Freeman offers a new alternative meaning to the derogatory term 'bitch' when it is used to describe women.


'Like most women they were taught to hate themselves as well as other women. In different ways and for different reasons perhaps, but the effect was similar. Internalization of a derogatory self-concept always results in a good deal of bitterness and resentment. This anger is usually either turned in on the self - making one an unpleasant person or on other women - reinforcing the social clichés about them. Only with political consciousness is it directed at the source - the social system.'

- Joreen Freeman, 'The BITCH Manifesto'


Judy Syfers, 'Why I want a Wife'

This is a brilliant article, offering a satirical view of why wives, in their prehistoric and restrictive role as domesticated and mothers, are so desirable.


Pauline Kael, 'The Feminine Mystique'

Kael considers how the film Fatal Attraction offers a damaging portrayal of women.


Christina Lamb, 'My Double Life: Kalashnikovs and Cupcakes'

Lamb draws our attention to how women are having to chose between a career they love and being a mother.


Crime and punishment


Nicci Gerard, 'Holly and Jessica - we'll Never Know'

Gerard reflects on the Soham murders, when caretaker Ian Huntley heartlessly took the lives of schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.


Rose George, 'They don't See it as Rape. They Just See it as Pleasure for Them'

George's article is deeply moving, as she considers the lack of investment in finding protection and justice for rape victims.


Sex and Body Image


Angela Carter, Fat is Ugly

Carter offers a personal account of her challenge with body image, and how her eating disorder was sparked by societal perceptions.


Andrea Dworkin, 'Through the Pain Barrier'

This article gives us a deep insight into Dworkin's struggle with severe osteoarthritis in the knees and the problems she faced as a result.


Interviews and Icons


Camille Paglia, 'Diana Regina'

Paglia looks at the portrayal and perception of Princess Diana during her time in and out of the Royal Family, and how she became a figure of resilience against historic tradition.


Julie Burchille, 'Slimeballs Always Hate a Strong Woman'

This was my favourite article. Burchille considers why she likes and dislikes Margaret Thatcher, considering both her controversial miners policy against her standing for female power and strength, and why the latter meant she was ridiculed.


'It is said with relish that all political careers end in failure, but if Margaret Thatcher's career can be judged a failure - to come from nothing, and do all that! - then only the good Lord knows how history will judge the rest of us and our miniature, mediocre achievements.'

- Julie Burchille, 'Slimeballs Always Hate a Strong Woman'



These are just some of my favourite articles, ones that really moved me, provoked me to think more deeply into the issues explored and that stuck with me after I closed the cover. If any of the previews for these articles have gripped your attention, you definitely need to read this wonderful book.

Words are all we have.

 - Samuel Beckett

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World of Words 

By Isabelle Osborne