Boff, this could be a long blogpost (with me being an old fart), but I am two days overdue.
So, probably my mum, who doesn’t self-identify as a feminist but who was working out of the house in professional settings, and also challenged some of my more obnoxious teenage views. Cheers mum.
An English teacher at the all boys school I went to, Mrs. N., who challenged the shitty behaviour (a boy throwing the ‘insult’ “you woman” at another boy). She was (rightly) angry that the other allegedly progressive boys (we were about 15 I guess) didn’t call him out on this, and I didn’t like the feeling of having had my own wilful blindness/cowardice pointed out to me.
Also, at uni, a friendship with a supersmart slightly-older-than-me woman when I was at Uni in Adelaide, helped contextualise stuff, helped me get glimmers of understanding of how patriarchy works at a micro- as well as macro level. Thelma and Louise helped with that too (I saw it in Adelaide just before leaving)
Books that I definitely read at the time? The Scum Manifesto by Valerie Solanas was a bolshy/bracing attack on the Patriarchy which I read at some point in 1990. Simultaneously I read (and was negatively affected) by some Andrea Dworkin stuff on male sexuality, and it took a while to see that for what it was. Dale Spender was useful (I think the book was ‘Man-Made Language’). Pearl S Buck ‘The woman who was changed’ was a good novella, about how smart and independent women get suffocated in relationships and are told that that is love/duty.
Virginia Woolf – A Room of One’s Own, Mrs Dalloway, Three Guineas all were useful too.
Then in California I read lots of good stuff from an anti-essentialist and socialist feminist perspective (Sheila Rowbotham, Lynne Segal, other people I’ve forgotten). I think essentialism is a trap, basically, and while I can see its attractions, it is still a trap…
I think Beyond the Fragments is really important (Rowbotham, Segal and Wainwright) as a book for explaining what traditional (largely male) groups of unionists and socialists could and should learn from feminism, but it is not always understood and enacted by those who ought to know better. Meanwhile, Jo Freeman’s The Tyranny of Structurelessness is one of those ritualistic citations that people should fucking read and think about, rather than tossing into a reference list
Novelists – Marge Piercy and Ursula Le Guin for their competing visions of utopia (especially Woman on the Edge of Time and The Dispossessed/Left Hand of Darkness), Joanna Russ more recently (The Female Man).
Things I wish I had read much younger (but I probably wasn’t ready for) – Donna Haraway.