cover of the book A Woman's Place by Kylie Cheung

Review: A Woman’s Place: Inside the Fight for a Feminist Future Is a Necessary Addition to Your Feminist Reading List

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Just over three years ago, this site started a regular column titled “The Week in Reproductive Justice.” Donald Trump had been in office six months and was already stacking the courts with conservative, anti-choice judges and the column put a much-needed eye on the unending war on reproductive rights across the country. I remember finding out that the author of that column, Kylie Cheung, was much younger than I ever would have imagined. She was still a college student at the time, though her insights into the political landscape read as coming from someone with a decade of experience. Although, I suppose, given the young age at which she started engaging seriously with feminism as a way of life, she does.

I’ve always been impressed with Kylie’s writing, so when I heard that she had a book coming this summer, I was incredibly excited.

In A Woman’s Place: Inside the Fight for a Feminist Future, Cheung presents an exhaustive primer on fourth-wave feminism. From the endless fight for reproductive justice to the #MeToo movement to gaslighting on a systemic and personal level to the depiction of sexual assault in pop culture, she explores the spectrum of issues young feminists are facing today. The book is about 80% cultural and political commentary and about 20% memoir, as she lays out what it’s like to be one of those young feminists.

It’s quite a feat for an early-20-something person to be able to write anything close to a compelling memoir, but Cheung succeeds with her incisiveness and deep self-awareness, constantly examining her own privilege, weighted against her position as a young woman of color, and her place in a world that seems incapable of relenting in its attacks on women and marginalized people.

Cheung was a college student while the Trump administration was working to decimate Title XI protections for campus assault survivors and when Dr. Christine Blasey Ford recounted in front of Congress how she was allegedly assaulted by now-Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh when she was just a teenager herself. Trump’s election and everything that came with it that transformed our entire political hellscape was a formative experience for a person her age. She paints an incredible picture–alternately harrowing and invigorating–of what it’s like to come of age as a passionate young feminist at this specific moment in time.

A recurring theme, and one of my favorites, in Cheung’s book is dismantling the notion of “identity politics.” Women and marginalized people are consistently told that advocating for themselves and asking politicians to acknowledge the intersectionality of their constituents is selfish, fringe, and just lain unimportant. Cheung rejects this idea.

“There is something deeply, viscerally empowering about having the ability to see society from the lens of your own unique, identity-based experiences. Often today, we hear from politicians and white media men who decry ‘identity politics,’ a framework of understanding how identity shapes the living standards and politics of marginalized groups, as trivial, divisive, and somehow not relevant to mainstream political discourse,” she writes. “Yet, the color and dimension that identity-based experiences contribute to our lives are anything but trivial, gifting us with a vision of the world that is nuanced, compassionate, and inclusive.”

A Woman’s Place: Inside the Fight for a Feminist Future is on sale now.

(image: North Atlantic Books)

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Vivian Kane
Vivian Kane (she/her) is the Senior News Editor at The Mary Sue, where she's been writing about politics and entertainment (and all the ways in which the two overlap) since the dark days of late 2016. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she gets to put her MFA to use covering the local theatre scene. She is the co-owner of The Pitch, Kansas City’s alt news and culture magazine, alongside her husband, Brock Wilbur, with whom she also shares many cats.