That Takes Ovaries!, Edited by Rivka Solomon
(New York, New York: Three Rivers Press. $13.00)
Reviewed by Kristi Johnson That Takes Ovaries! is a compilation of personal stories written in the first person by women and girls. Each story describes an event in their lives when they showed courage and self-determination. These stories show the freedom women can have when they step outside the boundaries of how a woman should act. Women are changing and so is the definition of how to be feminine. Women don't have to be timid and unseen to be feminine and this book tries to empower its readers by celebrating those who have already discovered this fact, and who have chosen to live their lives boldly.
The stories include a range of topics, writing styles, and political issues. It is difficult to create categories for them because they are all so different from each other. I chose the following stories to highlight because they spoke to me and are a good representation of the diversity in this book.
There are light-hearted and funny stories, such as one about a group of half naked Lesbian Avengers delivering flowers and valentines to The Family Research Council, a conservative Christian organization, in Washington D.C. on Valentine's Day.
In other stories, women demonstrate their power by enacting change. A trade woman for a construction company tells how she and her female construction co-workers were greatly out numbered by the men on the job. The project site only had a men's restroom and it took the women anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes to take a bus to another building to use the restroom. When the foreman was alerted of this problem he would not help. So the women took it into their own hands and locked the men's room door, and posted a sign stating that the men could use the restroom on Tuesdays and Thursdays while women could use it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This got the foreman's attention and there was a women's restroom available the next day.
Not all of the entries are quite this light-hearted. One story is of a little girl who had to convince her mother not to kill herself and her children in effort to escape an abusive relationship. The girl promised her mother that she would take care of them through the beatings and the threats. The mother did not kill them that night but stayed in the abusive marriage for years before she was finally strong enough to divorce her husband.
An overweight woman relates her experience when one day she gets the courage to buy a tank top. She is courageous enough to wear it on vacation in a city where she does not know anyone and is amazed that no one laughs at her or makes her feel bad. She realized that the tank top makes her feel free and sexy and that what people see is her confidence and self-esteem.
There are stories that relate women's experiences in foreign countries. In one story a female journalist and her cameraman went to Bombay, India to film a documentary on the brothels and the many girls that are sold into them. The woman faced angry customers, brothel madams, the mafia and the paid-off cops to expose the injustices done to these girls. The woman then showed the film around the world, especially the small villages in Nepal and India where parents sell their daughters to the brothels for twenty to thirty dollars.
The authors in this book are a very diverse group of women with complicated backgrounds. These women are from different ethnic groups, have different ability levels, occupations, and goals in life. The authors range in age from five years old to middle age, however their ages are not always revealed. If there is one thing this book is lacking, it is stories that give older women's perspectives on life. There are some stories from older women about their childhood, but this book is lacking stories about issues that older women face.
That Takes Ovaries! is a book to read in one's free time. According to Rivka Solomon this book is for "everyone interested in challenging a culture still wrought with inequality and double standards - everyone hungry for unabashedly powerful females".
Reading these stories makes the reader feel good that these women are empowered. It gives the reader a sense of confidence in herself (or himself) and motivation to stand up for themselves and what they believe in. That Takes Ovaries! makes the reader realize that there are still many injustices in the world that people have to face, but it gives us the motivation to change them.
Kristi Johnson is a psychology student at Iowa State University. She only discovered the feminist side of herself two years ago. Even though she has yet to find her "calling in life" after college, she knows she will always be a feminist and an activist.