Commonplacing (I through VI)

I

She wasn't my friend. She wasn't here to fight for me. Or love me. She was just as powerless, another daughter being sent back to her mother in disgrace. My thanks felt foolish under the glare of this truth. Girls with fire in their bellies will be forced to drink from a well of correction till the flames die out.

But my tongue stirred anyway. I stepped into view and threw something of my own.

Lesley Nneka Arimah
"Redemption" (story)
What It Means When a Man Falls from the Sky (2017)


II

There was something hanging over all of us. Sometimes I wanted it all to be a dream—the missal flung at the étagère, the shattered figurines, the brittle air. It was too new, too foreign, and I did not know what to be or how to be.

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Purple Hibiscus (2003)


III

It was the only place in his world where he felt the air made way for him. . . . And so, at the age of fifteen, only a few hundred yards from where his family had lived for centuries, Aftab stepped through an ordinary doorway into another universe. . . . Aftab became Anjum.

Arundhati Roy
The Ministry of Utmost Happiness (2017)


IV

If then women are not a swarm of ephemeron triflers, why should they be kept in ignorance under the specious name of innocence?

Mary Wollstonecraft
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)


V

Then I may tell you that the very next words I read were these—"Chloe liked Olivia . . ." Do not start. Do not blush. Let us admit in the privacy of our own society that these things sometimes happen. Sometimes women do like women.

. . . the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners . . . she will be born. As for her coming, without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worthwhile.

Virginia Woolf
A Room of One's Own (1929)


VI

There are many ways of describing the materials I bring together in this book: companion texts and feminist classics are just two possible ways. The materials are books, yes, but they are also spaces of encounter; how we are touched by things; how we touch things. I think of feminism as a fragile archive, a body assembled from shattering, from splattering, an archive whose fragility gives us responsibility: to take care.

Sara Ahmed
Living a Feminist Life (2017)

Commonplacing (VII through IX)

It . . .