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Paul Buchanan, RADICAL FEMINISTS: A GUIDE TO AN AMERICAN SUBCULTURE. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2011. (Guides to subcultures and countercultures.) 169p. gloss, bibl. index. $35.00, ISBN 978-1598843569.

Although the infamous bra burnings at the 1968 Miss America Pageant never happened, the mythical act continues to influence the modern-day perception of the radical and antagonistic feminist protester. Radical Feminists: A Guide to an American Subculture does little to debunk this caricature. The title suggests a focus on radical feminism while the text provides an overview of Second Wave feminism and the U.S. women's liberation movement that broadly addresses both mainstream liberal and radical feminist movements. Furthermore, Buchanan identifies overarching questions of women's liberation and discusses how answers to these questions based on varying political ideologies and tactical approaches led to the fractionalization of the movement.

Radical Feminists opens with a "Historical Overview" to contextualize the Second Wave U.S. women's liberation movement in the history of earlier political movements, including abolition, Women's Suffrage, American Radical Left and Labor movements of the early twentieth century, and the New Left. In live subsequent chapters, Buchanan addresses the principal components of Second Wave Feminism: main documents and publications, dominant organizations, major protests and events, key issues, and mainstream political action and legislative legacy. A glossary, biographical sketches of prominent radical feminists, and excerpts of primary documents of Second Wave radical feminism follow the five core chapters.

The theme of factionalism between radical feminists and liberal feminists, often rooted in differences in tactics and strategy, recurs throughout Radical Feminists. Buchanan subtly favors the institutionalized approach of mainstream feminists over the grassroots direct-action tactics of many more ideologically radical groups. For example, he praises the mainstream National Organization for Women's campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment, but focuses on the antagonistic, "absolute, dogmatic, and disruptive' nature of the radical lesbian-feminist Furies Collective. This perceived favoritism may simply arise from the books structure. Chapters on grassroots direct action and organizations of radical feminists precede the chapter describing the issues of the U.S. women's liberation movement. Therefore, the descriptions of various direct actions and radical groups seem to lack context that enriches the chapter focused on main stream political action.

Overall, Radical Feminists may appeal to undergraduate students in introductory-level history and gender and women's studies courses. This work operates as a tertiary source, and beginning researchers may use it, particularly its biographical sketches and excerpts from primary documents, as a resource and jumping-off point to get to more scholarly sources. Furthermore, beginners should be aware of the authors subtle bias toward liberal Second Wave feminists when using this overview.

Reviewed by Beth Huang

[Beth Huang is a senior at UW-Madison majoring in biochemistry and history.]

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Author:Huang, Beth
Publication:Feminist Collections: A Quarterly of Women's Studies Resources
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2012

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