Book review – A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women

A Woman Looking at Men Looking at Women: Essays on Art, Sex, and the Mind

By Siri Hustvedt


After a few months in Sweden, I realized that the way women behave and are perceived is very different here than in countries that I know better, like France or China.

At first it was unconscious observations, but recently I started thinking more actively about questions that are studied and developed by thinkers called ‘feminists‘. I didn’t know anything about feminism. I found this book at random in a bookstore and after reading the summary I knew this was the book I had to read right now to nurture my rising interest in the topic. Ten days later I finished this rather intense reading which gave me insights far beyond my expectations.

This was my first book from Siri Husdvedt. In my opinion, the great thing about this book is that it’s not directly about feminism. It is first and foremost an encounter with a brilliant mind that take you on a journey to her own personal story as well as her quest to constantly question and improve our understanding of crucial questions like “who are we?” or “what is thinking?”, “what is the mind?”. And during the process, you get the best demonstration about why feminism matters.

The themes discussed by Husdvedt are powerful, and reading through her analyses, I learnt both about the themes and about “how to think about such questions”. I can already see that my way of thinking has been changed forever. I want to continue learning about as many and diverse disciplines as possible. I want to read fiction. I want to write. I want to go back to my previous reading notes and gather everything together to continue thinking about all those questions. I want to experience through my body new emotions and feelings, play with my imagination and creativity and become a more complete human being.

The only thing I didn’t really like about this book is that some themes are repeated among several essays and my analytical mind might have preferred a topic-based approach. I also found some essays harder to penetrate for me as a non-initiate, although the author did mention in the preface that some articles were mostly designed for a specific, qualified audience. But this book is such a gift that I can only blame myself for not being up to the task of truly understanding all its subtleties.

Reading notes available here.

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