I was in my senior year of college before I learned to spot the widespread vilification of vulvas and vaginas. In reading Swedish artist Liv Strömquist‘s graphic novel, Fruit of Knowledge: The Vulva vs. The Patriarchy, I relived every emotion and thought I had at the moment of realization. For feminists looking to renew and refocus their fury, it’s hard to beat Fruit of Knowledge as light reading.
“Light reading,” at least, in the sense that Fruit of Knowledge is not, say, Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad or Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her. Although Strömquist’s book is undoubtedly non-fiction, it isn’t dry or preachy, as one might expect from such a tome, nor is it hamfisted in its delivery. Fruit of Knowledge is, at turns, funny, informative, enlightening, and enraging. Info dumps are punctuated by light-hearted asides, which generally take the form of pointed barbs for the patriarchy.
Perhaps most surprising is that Fruit of Knowledge, a book whose subtitle refers to genitalia typically labeled “female,” rejects biological essentialism and cisnormativity. Strömquist’s focus on vulvas and vaginas does not exclude trans men and non-binary individuals, nor does her feminism exclude trans women. For readers who are unfamiliar with the form of transphobia Fruit of Knowledge avoids, the simplest explanation is to say that this book does not equate having a vulva with being female. Some men have vaginas, some women have penises, and all will find something to latch onto in this graphic novel.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for this review.
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Image credit: Charles Deluvio