Friday, June 8, 2012

"I'm Not a Feminist, But..." is BS: A Book Reaction

I read.  A lot.  I love books.  It's something I picked up before I could even talk- my parents love to tell about how, when I was still a baby, I'd go to the bookshelf, take down a book I wanted read to me, and crawl (I assume) over to whichever parent was nearby and literally hit their leg with the book till they read it to me.  Then I'd rinse and repeat.  Several times.

To this day, I have no qualms about re-reading books if I really like them.  Sometimes they're so good that right then and there I'll start from the beginning again.

The latest book to get this treatment is the amazing Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti.  It's required reading for the Intro to Women's Studies class at my university, and since I'm taking the class next semester and Girlfriend (I WILL FIND A WAY TO MENTION YOU IN EVERY POST. :P) had already taken it, I borrowed the book to get a headstart over the summer.

This book.  Oh my God.  This book.

Valenti is the founder of, a blog devoted to women's issues from a third-wave (read: under-35) perspective.  She wrote FFF intending to give essentially a primer on feminism and feminist issues for young women who may have been scared away from identifying with the movement due to the stereotypes (we're all manly angry hairy dykes*) and misconceptions (we're not needed anymore).  She covers everything from the beauty industry and women in the work force to rape culture and the fight over a woman's right to have children when and how she wants.

As I read it, I found myself wanting to quote huge swaths of it on Facebook.  Valenti writes with a biting vitality and frankness (people sensitive to strong language would be uncomfortable with that part of it) while talking about things that seem outrageous and unbelievable until you see that she has a citation for it so you know she's unfortunately not making this stuff up.  Then her own commentary is witty and just the thing for responding to the absurdity.  For example:

  • "A woman was recently...thrown off a Delta flight when she refused to stop breastfeeding.  So we're supposed to be good moms and take care of our kids...but when we want to do it in public- gross!  You know, because boobies are for boys, not babies." (160)
  • "A woman in Texas was...arrested last year for daring to throw a 'Passion Party.' (Kind of like a Tupperware party, but with naughty stuff...Apparently, in Texas you can sell vibrators, but only if you sell them as 'novelties' or 'gag gifts'...You know, because girls masturbating should be funny, not real." (39)
  • "My first real taste of feminist phobia came when I taught Intro to Feminisms at SUNY Albany...One guy, who was my age, took the class just to be disruptive...we asked everyone to write their names on a piece of paper...and the guy wrote WOMAN HATER." (189)
Like I said, I could quote huge swaths of this book, but I like to pretend I have some self-restraint.

Whether you identify as a feminist or not, you should read this book.  If you despise feminism, you should read this book, if for no other reason than to make sure that you know what it is you're despising.  Valenti goes into detail about each issue she tackles, and spares no one- I find her chapter on rape culture particularly harrowing, because it highlights just how much hostility there is toward survivors of sexual assault.  Promise me this, reader: If you ever hear about a woman being assaulted, never say "She should have known better" or, God forbid, "She deserved it because X." No one asks or deserves to be assaulted, ever.  It's always the perpetrator's choice to commit a violent act on another.

Anyway, seriously.  Read Full Frontal Feminism.  It's awesome.

*I'm a lesbian, I'm allowed to say it.  If you aren't a lesbian, you'll never know what it's like being referred to by the term "dyke" in a derogatory manner, and therefore you probably shouldn't say it to refer to people.


  1. All the liking. This book is now on my list of "books people say are awesome that I intend to read." Also, I like your blog. :D

    1. Why, thank you! And yeah, it's an amazing book.