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book report: Full Frontal Feminism

Posted by pocochina on May 12, 2007

So there’s no way I was part of Jessica Valenti’s intended audience for Full Frontal Feminism, a smart, potty-mouthed manifesta for young women with feminist politics who are for one reason or another scared to self-identify as feminists.  It’s more for someone like my sister, or me when I was sixteen.  But I still loved it, and Jessica does the Third Wave proud.

I totally love her chapter that dealt with dating and marriage issues.  The inherent inequality of marriage has bothered me for years.  I’ve never wanted to change my name, or cared about jewelry.  I’d rather attend the Republican National Convention than put on some fucking white prom dress (and sidebar – how fucking creepy is prom?) and say the oh, you’re my schnoopums for EVER and EVER, look Mom, no hands!  The whole “giving your daughter away” bit gives me the absolute creeps – I adore my Dad, but he doesn’t own me, and, since he’s not a total tool, he doesn’t want to, either.  I love the idea of being married, but a traditional wedding?  Ew.  And she’s spot-on with the engagement ring crap – a ring is basically Something Pretty, and if Your Man Really Loves You, he’ll spend an obscene amount of money on you, making you a well-adorned status symbol.  She calls out the double-standard anti-gay marriage bullshit for what it is, which is a means to control women, and ensure that men and women who don’t want to play get to be punished for it.

I also think she takes exactly the right tactics, in starting off with repro rights-the issue which brings so many women to feminism, because it’s arguably the most personal way in which government and politics clearly affect our lives.  Going from there to a concise discussion of intersectionality (dude, didn’t even know it was possible, snaps to Jessica) is tough but necessary, and I loved to see it happen.

She also manages to be a white hetero woman who, while not pretending she can speak for gay women or women of color, still delivers a potent case for the absolute necessity of inclusive, pluralistic feminism.  A tough thing to do, especially in a book that’s very clear on how marginalized groups are spoken for, and not to, but everyone who reads(Jessica’s blog) Feministing.com knows that women of color are a HUGE presence there.

There’s things that would have made my pre-feminist self squirm with shame, though.  “I’m better in bed than you are,” would have read to me, no matter what, like “you are So Not Sexy, stop thinking all this empowerment is for you.”  Of course it’s not intended that way, and there’s no way anyone can anticipate the fucked-up self-hating ways an individual woman responds to a world that’s not woman-friendly.  I would’ve been jealous-jealous!-of her sister, who “got too skinny one summer.”  I would’ve wished for that kind of “self-control,” for a body that would actually lose weight in the space of a few weeks, would’ve done anything for someone to notice how unhealthy I was.  In fact, on balance, that’s my only quibble with the book, and in such an information-packed piece of work, it’s a small one, I’m just afraid it’ll hurt some of the girls it’s meant to help.

There’s lots more in this book,  but it’s sitting out in my car.  All in all, loved it, I plan on lending it to everyone in sight.

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