Monday, 4 March 2013

Cannonball Read #07: Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Jessica Valenti's book ”Full Frontal Feminism” attempts to disprove the claims made by various journalists (and others) that feminism is dead. These claims suggest that whatever feminism was out to achieve, has been achieved already and there is therefore no need for anyone to fight any more. They also suggest that young women nowadays are not interested in fighting any battles, and they definitely do not want to be called feminists, because that is supposedly an ugly word. 

The method Valenti uses to disprove these claims is to write about some of the issues that women still have to deal with today: lower wages, unrealistic beauty ideals, governments trying to control their bodies and more. It is a successful method in that it reminds the reader of just how much still needs to be fixed, just how unequal our society still is.

I consider myself a feminist. I believe that we have come a long way towards equality but we also still have a long way to go until men and women have equal rights and everyone is treated with respect. I also applaud Valenti for what she is is trying to do, which is to educate people about these issues. But this book irked me to no end. Valenti's constant use of profanity and meaningless exclamations, like ”Sweet, huh?”, ”Gross” and ”Ugh” made the book seem like it was written by a 14-year old, not by someone who has a Master's degree in women's studies. Maybe it was a tactic consciously employed by Valenti to reach younger women more easily (she mentions at some point that she thinks that feminism should be accessible to everyone, and I agree), but to me it felt like an attempt to come across as a cool person (and make feminism look cool at the same time). I found it grating and contra-productive. Feminism is, as she herself writes several times, pretty cool in itself. Then why try to adorn it with trinkets? Why cheapen it? Why distract from the message? The statistics she presents in the book are powerful enough on their own; I don't need Valenti to add a ”pretty scary stuff, huh” after she's told me how many women get raped by men they know in their own homes. I don't need her to take me by the hand and lead me to conclusions. I'm already ahead of her. She should give her readers some credit.

”Full frontal feminism” read like an introduction to all things feminist, trying to cover as many areas as possible without going into any of these areas in depth. If I hadn't already been a feminist, I think I would have trouble taking this book seriously. And, unfortunately, I doubt it would convert me to feminism, because of that. Does the book succeed in disproving the claims that feminism is dead? Yes, or at least it tells its readers why we shouldn't let it die, and for that it gets a couple of stars from me. But there are books out there that are way more thought out and well-written that do ten times as much for feminism as this book does.

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