Sunday, April 25, 2010

photo credit goes to my friend Adi Lopez :)

In keeping with my ongoing feminazi kick, this morning I picked up two books by Jessica Valenti.

The first is called Full Frontal Feminism; a young woman's guide to why feminism matters. I find it frustrating. I think she's trying to do the same thing that bell hooks is trying to do in Feminism is for Everybody (a book I highly recommend, though not as highly as Feminist Theory; from margin to center)--make an introductory primer, something that says, "this is what we are, what we are not, and why we are relevant to your life."

I see four main problems in Valenti's work. First, her writing isn't particularly focused or clear--it often includes disorganized rants. Second, she oversimplifies like there's no tomorrow. In fact, she oversimplifies like there's no ten minutes from now. Third, while I understand that she's trying to appeal to an audience of "young women," her approach (including a lot of swearing) definitely has no chance of reaching the audience that most needs it--young conservative religious types.

Lastly, this book hasn't done anything to improve my opinion of "pro-sex feminism". Though I like sex, I find it problematic to set it up as necessarily good. For instance, when I was a teenager I ran into a fair few guys with the approach, "sex is good, so you should have it with me--if you don't mind too much." Sex-positive doesn't really describe individual autonomy, in a strong sense, over one's own body. That includes respecting people's choice not to have sex, ever, if they so choose. Insofar as one has to weigh in on these things, I'd consider myself to be (politically) sex-neutral.

Also, though I appreciate the value of writing about feminism for women, I'm with bell hooks; feminism is for everybody. I'd prefer it if this were written in a way that's much more inclusive of men. I'm halfway through, we'll see if it gets better.

Thankfully, the second book (He's a stud, she's a slut, and 49 other double standards every woman should know) looks better. While some of the same snags are still present, the format--basically, two page chapters on a focused topic--does a lot to clean up her approach. It goes over all sorts of inequalities, from well known ones (viagra is routinely covered by health insurance, but birth control is not) to the more obscure (women pay more for the same cars and haircuts.) The format also lends itself to browsing, which I'm fond of. It's the kind of book I'd want to keep a copy of on my coffee table--good for a thought provoking two second reminder of how the little things don't add up.

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