Welcome back to the last entry in my holiday book-giving guide! Don’t worry, I’ll still be reviewing books, but just won’t be able to call them holiday reviews. My first two reviews can be found here and here, and if you want gift ideas that go beyond books, check out my last-minute feminist gift guide.
Today I’m looking at Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism. In this 2007 book, Valenti tackles many of the issues facing today’s young feminists, examining things like double standards, double binds, structural obstacles, internalized misogyny, and regular old sexism.
Valenti packs an impressive amount of information into one book, citing studies, laws, and pop culture events and explaining the issues surrounding them in clear, easily understandable language. She skillfully makes connections between tangible things like restrictions on reproductive rights and their theoretical implications, such as the assumption that women need other people to make decisions about sex for them or that women’s bodies are supposed to be under the control of men.
When Valenti does occasionally (gently) chide her readers for buying into the patriarchal norms, she does so with a tone of concern and encouragement, not faulting. She places the blame for things like women’s preoccupation with weddings squarely on the heads of the industries that profit from these societal norms, and manages to point out the misogyny inherent in these rituals without coming across as too harsh or ranty (and since we feminists do love a good harsh rant, I’m especially impressed by her ability to avoid it!). Readers will leave this book feeling educated and inspired, not lectured.
There’s not really much “bad” to say about Valenti’s book. She puts in an effort to address gay and lesbian issues, and while she doesn’t thoroughly delve into issues of race and class, she does mention them often as factors in oppressive structures. I was a little disappointed that intersectionality was relegated to a short chapter at the end, and presented more as “academic” than as lived reality, but I also admire Valenti’s commitment to including it at all (especially in a book that is obviously marketed as more “pop” feminism than academic).
While she does occasionally use anti-feminist jokes and language in an effort to be edgy or humorous, she doesn’t do it nearly to the extent that Caitlin Moran did in How to be a Woman. My one complaint about the book is that Valenti’s attempts to sound hip through slang and cursing get tired pretty quickly. However, since I’m a little older than her target audience, I may not be the best judge of that.
Well, I was going to comment on the cover of the book, which features a thin, naked, white female torso (even though book titles and covers often have more to do with the publisher than the author). However, the revised edition of the book, published this year, has a much less offensive cover.
Basically, the “ugly” surrounding Valenti’s book is the same kind of “ugly” that surrounds a majority of popular feminist books. This is a book by and for white feminists. While Valenti tries to acknowledge intersections of race and class, as a white feminist herself, she can’t truly address those issues. These are issues within the current feminist movement well beyond just one book. And I’m not going to try to address them in this review, although as a white feminist myself, I’m going to try to address them in the future (one of my New Year’s resolutions is actually to educate myself about these issues).
Whose stocking should it go in?
Well, I’m posting this review on Christmas Eve, so the book is probably not making its way into any stockings! However, I’d absolutely recommend this book for a high school girl who’s interested in feminism (especially because it was recommended to me by some of my students – hi Maia and Sarah!).