Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters (2014) by Jessica Valenti aims to shatter the misconception that feminists are aggressive, male-despising, bra burning inhabitants of a combative cause. Valenti wrote the book out of frustration at the articles pervading the media alleging the movement’s death. She also observed a palpable disinterest of young women to explore feminism, possibly because of its negative connotations. In response, Valenti took charge as the chill scribe of a 21st Century guidebook for skeptical women. Valenti writes like she’s your BFF; settle in with a coffee in a comfy chair and she’ll whisk you away into her laid-back, comical and delightfully compelling domain.
First published in 2007, the book has entered its’ second publication, making it even more relevant to the current climate of the movement. The manual confronts everything from reproductive rights, education, violence, sex and relationships, pop culture, and more. Plus, with witty chapter titles like “Sex and the City Voters, my ass” and “Feminists Do it Better (and Other Sex Tips)”, it’s hard not to be seduced into its’ witty performance.
Valenti’s first challenge to readers is to answer questions like, “Do you think it’s fair that a guy will make more money doing the same job as you?” Her point is basically if you believe that men and women should be treated equally, that is socially, politically and economically, then you’re a feminist. What’s more, Valenti makes being a feminist easy for you. That is, you’re not going to have to undergo some sort of freakish initiation. All you have to do is read her simple definition of feminism and consider that accepting it is analogous to making things better for women in every facet of their existence.
A particularly refreshing element of Valenti’s conversation is her discussion of the degradation and maltreatment of men in society. Just as Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls for parental reform in her book, so Valenti demands a renunciation of raising boys to be excessively resilient, and void of emotions and tears; the protectors and rational spokespersons of all human-kind.
Be prepared to meet a woman with the exceptional ability to string curse words together with a smug, yet smart and entirely motivating set of guidelines for getting behind feminism. Her words don’t ring holier-than-thou, rather her casual voice is simply an attempt to attract young women (and sometimes men) to the cause.
Despite Valenti’s energetic calls to action, there are segments of her argument that I can’t accept. For example, she focuses mostly on white, middle-class straight women. While I recognize this is partly natural due to her own experience and her own perspective, she fails to invite women of other races and genders to the discussion. Furthermore, she demands in chapter seven that women not change their last names should they decide to get married. In my opinion, this demand of hers is intrusive and not conducive to seducing women to the cause. Such a decision is personal to each couple, and let’s not forget that marriage is now legal for homoesexual couples as well (yay!). Succinctly speaking, her caution here reeks of the very “man-hating” tone she claims to be refusing, and it sounds like her own personal problem; not the movement’s.
Overall, Valenti makes a strong case, and she presents the information with a balance of humor, energy, and urgency. The most important and relevant chapter is the last chapter of the book, chapter thirteen, where Valenti confronts the timeworn issues of racism and classicism in regards to feminism. I appreciate Valenti’s effort to make young women aware of the importance of recognizing, appreciating and inviting the differences in race, class, age, etc. to the feminist cause. She is right in emphasizing that it’s the only way we can move forward in gaining rights for all women in the 21st Century.
This book is accessible, entertaining, and a good, easy introduction to feminism. Valenti saves the history lesson for late in the book, after she’s got you all fired up. She also encourages a modern participation in the movement via blogging and online activism, which I talked about the importance of in my last post. If you enjoy a mixture of concrete facts paired with humorous writing and statistical information; if you want to learn about feminism without reading a dense theory book; if you simply want to refresh your knowledge about the cause, then this book is for you.
Valenti, Jessica. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. Emeryville, CA: Seal, 2007. Print.