Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Full Frontal Feminism

Last night I finished reading Full Frontal Feminism, a book by author Jessica Valenti, 28, who founded Feministing. It is meant to be a young woman's guide to feminism, and I think she did an excellent job reigning in the younger crowd as cohorts. She does this by explaining things conversationally, as well as sprinkling cuss words in here and there, while still respecting the seriousness of sexism and equality.

I liked her style, and moreover, I enjoyed her flexibility. So far, I have received my education from a slightly older crowd that is maybe less lenient on ideas about empowerment. For example, I have been under the impression that women who make their livings as strippers are ONLY doing it for the man, and that they are in some way being forced in this profession. Valenti argues that while this is true in many ways, the truth of the matter is that women have a choice -- a choice to recognize that each time she walks on the stage in a thong she is objectifying herself. More, she begs these women, as well those who wear heels, makeup, etc, to ask themselves honestly who they are doing it for. The reality is that women do it for men -- the above-mentioned accessories are part of a male-made fantasy, but that if one is real with oneself, at least the wool is not being pulled over one's eyes.

In fact, her entire sex chapter was fascinating. She points out the ways in which boys are socialized to be sex fiends, and "can't help themselves," while girls are socialized to be virginal; and if she puts out she is a slut. Valenti asks young women to reclaim their sexuality, and erase the double standard. Meaning, it is ok to have sex, to have fantasies, and to be in charge. And while this is not necessarily news to her readers, the truth is that we often forget the ways sexism hurts us all.

She also offers great tips on how to better arm oneself with rhetoric including: I don't want to get married; I don't want to have kids; I want to make enough money; I want to own my body; I want to help smash racism, sexism, classism, and so on. By using statistics and facts -- i.e. the country wants us to pump out babies, and conform to gender norms so badly, yet we have NO universal health care, and child care costs are through the roof. Meaning, society sets up rules that are unfair in the way that they seem to address only middle to upper class ladies who can "afford" to break the rules. Valenti wants us to help break these barriers -- by either not participating in the norm, or by fighting to install better support.

P.S. If you are reading this on June 5, please stay up for the Colbert Report, as Valenti will be a guest on the show.