I had high hopes for this one – I follow Jessica Valenti on Twitter and usually really like the links and comments that she tweets. But… now part of me wants to unfollow her, because she did not come off well in this book. Actually, the more I think about this book, the angrier it makes me.
Alright, let’s start with the things I liked about this book. (There weren’t many.) I appreciate that she touched on a lot of issues that I think are important – pay inequality, violence against women/rape, and birth control rights. I’m glad that every now and then she mentioned the struggle against racism and homophobia as well, and how they tie-in to feminist causes. Occasionally, she made me laugh.
And that’s about it.
Now, I have a list of complaints a mile long… but I’ll try to not mention them all.
- She talks in a casual, curse-filled language designed to pander to teenagers and if I was a teenager, I think I would’ve been insulted that she felt the need to dumb herself down to get through to me. It was bad. Especially when she complains about some women’s right organization doing the exact same thing.
- She claims that young women can take the power out of words like “slut” and “cunt” and make them our own. Are you fucking kidding me? NO. Just no. This is the same argument that some users of the n-word use, and guess what? It hasn’t worked. These are words designed to be insults, to be hurtful. It will never be the norm to walk up to your friend and say “Hi, slut!” and it be a good thing. At best it’s tacky and ignorant. These are words that we should be trying to discourage and erase from our language competely.
- She says things like “Never date a Republican!” several times throughout the book. I’ll be the first to say that I don’t like Republican politicians. But we all have varying degrees of political leanings, and by saying crap like that she’s insulting any young Republican-minded girls who might be reading this book. Feminism is not just for Democrats. You should be trying to expand women’s rights to everyone, not everyone-except-Republicans. They’re roughly half the population – we can’t make much more legal progress without working together.
- In the chapter about dating and marriage… “Hyphenate, bitch! Or do something, anything, but change your last name.” Dude, screw you. You’ve spent SO much of this book encouraging women to make decisions for themselves instead of the reasons man and society has given you, but then you just start telling women what to do? I’ll change my last name if I want to. This is not a feminist decision, it’s a personal one.
- She touches on vaginal rejuvenation surgery and how it’s horrible and women are being pressured into it because of porn. Plastic surgery is not a feminist issue. This is a “some people are really goddamn stupid” issue.
- She repeatedly implies that women who don’t work really DO want to, they’ve just been fooled into thinking they don’t want to. Just like the men she’s criticizing, she implies that there’s no way you could’ve possibly come to that decision on your own.
- I’m disturbed that the author spent a whole chapter on the subject of rape and violence against women without encouraging those women to take self-defense classes, carry pepper spray, or (for women who are responsible enough) a gun. Why wouldn’t you encourage women to defend themselves? She spends a whole lot of time complaining about the culture we live in that allows things like rape to happen, but until society completely does a 180 and it’s not a concern anymore, for the love of god, protect yourself. Don’t leave yourself completely defenseless. Take precautions, and a lot of them. All the info and stats about violence against women was nice, but some tips on being safer and defending yourself would have been better.
- She definitely insists that the reader should try running for office, to get more women into politics. (Page 245 – “Run for office. Seriously, do it.”) Hmmmm, I have haven’t seen her campaign posters yet…
I swear, I could go on and on.
Here’s my problem with what feminism seems to mean these days. It seems that these feminist books focus on how men and society are tricking you into shaving your legs, wearing mascara, and changing your name. Instead, these books should be focusing on serious legal issues like pay equality, reproductive rights, and violence against women and what could actually be done to tackle these things. Even if all of the females of the world woke up one day and decided to stop getting bikini waxes just to spite the men, nothing of any importance would change. We would still be underpaid, attacked, and struggling for the right to control our own reproductive systems. The author laments the fact that more young women don’t identify themselves as feminist and that this book is to try to appeal to them – maybe that’s why. Young girls aren’t stupid. They know when they’re being talked down to, and when a book is trying to use superficial topics to lure them to a cause. They know when the important stuff is being overlooked. I’m wondering if I should start seeking out older feminist books like The Feminine Mystique or A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and I’m sure they’re great books. But they’re also so old that they’re really not relevant to our current situation. Are there really no modern-day feminist books that focus on the serious issues?
A friend of the honeyman’s recently saw this book sitting on the table and asked about it, and he said he considered himself an “equalist”. I approve of this term more. I think that back in the earlier 1900’s I would’ve been a feminist – fighting for voting rights and to be able to work if I want to. I’m absolutely anti-sexism. But it seems I can’t find a modern-day feminism book that focuses on the real problems. They’re more focused on whining about skinny models, make-up, and Girls Gone Wild. If you want to write a book about how those things relate to self-esteem, awesome. But don’t smack “feminism” on the front of the book.
The more I think about it, “equalist” pretty much sums up everything that I want. I want to be paid the same amount as a man doing the same job. I want the same career opportunities open to me. I want to not be subjected to violence, and if I am I want laws in place that won’t criminalize me for defending myself. I want to be able to buy birth control as easily as men can buy condoms, and to get an abortion if I need one without some law or man standing in my way.
What I do NOT want from feminist authors like Jessica Valenti is being told that I’m stupid if I change my last name when I get married. I don’t want to be put down or told I’m being tricked into thinking that I don’t want to work. I don’t want to be told that I can wear mascara, as long as I know I’m adhering to some narrow, male view of what beauty is. No, I just want to fucking wear mascara because I like it. And if I ever meet her and she tries to call me “slut” in a friendly, women-can-make-it-mean-something-good way, I will lose. my. shit.
Can anyone recommend a (relatively modern) book about women’s rights that’s more along the lines I’m thinking of?
Sarah Says: 1.5 stars