by Jessica Valenti
Seal Press, 2014
Review by Hennie Weiss on Mar 24th 2015
Jessica Valenti wrote Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman's Guide to Why Feminism Matters in 2007 and came out with the second edition in 2014. Depending on the subject matter, a few years may not be a significant amount of time when it comes to adding or changing material in a book. But when it comes to feminism, new laws concerning women and their rights, new regulations, recent events and worldwide discussions do add to a constant debate of feminism in society, and as Valenti herself states "And while five years is a relatively short amount of time to have passed after writing a book, in feminist years -- considering how much has happened in politics, society, and the movement -- it feels like forever" (p. 1). At the same time, many of the issues that Valenti discusses have been feminist concerns for a long time, even though they are just as significant today.
Valenti states that even though many women do not self-identify as feminists, they are just that. Stereotypes such as feminists being man hating, bra burning, and highly unattractive retract many women from identifying as feminists even though they share many feminist beliefs and concern. Therefore, Valenti discusses various topics highly related to feminism, and why it is that they matter so much for young women today. The book covers a number of topics, and goes into some detail, but manages to keep a balance between too many topics, or too much information. Full Frontal Feminism can therefore be described as an introduction (or guide as the title states) to various feminist concerns, which after reading, women (and men) can decide what they are most passionate about and do more research about those topics, while getting involved with local, national or international organizations. At the same time, Valenti calls for activism, getting involved, and standing up for women's rights. She describes various ways in which this is possible.
Valenti discusses everything from feminist stereotypes, violence against women, reproductive rights, weddings, motherhood, the history of feminism, sexism and men, the beauty industry, academic aspects of feminism, and finally how to get involved in feminist activities. Valenti also points out how sexism, stereotypes about women and widespread norms about how women should act damages and prevents women from being in charge over their own lives, bodies and sexuality. Perhaps this is most notable when it comes to women's reproductive rights. Laws that prevent young women from buying emergency contraceptives, from attaining birth control over the counter, laws that restrict access to abortion, or even tries to criminalize abortions for victims of rape and incest strip these women from any and all control over their bodies, while essentially blaming the victim for her situation.
As Valenti noted in her introduction, she has a very informal tone, which she has received som criticism for. At the same time, she is incredibly honest with her readers, she provides personal information about her own life, events that lead her to identify as a feminist, and how, as an activist, she has been threatened, demeaned and discussed in media, all due to the fact that she blogs, writes about and is very involved in feminism and politics. While reading about various ways in which women's rights are policed, controlled and challenged, it is easy to get angry and frustrated, and Valenti channels all these feelings into an interesting, entertaining, honest and upfront book about why it is so important for young women to identify as feminists, to discuss feminist topics and to get involved in activities that help and support women's rights. Full Frontal Feminism is an excellent guide for young women to do so.
© 2015 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.