Why Have Kids? by Jessica Valenti is an easy-to-read mission to debunk the idea that children = happiness. As a non-parent this is something I’m interested in exploring – personally and socially. The themes Valenti (a parent) takes on are similar to Rufus Griscom and Alisa Volkman in their TED talk, “Let’s Talk Parenting Taboos: http://ow.ly/s5cgC
Read the rest of my review here: http://acbrv.wordpress.com/2013/12/27/heads-tails-considering-the-other-side-of-the-coin/
Jessica Valenti’s book ”Full Frontal Feminism” attempts to disprove the claims made by various journalists (and others) that feminism is dead. These claims suggest that whatever feminism was out to achieve, has been achieved already and there is therefore no need for anyone to fight any more. They also suggest that young women nowadays are not interested in fighting any battles, and they definitely do not want to be called feminists, because that is supposedly an ugly word.
The method Valenti uses to disprove these claims is to write about some of the issues that women still have to deal with today: lower wages, unrealistic beauty ideals, governments trying to control their bodies and more. It is a successful method in that it reminds the reader of just how much still needs to be fixed, just how unequal our society still is.
I consider myself a feminist. I believe that we have come a long way towards equality but we also still have a long way to go until men and women have equal rights and everyone is treated with respect. I also applaud Valenti for what she is is trying to do, which is to educate people about these issues. But this book irked me to no end. Valenti’s constant use of profanity and meaningless exclamations, like ”Sweet, huh?”, ”Gross” and ”Ugh” made the book seem like it was written by a 14-year old, not by someone who has a Master’s degree in women’s studies. Maybe it was a tactic consciously employed by Valenti to reach younger women more easily (she mentions at some point that she thinks that feminism should be accessible to everyone, and I agree), but to me it felt like an attempt to come across as a cool person (and make feminism look cool at the same time). I found it grating and contra-productive. Feminism is, as she herself writes several times, pretty cool in itself. Then why try to adorn it with trinkets? Why cheapen it? Why distract from the message? The statistics she presents in the book are powerful enough on their own; I don’t need Valenti to add a ”pretty scary stuff, huh” after she’s told me how many women get raped by men they know in their own homes. I don’t need her to take me by the hand and lead me to conclusions. I’m already ahead of her. She should give her readers some credit.
”Full frontal feminism” read like an introduction to all things feminist, trying to cover as many areas as possible without going into any of these areas in depth. If I hadn’t already been a feminist, I think I would have trouble taking this book seriously. And, unfortunately, I doubt it would convert me to feminism, because of that. Does the book succeed in disproving the claims that feminism is dead? Yes, or at least it tells its readers why we shouldn’t let it die, and for that it gets a couple of stars from me. But there are books out there that are way more thought out and well-written that do ten times as much for feminism as this book does.
So, I was halfway through this book when Lollygagger posted this fabulous review on the CBR blog, which was then featured on Pajiba. I really don’t have that much to add. That review is a great summary of the book, it’s thesis, and why it’s important for both men and women to think about this topic. I’m going to address two things that jumped out at me.
First, how difficult is still can be for women to get access to contraception, abortion and needed healthcare. Valenti’s stories about women being denied Plan B by pharmacists who have taken matters into their own hands, of women jailed after giving birth to still born babies, about proposals for miscarriage laws that require reporting a miscarriage so the state can determine if you endangered your unborn child, scared me. Valenti made the point that if a woman is considered mature enough by the state to carry a child to term and raise a child, the state should consider a woman mature enough to choose whether she wants to have that child at all (whether this be by accessing Plan B after a birth control lapse, or through abortion). The rhetoric most states use to limit access to birth control and abortion is that of the woman as a victim, as immature, as unable to make these decisions herself. I find that kind of rhetoric incredibly disturbing. Roe v. Wade was a huge victory, but things like Mississippi are still happening.
Second, the idea of women as gatekeepers is antiquated, and dangerous, for both men and women.
This is a nearly impossible review to write, as this book is amazing, infuriating, and endlessly quotable. I like to write in my books (I know, the horror), underlining passages, commenting on paragraphs, dropping the occasional “the FUCK” in the margins, and fiendishly circling page numbers so I know which ones REALLY need to be remembered. In the case of this book, nearly every page has at least one passage underlined. And I was being conservative with my pen.
Jessica Valenti is a feminist who has spent much of her life spreading the (shockingly controversial) idea that women deserve social, political and economic equality. This doesn’t just mean that she supports the basics like, say, equal pay for equal work; it means she explores the real issues that affect women on a regular basis. She examines the systemic issues, the roots of discriminatory treatment, and makes connections that initially seem obtuse but, given her thorough research and excellent ability to connect the dots, become clear and obvious to anyone willing to think critically.