Full Frontal Feminism Indeed

Right now I’m reading Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters by Jessica Valenti, and I have to say, with a few rough bumps along the way, it’s an impressive piece of literature. Most of the feminist works I’ve read—while rationally argued, fully annotated, and well-written—are dry and too academic for most pre-university readers to enjoy. Cynthia Heimel’s humorous books (columns originally published in Playboy magazine, ironically) like Get your tongue out of my mouth. I’m kissing you good-bye! and If you can’t live without me, why aren’t you dead yet? were the closest to accessible-for-teenagers feminist writings, and even those were mainly targeted at 20-something and 30-something readers.

Jessica Valenti has done a great thing in terms of boiling down the essential feminist issues into large print in a small book. The book does have its flaws, of course. For one, it tries too hard. It also does a little bit of a mental bait-and-switch. You have to be a little forgiving on the former problem, though, since it is taking on the nigh-impossible task of making feminism “cool” for girls and women born after 1990. The latter problem seems to stem from a lack of restraint on the part of the author. Valenti begins by essentially saying, “Hey, everyone should be a feminist. It makes sense. It’s not a scary thing. It isn’t some crazy fringe of whining unattractive people (not that there’s anything wrong with being unattractive). Are you on board?” but then quickly starts hammering you with statistics about rape and domestic violence—issues she quite rightly gets passionately outraged over.

I do admire, though, how she treads a very fine line on the whole “freedom” debate. She manages to get across that she values freedom from patriarchy most highly while not disparaging those in the “doesn’t freedom mean I have the freedom to be traditionally feminine?” camp. In other words, she appreciates balance and does not want to alienate anyone.

The whole time reading the book, though, I kept thinking, “Someone should write a Full Frontal Linux book like this.” I’ve seen books like [Fill in the blank] for Non-Geeks, but they’ve basically still been pretty geeky. How do you make Linux “cool” for the general public? How do you explain that software license freedom is the ultimate goal while not alienating those who still want their free-to-run-what-proprietary-software-I-want freedom? Who knows? Maybe after I finish reading Full Frontal Feminism, I’ll take a crack at Full Frontal Ubuntu (I probably don’t know enough to speak for all of Linux).

Hats off to Jessica Valenti. It’s not a perfect work by any means, but it fills a niche that needed filling.


  1. “I probably don’t know enough to speak for all of Linux”

    Maybe not, but I get the feeling a lot of people would be willing to help, count me in, I’m not exactly running Ubuntu right now, although it was the distro that got me using Linux, and every time I put Linux on anyone else’s computer, it’s always Ubuntu

  2. Just spread out a book with one page of text on it.

    “Want an operating system that doesn’t constantly crash, get viruses, or eats up your wallet? How about one that’s virtually unhackable, fully customizable, and noticeably improving every day? Ubuntu is for you! How about it?”

  3. I’ve been kind of on-and-off about whether to read this book. On the one hand, it seems like it was written for people like me who are younger and are just exploring feminism. On the other hand, I’ve heard that some older feminists feel alienated by Valenti, as if the third wave is dismissing their past accomplishments so that they can be the “cool” feminists. At the blog Shakesville, someone said, “feminists stop being cool the same age they stop bing f***able.” Did you get the sense while you were reading that Valenti wasn’t acknolwedging older feminists?

  4. Um… it’s kind of hard to say. I didn’t feel that way when I was reading it, but I could see how some older feminists could take it that way. Its priority is definitely trying to appeal to younger potential feminists and making feminism appear “cool,” so it may make some minor sacrifices along the way.

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