Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Top Reasons I Hate Full Frontal Feminism

I wanted to read Jessica Valenti’s book Full Frontal Feminism because I keep seeing these amazing reviews online about how it’s a hallmark of Third-Wave Feminism. I got it from the library, read it, and hated it beyond all reasonable beliefs. Here’s a full list of the reasons why I hate Full Frontal Feminism.

1. She curses all the time. Let it be known that I really find cursing to just be unnecessary most of the time. I understand that on the first page, she uses the “the worst words you can call both women and men mean ‘girl’” exercise, so there’s a purpose to cursing there, but in other places, she’s just using bad words to be annoying.

For example, “We should be able to wear whatever the f**k we want without fear of rape” (66). Of course! I completely agree! But I find myself completely not taking her seriously because she comes across as ineloquent when she uses bad words like this. If she had just left out the bad word, I would respect her and her idea so much more.

2. She makes up (incorrect) statistics. Just one example of this is “2004 was the first election in which women voted at a higher rate than men in the US presidential election” (222). No, it wasn't! Women have voted in larger percentages than men since 1980, and in larger numbers than men since 1964, according to CAWP and EMILY’s List! Valenti does not cite where she got this incorrect information, along with several other pieces of non-sourced statistics and facts.

3. She can't decide if every woman is a feminist or only some are. In the chapter “You’re a Hardcore Feminist. I Swear.,” she goes on and on about how every woman at heart truly believes in feminist goals, even though they often don’t call themselves feminists. Then she talks about “sisterhood, my a*s” (14) and how she “realize[d] that feminism isn’t for everybody” (15) when a woman posted an anti-feminist, homophobic rant in response to an online article. Make up your mind! Which is it? Are all women feminists or have you “never really bought the ‘we’re all sisters’ thing anyway” (15)?

4. The entire book sounds like an overlong blog post. It’s informal, she curses, she jokes too much, and it devalues and delegitimatizes all of the concepts in the book. She makes serious concepts like equal pay for equal work and rape seem like jokes. For example, she uses the term “a*s-raped” (96) instead of saying “sodomized” or some other, more respectful term for the victims of such an act, which makes it a joke, something not taken seriously.

5. She keeps using the term lady. I know I’m probably one of the only people who pick up on this, but lady is a sexist term if you use it when you wouldn’t usually use the term gentleman, since it puts women on a pedestal. This puts them above men rather than equal to them.

6. She constantly discusses how she doesn’t like to f**k Republicans. To be perfectly honest, I'm really not interested. I find it extremely inappropriate that she makes such negative comments towards Republicans and having sex with them for two reasons.

Reason one: I really don’t want to know about Valenti’s sexual partners. I took this book out of the library to read about feminism, not who she wants to do it with.

Reason two: It’s just a little bit offensive to Republicans to say that you don’t want to have sex with them. Valenti says that she loves a shirt she has that says “I don’t f**k Republicans” on it (139), urges people to wear that shirt (150), and suggests, “don’t have sex with Republicans” (32) as a good sex tool.

I call myself an eclectic and don’t identify with any party, so I’m not taking this personally. I still find it really stupid that Valenti will unconditionally refuse to have sex with a Republican. What if that person is a feminist who just happens to identify with the Republican party? Will you still not have sex with him, or is the fact that he votes at Republican primaries just too much of a turn-off?

7. She makes silly claims. She says, “I’m all for having babies, but just keep this in mind: reseach shows that for every year a woman in her twenties waits to have children, her lifetime earnings increase by 10 percent. Just saying” (125).

So apparently women shouldn’t have children until they’re in their thirties, when it can be harder to have children and will have to spend money on fertility treatments! (I guess they’ll have more money to spend because they’ll have been paid better in their twenties? Assuming that statistic is correct, anyway...) Or in fact, maybe society should forgo children entirely! How should the world be repopulated? Valenti doesn’t say. Maybe the world has enough people.

8. She has absolutely no tact. “For the life of me, I will never understand why a woman today would change her last name [at marriage]. It makes no sense whatsoever. You want future kids to have the same last name as you and your hubby? Hyphenate, b***h!” (147)

Okay, you know what? I agree. Women shouldn’t change their last names at marriage. I address my full philosophy on this in this post. But what a way to phrase it - “Hyphenate, b***h!” Has it ever occurred to her that this is highly offensive to all the women out there who have already taken their husbands’ names? Or that maybe there are more succinct ways of phrasing such a concept? I think a woman who's on the fence about taking her husband's name might just be a wee bit offended at the fact that she's being called a b***h.

9. What little she does cite is faulty information. She goes on about how horrible hospitals are for birthing mothers because they “force” women into having C-sections, which, according to an uncited statistic, have a higher risk of death to newborn babies (153) because it’s easier for doctors (159).

This may be true, but I'm unwilling to believe it based off of the research she's done. If she really read the New York Times article that I’m assuming she got that information from (considering it cites the same study that she mentions, and I doubt that she’s an avid reader of Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care), she would have noticed the line that says “The authors acknowledge that the study has certain limitations, including concerns about the accuracy of medical information reported on birth certificates…It is possible, though unlikely, that the Caesarean birth group was inherently at higher risk.” (Italics mine.)

10. Saving the best for last: she's a classist anti-Semite! I love how in the section about how horrible classism is, she makes classist and anti-Semitic remarks. She says that “the majority of my friends in high school were Jewish gals from the Upper West Side of Manhattan” (231), and then says that the same friends remarked, “‘Your mom is so cute! Her accent sounds so…uneducated!’” (232) They would have said the same thing of my Eastern European Holocaust survivor grandmother; I’m not trying to defend them. But Valenti is committing an act of classism by needlessly mentioning that they’re Upper West Siders, and being extremely anti-Semitic by needlessly mentioning that they’re Jewish.

From what I could glean, the book is meant as a feminist kiruv book for women who aren't at all associated with the movement. (Kiruv is the movement to get secular Jews closer to Judaism.) The book felt extremely distancing to me, and made feminism just look bad. It kind of hurts to think that people have actually read this book and possibly been distanced from feminism because of it.

Now that I’ve completely ripped apart the book and bashed it to death, I would like to say that I do agree with the vast majority of points that Valenti brings up. After I read Full Frontal Feminism and went on about how much I hate it and how I want to write a blog post about it, my mom asked me if I would put Valenti in the Black Holes of Davida. My immediate reaction was absolutely not. She’s a fellow feminist; we may not agree, but I’m certainly not going to blackball her, even if she is a classist anti-Semite who thinks that women shouldn't have children or cite any information. (I know. I just had to say it.)

All I have to do now is write a book about my own views on feminism…


  1. Hi!
    I don't think Valenti means to offend anyone, nor would I classify her as intentionally anti-Semitic, especially since those comments came in context of a section where she discusses how her friends were inherently classist in their treatment of her and her family.
    Nice-looking blog though. Keep it real.

  2. I'm with you - I also doubt that when writing Full Frontal Feminism, Valenti intended to offend or be openly anti-Semitic. Unfortunately, she came across as both, at least in my opinion.

  3. I agree with you that her swearing can be offputting, but at the same time I think there was a pretty good reason for it. Feminism has a reputation of being something for wealthy, super well educated, academic type women. Valenti (and other feminists of our era) are trying to craft a narrative that is accessible to everyone, not just rich women who can afford college and who are educated in various high brow philosophers. Valenti is trying to making feminism and feminist ideals accessible and attractive to not necessarily super educated youth, and I think thats commendable. Now, maybe she takes the swearing thing a bit too far, but as a young person this is how a lot of kids talk, and it makes the book easy to read and easy to understand. I don't think there's anything wrong with that.

    Also, in response to point 7, umm a) i don't think the human race is quite at risk for dying out, so your point about repopulation is, well, at best a huge exaggeration. And Valenti's point here isn't to say women should not, under any circumstances, become pregnant in their 20's, nor is it to shame women who have had kids in their 20's. Her point is merely to inform women so that they can make better choices for themselves. I had a discussion with my friends about this very point, and they all said that they did not care how much it affects their lifetime earnings, they wanted kids and they didn't want to wait until they were too old to have them. So at least they'll be able to make an informed choice when the time comes. Feminism is all about allowing women (and all people) to know the facts, so that they can they make informed choices. If this statistic suddenly caused a huge drop off in younger women having children (which, come one, it never would) mayhaps that would force the structure of our society to change, so that women could become pregnant whenever they wanted without having to deal with an extremely reduced income. Regardless, I'm pretty sure Valenti is not advocating for the extinction of the human race do to flagging repopulation efforts.

  4. I see what you're saying regarding the incessant cursing in Valenti's book, but it still makes her come across as unprofessional and uneducated. I'm all for making feminism accessible, especially to young people, but calling sodomy "a*s-rape" is taking it too far.

    Clearly Valenti doesn't want the human race to end, I was being sarcastic. (I should start pointing that out, my friends have been telling me it's getting difficult to distinguish when I'm being sarcastic and not.) My problem was her phraseology, “I’m all for having babies, but just keep this in mind: reseach shows that for every year a woman in her twenties waits to have children, her lifetime earnings increase by 10 percent. Just saying” (125). If she had explained the reason behind this statistic or something like that, I wouldn't necessarily have a problem with it. But she just implies "oh if you have babies in your twenties you're buying into the male power system and you're an inferior woman," and I'm not cool with that. (This is yet another uncited statistic on Valenti's part, so I don't even know if it's true or not. Her track record for telling the truth in this book isn't very good, so I'm gonna assume it's false until I have proof otherwise.)


  6. I'm glad that you were positively impacted by Full Frontal Feminism.

    I don't quite see your reasoning in saying that me hating that excuse for a book means it did its job, considering its purpose was to get women into feminism and it had the complete opposite effect on me, but sure, if you say so.