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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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215 Responses

  1. Flea
    Flea May 17, 2007 at 12:55 am |

    Oh, Crap. It’s the Feministe Wednesday Book Review Club. Sorry!

  2. diana prince
    diana prince May 17, 2007 at 12:58 am |

    cool nails, Jill – are you sure you’re a grad student?
    I agree with you completely on this bit:

    No woman is less deserving than any other to criticize beauty culture. Just because Jessica fits certain standards doesn’t mean she fits all of them.

    Ever since someone tried to throw the argument at me that Naomi Wolf was just the wrong person to write the Beauty Myth (because she was too good-looking), this has infuriated me. Bit like saying “you have no right to criticise the Holocaust, because you’re not Jewish!” or something equally silly.

  3. petitpoussin
    petitpoussin May 17, 2007 at 1:18 am |

    Jill, the comment you link to in my post’s comment thread has actually been removed, at the request of the commenter, from before you wrote this post. I was remiss in not removing it sooner. I’d appreciate it if you would do the same.

    In response to your question ‘what could have been done differently’, I would refer you to the rest of the thread.

  4. Echidne
    Echidne May 17, 2007 at 2:00 am |

    I bought the book but haven’t had the time to read it yet, even though I want to, very much. As soon as I finish it (certainly by the start of June) I will review it. But I think Jill’s arguments are important ones to think about. We don’t really want a circular firing squad. Proper criticism is fine, of course.

  5. hipparchia
    hipparchia May 17, 2007 at 2:09 am |

    flea: apologizing for the feministe wednesday book review club? i thought y’all had coordinated this. on purpose. i like the idea.

    jill: i haven’t read the book, so i can’t say what i would have done differently, if anything [and besides, i like the cover art]. i wasn’t planning to read the book either, being a feminist already, and closer to being a 2nd waver than 3rd to boot. but your passionate defense of it here has made want to read it now [though i'll probably wait till it comes to the public library].

  6. Pinko Punko
    Pinko Punko May 17, 2007 at 2:18 am |

    I am not a fan of the title and the cover, but just from those two things and knowing about jessica’s background, the immensely depressing thing to me is that the criticims Jill notes were entirely predictable. That can say two of many things: one, that the criticisms are true and obvious or two, there appear to be what seems to be an orthodoxy jihad. It could easily be a little of both, but it just is not cool that you could tell exactly what some circles would say without anyone reading the book at all. It is very depressing. The criticism of Jill’s post will be: “look, they are all pals, good looking, white and upper class” and the criticism of my comment will be “Pinko=dude.” Getting beyond the essentialist nature of those categories (we’re not gonna be different anytime soon)- can there be discussions of the book, negative and positive without resorting to internet rage-a-thons? I’m not faulting Jill here because it is an emotional response- this is one of the good things about the internet- but there does seem to be a toss some red meat to the clamoring hordes to these back and forth situations. It seems that there is no “constructive” criticism anymore, just trashing because it feels good and it is easier to validate the strength of one’s beliefs with a visceral emotionality.

    Well, fuck me. I’ve just made a goddamned argument for civility. Is it possible to even say this without sounding like a concern troll? My point being from the second I saw Jessica’s book announced I felt like I could start the clock on this happening, and it didn’t feel good.

  7. little light
    little light May 17, 2007 at 3:52 am |

    Okay. Fair’s fair.

    I don’t think this whole mess is all about the book. I think we can probably agree that a lot of it is related to older fights and older wounds resurfacing, and the lighting of the tinderbox that has been large sections of the feminist blogosphere’s building frustration with mainstream feminism’s ignoring some pretty vital, urgent issues. There’s a lot that got set off here.

    So that said, I have been trying to pay pretty close attention to the criticisms of Jessica’s book. I’ll say that right off the bat. At the same time, I agree with you wholeheartedly that the cruel stuff, the personal jabs, that stuff just isn’t appropriate at all.
    I don’t know where I fall in all this, other than that. Your defense of FFF has swayed me pretty far; in general, I have a lot of respect for you and for your opinions. There are other folks I respect who are pretty clearly Not Fans. Okay.

    I keep wanting to say something in character about everyone treating each other better and remembering we’re all people, here. I also want to avoid jumping on the “niceness” bandwagon that’s so often used to silence very real frustrations on both sides. Then I end up just gesturing uselessly and not knowing what to say.

  8. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 4:33 am |

    I mostly lurk here, but I just have to say something about this.

    I’ve read most of Full Frontal Feminism over the past few days, and I’ve read most of the criticisms you linked, and I think your response kind of sucks, really. Some of those criticisms aren’t valid, but most of them are, in my opinion.

    Writing off criticism just because you happened to like the book? Especially the valid criticism? Is pretty messed up. Why are opinions of the book only valid if they’re positive?

    Maybe she didn’t intend to come off as condescending, but some people think she did. Maybe she didn’t intend to make feminism sound like a tool for guilt-free sex, but some people think she did. (Yes, I’m one of those people on both counts. Sorry.) A criticism of the book is not an attack on the person.

    When you write a book, you put yourself out there for criticism. Some people will love it. Some people will hate it. It happens. Welcome to publishing. Saying that her critics haven’t read the book, or telling them “To which I kindly say, fuck you,” doesn’t exactly prove your point that FFF is the awesomest thing since sliced bread, you know.

    If you liked it, go ahead and give it a good review, and defend it by pointing out why you liked it, but invalidating the opinion of anyone who disagrees is seriously uncool.

  9. Zettaichan
    Zettaichan May 17, 2007 at 6:48 am |

    Vox, I don’t see Jill saying anything like “opinions of the book only valid if they’re positive” – she’s protesting criticism that targets Jessica Valenti rather than the book itself. Whether Jessica is “too pretty” to opine on beauty standards has nothing to do with the information & arguments presented in FFF.

    If you think the book has a condescending tone or too much emphasis on guilt-free sex, fine, but it wouldn’t be cool for you to then say, “Jessica Valenti is a bad feminist, she’s condescending and obsessed with guilt-free sex.” The way she wrote her book and tried to pitch her arguments toward young women doesn’t reflect on her personal character, only on the success or failure of what she tried to write and how she wrote it. I hope you see the difference.

  10. Joseph Kugelmass
    Joseph Kugelmass May 17, 2007 at 6:54 am |

    Jill,

    It’s ironic, but now the same thing is happening to these threads that was allegedly happening to Valenti’s book. They’re being characterized without being considered.

    Of course it’s frustrating when a new work of unabashed feminism is the target of a lot of criticism from feminists. It’s frustrating — but not as much as the book itself. The criticisms are justified.

    You write that the book is meant “to reach out to the younger women who have been scared away from feminism by the conservative backlash and an unsympathetic media.” But all your descriptions of the book emphasize its conversational style. That’s not much of a tactic. Conversational or not, a book that poses an ideological challenge to conservatives is still going to get ignored some places, attacked others. An unsympathetic media is going to latch onto things like Valenti’s tendency to swear, and they’re going to do it from a standpoint unsympathetic to feminism.

    You write,

    One of the major criticisms is that FFF is ‘fluffy.’ It’s fluffy, apparently, because Jessica curses, writes in a conversational style, and doesn’t introduce some new, ground-breaking piece of feminist thought. By cursing, she is apparently talking down to younger women.

    The point is not that Valenti says “fuck.” In some other book, that might work for her. The point is that she uses phrases like “fuck it” or “fuck that” when she can’t figure out something better, which is apparently pretty often. For example, she writes,

    And after marveling at the ridiculousness of things like the sexual double standard and the faux-sexy crap that’s forced down your throat, you just learn to say fuck it.

    The funny thing about socialization is that if your best weapon against it is the phrase “fuck it,” the old double standards have a way of creeping back in. To be strong, you have to be articulate; to have options, you have to be able to name them.

    At a lot of places in this post, you go after various kinds of supposedly inaccessible feminisms. This is one example:

    Do I want people to be reading Angela Davis and Catherine MacKinnon and Helene Cixous and bell hooks and Judith Butler? Absolutely. But none of the previously mentioned are particularly good starting points. And we’ve gotta start somewhere. That’s what Jessica’s book offers — a gateway into feminism, a starting point for the unfamiliar, a way to make feminism accessible and relevant to women who otherwise would be turned off by it.

    A lot of these are bad test cases. In order to understand Judith Butler, you have to be well-read in more than certain works of feminism; you have to have done some reading in postmodernism. But, more to the point, high school and early college is when a lot of women (and men) find their way to Sylvia Plath, Simone de Beauvoir, Toni Morrison, and Virginia Woolf. In terms of Amazon.com sales, as I pointed out over at Truly Outrageous, both A Room of One’s Own and The Second Sex are holding their own with FFF, despite their venerable age.

    Furthermore, a concerted effort has been made to make feminism appear both unhinged and ivory tower-ish. Think of all the movies and television shows where feminism is part of some awful seminar, and the protagonists are glad when the bell rings. Claiming that “Angela Davis isn’t a good starting point” for young feminists equals giving in.

    Just as important as these authors, in more than one way, is Ani DiFranco. Ani, back in her glory days, had a huge, rabid, deserved fan base that included a lot of young listeners. She was conversational and foul-mouthed in her lyrics, but she was also as eloquent as she wanted to be. Ani was never forced into compromising the way Valenti did with this cover, because she went out and started her own fucking record company. And (as she’s reminded us in maybe one too many songs) it wasn’t particularly easy. Feministing is a good blog. It’s not beholden. So when I come across a piece of work that has been compromised, I feel no need to stand up and applaud.

    So, fine, maybe there’s some resentment or some jealousy. Nothing new to see here. So come up with your own book idea.

    First of all, anybody who can read the book has a right to praise or criticize it; anybody who has seen a picture of the cover has a right to judge that. That’s how it works with fiction, with pop culture, with nonfiction, and with books on feminism by Jessica Valenti.

    Second, a lot of the impetus behind feminist blogging comes from a dissatisfaction with conventional media. It’s too conservative, too anti-democratic, too uni-directional (book and reader, instead of an open dialogue). The bloggers who are criticizing Valenti do have a different idea, and it’s called blogging. We all know that Valenti’s book comes pretty hard on the heels of her editorial calling for older feminists to make room, and it’s hard to escape the feeling that she means for her. Then a series of bloggers, all of whom are investing time into blogging networks, and often taking risks for the sake of that writing, are being told to keep quiet about an infuriating book unless they can get a publishing contract. A lot of them reject what that contract might force on them, in terms of style, content, and notoriety. A lot of them reject a top-down, hierarchical model of what feminist solidarity means. They’re making room, instead of telling others to get out of the way.

    There isn’t anything in her book that anyone seems to disagree with — rather, people are objecting to what she left out, or how she presented the material.

    These are two of the most important cultural objections in feminism: sexist societies leave things out all the time, or send mixed messages because of the way they present material. Something may claim to be “feminist,” or at least “empowering,” in order to raise sales or evade criticism. Valenti’s vague pronouncements frequently boil down to not taking shit and doing it your way, which is already an American mantra, and not empowering to anybody. She tells the whole story of “Boobgate,” which is specific to the point of being irrelevant, and then concludes, “So anyway, just wanted to point out that we’re all subject to this kind of bullshit all the time.” We still read de Beauvoir is because she can write sentences like this: “People confuse the free woman with the loose woman.” We still read Faludi because she writes, “In times of backlash, images of restrained women line the walls of the popular culture’s gallery. We see her silenced, infantilized, immobilized, or, the ultimate restraining order, killed” (from Backlash, p. 70). Where Valenti is self-absorbed, these writers are universal. Where she falls down into useless vagueness, they are precise.

    ***

    Above all else: where is Valenti hiding? If these are in fact feeble criticisms made by intelligent people, she should have no problem changing minds, and there are numerous good reasons to reach out. It would be a service to these feminists, and a service to the book. She’s acting like royalty, and posts like these are encouraging her to keep it up.

  11. Zettaichan
    Zettaichan May 17, 2007 at 6:54 am |

    Jill, good on you for removing that quote when requested, but could you edit a bit & restore the material about how Jessica has as much right as anyone to talk about body issues? I think that’s a really valuable point.

  12. Zettaichan
    Zettaichan May 17, 2007 at 6:59 am |

    “She’s acting like royalty”

    …Yes, royalty spends a lot of time profiling admirable women on their websites rather than responding immediately to criticism.

  13. Mikhaela Reid
    Mikhaela Reid May 17, 2007 at 7:18 am |

    Jill, I’m glad you posted this! I’ve also finished the book and haven’t had time to review it yet because I’m in the midst of putting out my own book. Criticism is fine, debate is all good, but I was surprised by how harsh the criticisms were, particularly from folks who hadn’t read it. I liked the conversational style of the book, and felt that Jessica made it clear that it wasn’t meant to be an academic tome or an indepth analysis of a particular issue. The book is a conversational, pottymouthed, broad survey/personal love-letter/introduction/invitation to feminism for younger women who might otherwise be turned off by it or not even realize what it can mean. It can’t be everything to everybody.

    Maybe it might sound condescending if you’ve already immersed yourself in feminist theory and academia, but I tried to put myself in the mindset of myself before I took Women’s Studies and Queer Studies classes. My own first introduction to feminism (beside my mother’s outspoken opinions) was Our Bodies, Ourselves, especially the little conversational bits and interview quotes from different women, and later on, the music of Bikini Kill and the comics of Alison Bechdel. I hardly think reading the Second Sex at that time would have excited or interested me.

    And Joseph, how is it that criticizing the book is OK but responding to the criticisms and defending the book is treating Jessica like royalty? It seems like you’re saying anyone who likes the book needs to be quiet and let Jessica take her “you’re a bad feminist and not as DIY and independent as Ani DiFranco” medicine. And how exactly is Jessica acting like royalty by not already responding to every criticism in every corner of the blogosphere at length? Her book’s barely been out a few weeks and if you’ve ever tried to sell and publicize a book you know that you barely have time to sleep and breathe. Anyway, criticize away, but don’t try to squash counter-criticism.

  14. Mikhaela Reid
    Mikhaela Reid May 17, 2007 at 7:20 am |

    P.S. “Where is Valenti hiding?” What exactly does that mean? She’s trying to tour and promote her book and do her job and keep up Feministing. Most likely I would say she is trying to catch a few winks of sleep.

  15. elyzabethe
    elyzabethe May 17, 2007 at 7:55 am |

    I think your paragraph about the range of feminists and the range of people feminism encompasses (and needs) was beautiful …

  16. Maia
    Maia May 17, 2007 at 8:14 am |

    Jill I agree with some of what you say (In fact I’ve been thinking about writing about how anti-feminist it is to use valley-girl as an insult), but I really disagree with what you say about silencing.

    As a group feminists care deeply, passionately about feminism. To expect people not to mention their disagreement, not to be passionate about them is unreasonable.

    I can’t think a more appropriate target for feminist criticism than a book about feminism. By publishing a book you are clearly putting your ideas out there to be read, accepting that you will be reviewed and people would disagree. I don’t think the discussion around this has been any more personal than the average feminist criticism we see every day. Feminist blogs have piled-on women who were writing about their own experience in an individual blog in harsher terms than were used about Jessica, or her book.

    As for what Jessica should have done differently, I can’t afford FFF so I can’t really respond. I don’t have a problem that she expresses a feminism different from mine (although I reserve the right to criticise her when I disagree).

  17. Jessica
    Jessica May 17, 2007 at 8:41 am |

    Jill, thanks so much for this–it means a lot to me. I’ve been traveling around and not really reading blogs so coming back to a shit storm of reviews has been pretty…interesting. Especially when it’s clear that some of the folks talking about the book haven’t, you know, read it. I’m all for constructive criticism, but I have to say that I’ve been shocked by the personal nature of some blog reviews. So truly thanks, you breaking it down like this seriously just made my day.

    And Joseph: Where am I hiding? Come on now. Since when is a writer supposed to respond to every negative review that comes her way?

    On a related topic: Celina (who does Feministing’s interviews) has convinced me to do Q&A for the site to talk a bit about the book, the cover controversy, etc. Though I’m betting that I’ll be accused of being an ego-whore or something. ;)

  18. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 17, 2007 at 8:46 am |

    The theory whores are particularly galling. I’m perplexed at the idea that feminism is a club, which not only feeds the erroneous notion that feminism is some sort of recourse for those who can’t hack it being “normal” women, but it’s also self-defeating. I like academic feminism as much as anyone, but if it comes in conflict with the social movement, it can suck a lemon. Seriously, the idea that social movements don’t need numbers is, um, yeah.

  19. Sally
    Sally May 17, 2007 at 8:48 am |

    I don’t think the discussion around this has been any more personal than the average feminist criticism we see every day.

    Maybe it seems more personal, because in some weird way the internet seems more interactive and personal? It’s like criticism from people you know, not like criticism from strangers or reviewers who (supposedly) judge you from a remove.

  20. Sally
    Sally May 17, 2007 at 8:49 am |

    I don’t think the discussion around this has been any more personal than the average feminist criticism we see every day.

    Maybe it seems more personal, because in some weird way the internet seems more interactive and personal? It’s like criticism from people you know, not like criticism from strangers or reviewers who (supposedly) judge you from a remove.

  21. just admiring « yellow is the color…

    [...] just admiring Posted by elyzabethe on May 17th, 2007 Jill at Feministe defends Jessica Valenti’s new book, Full Frontal Feminism, against [...]

  22. Mikhaela Reid
    Mikhaela Reid May 17, 2007 at 9:01 am |

    Hi Jill–I posted a few comments, is there a reason why they haven’t come through?

  23. human
    human May 17, 2007 at 9:04 am |

    Well. I haven’t read the entire book – I read some chapters, skimmed others, haven’t gotten to others yet. I just got it the other day.

    It’s not really my cup of tea. Maybe it would have been, ten or fifteen years ago. I do find it condescending, but I am not the intended audience, so I am not insulted by that. What I’m not sure about is if the intended audience would also find it condescending. That’s not really a question I have any way to answer but it’s an important one, because I’m trying to figure out if I should give it to some of my younger cousins.

  24. JPlum
    JPlum May 17, 2007 at 9:18 am |

    I gave the book to the daughter of a feminist friend of mine, who is exactly the demographic Jessica is trying to reach-she’s 17, she’s a feminist, but has never really used the word, or thought about what it means. She sent me a wonderful, articulate thank you letter, telling me that the book is really opening her eyes, that she didn’t realize how much feminism encompassed. She also liked the tone of the book, found it ‘inclusive’ because it was so readable. She’s recommending it to her friends, and they are lined up to read it. She now wants to read more books on feminism.

    Her mum tells me that she is also calling her female classmates to task when they see it and comment “Yuck, I hate feminists.” She asks them if they would prefer being barefoot, and being the property of a man, and not being allowed to work or go to school.

    So, grown-up, long-time feminists can criticize the book if they want, but it appears that, in this case at least, the book is doing exactly what is was intended to do.

  25. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 17, 2007 at 9:29 am | *

    Not having read the book, I do find it curious that much of the criticism seems to be “I don’t like the way the author talks” rather than “I disagree with what she’s written and here’s why.”

  26. exangelena
    exangelena May 17, 2007 at 9:36 am |

    I’m sick of this being framed as a “bitter humorless overeducated OLD feminists” versus “shiny hot’n’sexxxay YOUNG feminists”. I’m not even the legal drinking age and I’m definitely not FFF’s kind of feminist (and I started reading feministing three years ago.)
    Although I’m not white, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with white middle class feminism. I have a feeling that if white middle class women wrote about the experiences of poor women or women of color, they would be accused of appropriating. White middle class feminism is only a problem when it sucks all the oxygen out of the debate.

    “Apparently this is bad, because feminism is supposed to be totally serious, and any attempt to make feminism an identity or anything other than a radical anti-capitalist movement is anti-feminist and dumb. Feminism, apparently, is not about making your life easier, it’s about wiping off that lipstick and looking grim and radical, damn it! A recognition that feminism can actually make your life better and that’s pretty cool is ‘feel-good feminism,’ and Lord knows we can’t have that.”
    Maybe that’s why some of us who are “grim and radical” and whose appearance is not approved by the menz, don’t feel welcome to this party. I’m a feminist because I am sick of my whole worth being nailed on being beautiful and a sex object. And now I feel like I have to be beautiful and a sex object in order to make feminism more palatable or else I’m somehow embarrassing all the pretty feminists and ruining the movement. (Apologies if I misinterpreted anything.)

  27. Nanette
    Nanette May 17, 2007 at 9:38 am |

    In reading your critique of the critiques I notice that you’ve forgotten to include any of the critiques by young women of color who have read the book. Or, at least, from what I can see but then I am not familiar with all of the sites that you link to in your piece.

    Still, while I haven’t read the book myself (except for excerpts) and don’t care about the book at all (I am nowhere near the target audience) I thought this would be more well-rounded conversation if some of the points they bring up were added into the mix, considering.

    To that end, here are a couple that I know of… there may be more, I don’t know.

    Sylvia at the Anti-Essentialist Conundrum and Blackamazon both had things to say about the book, their impressions of it and how it spoke, or didn’t speak, to them as young women.

  28. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte May 17, 2007 at 9:40 am |

    The carping, jealous hostility towards prominent activists is particularly short-sighted. Anyone who criticizes Jessica for saying that feminism makes you feel good—and then proceeds to argue that we should wall up the boundaries and make it a special club so you can feel good about your superiority—is just being fucking silly. She works really hard despite the fact that she’s quite fucking aware that people are jealously hateful towards her, and I know for a fact that it hurts her feelings a lot. Because Jessica’s a nice person, quite unlike me. I tend to eat up hate like Iggy Pop.

  29. Tobes
    Tobes May 17, 2007 at 9:59 am |

    Wow. This is frustrating beyond all measure. I read the book and really embraced it. Wouldn’t be my choice for a cover but it’s a COVER. Shouldn’t contents be more important? And besides— the cover isn’t really that offensive to me. Valenti writes within her book about an activist who wrote the word SLUT across her stomach to reclaim the word. I’ve also seen women do similar things at pro-choice rallies and the like. Why on earth would a female body be off limits? Why are we reacting this way?

    What really bothers me is that I too feel this book was well written and had a lot to offer. I’m buying several copies as Christmas presents and sending it to all my girlfriends who have ever said… “I’m not a feminist but…” Valenti use of “fuck that” really endeared her to me. She wrote passionately and put a strong voice out there.

    I so expected this type of name calling from the trolls. Shame on all of us for letting it come out of the feminst blogosphere which SHOULD have supported her— which IS possible even while making some criticisms of style & content.

    Thanks for writing Jill. I didn’t realize how out-of-line people were getting. I should send a fruit basket to Jess or something!

  30. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 10:00 am |

    little light, as usual, is right. Nanette has a point, also.

  31. Sally
    Sally May 17, 2007 at 10:10 am |

    Why on earth would a female body be off limits? Why are we reacting this way?

    I don’t think the female body should be off-limits. I think that there are enough products being sold using images of slim, naked, white female torsos, and I don’t see any reason that feminism needs to use that imagery. When I was 17, I was struggling like hell to reconcile myself to the fact that I would never have that body or all that it represented. Feminism seemed to me like an escape from a culture that measured me by my adherence to that particular standard. And I think it’s ok to point out that the cover of Jessica’s book reinforces, rather than challenges, certain damaging social norms.

    I’m pretty sure that the cover would have put me off the book when I was a teenager. Maybe that’s ok: you lose a couple of people like me, but you get a lot more women who wouldn’t have been attracted to feminism otherwise, and they’re probably cuter, sexier, awesomer young women than I was. But I’m not going to pretend that I like the cover. I don’t. I think it’s crap.

  32. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 10:11 am |

    Ani was never forced into compromising the way Valenti did with this cover, because she went out and started her own fucking record company.

    Wait, Jessica should have voided her book contract — which would mean having to buy back the manuscript itself, plus reimburse the publishing company for any expenses they’d already incurred in promoting/editing/printing the book — so she could found her own publishing company? This seems like a practical solution to you?

    It’s kind of amazing to me how many people on this thread haven’t read the book but have very strong opinions on it anyway. I have no opinion on it, because I haven’t read it, but at least I’m not absolutely certain the book has nothing to offer me because of what other people have told me about it.

  33. snappy mackerel
    snappy mackerel May 17, 2007 at 10:14 am |

    I did read the book and I strongly agree with Kugelmass’ characterization.

    The problem that I have is that Jessica can’t seem to tell the difference between people criticizing the book and criticizing Jessica. So there hasn’t been much allowance for discussion without people coming out of the woodwork talking about loyalty and feminist firing squads. Remember when Jessica was silent while bloggers of color were getting ripped new ones over at Feministing for disagreeing with her choice of cover photo? I lost a lot of respect for the way that she chooses to run the site (note that I didn’t say “for her,” because I don’t know her, and I can make the distinction) and how it was limiting discussions among twentysomething feminists who like to participate in a site explicitly aimed at themselves.

    I have no doubt that Jessica had good intentions when she wrote this. But I also think that she intended this book to be for a very narrow audience, much more narrow than she states. It’s not for young women who have never checked out feminism–it’s for young, femme, strictly straight women who expect to finish higher education. That’s Ok. Big tent and all that. But as someone who most definitely doesn’t fit that description, it’s annoying to me to see it as the default without further explanation. I personally would have respected the effort more if Jessica had simply said, I’m going for the crowd who buys into all the empowerful crap, thinks chick lit is rad, and is afraid of feminism because it will take away their high heels and padded bras.

  34. Hugo
    Hugo May 17, 2007 at 10:15 am |

    It’s a terrific book, one I have committed to using in my intro to women’s studies class in the fall (as a supplemental but required text).

    When I reviewed it on my blog, I admitted I winced at some of the profanity. I certainly was troubled by the cover. But its contents were vital, interesting, and accessible. What I especially liked was that Jessica managed to be thoroughly relevant to the target audience (older teen girls) without once seeming to patronize them.

    Because I’m a forty year-old man, I gave the book to my 20 year-old aide. She’s the one whose enthusiastic response helped me make the decision to assign it to my future classes. My aide (also a former student) said she especially appreciated how fundamentally unapologetic the book was.

    When I was in grad school, immersed in theory of one kind or another, I spent several quarters as a TA. I TAed intro history courses, and my fellow graduate students and I would always express shock at how “dumbed down” the courses seemed to us. We bemoaned what we called “pandering” on the part of our supervising professors. We had no concept of what it took to teach an introductory class, having forgotten (so fast) our own initiation just a few years earlier.

    I agree wholeheartedly with Jill here. I don’t agree with Jessica about everything either, but her book is an exciting, provocative, useful, and ultimately convincing primer that I imagine my students will really enjoy.

  35. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 10:16 am | *

    She’s also “shrill” — this, from a guy who is supposedly way more feminist than Jessica.

    Yeah. So feminist he uses the tired old “It’s okay to say ‘cunt’ in the UK!’ excuse and then gets snippy when challenged.

    Some of the reviews Jill linked are definitely personally motivated — such as the one from Feminist Review, which is written by someone Jessica knows in real life and who did this whole weird “I’m going to send you an email under my real name congratulating you and go to your book party while trashing you in a very personal manner on my pseudonymous blog” thing.

    What it boils down to is, criticism of the book itself is fine. Trashing Jessica as a person, or her motivations, or what have you, is a whole ‘nother ball of wax.

    Speaking of wax, this is all so reminiscent of another circular-firing-squad kind of thing.

  36. Soupa Doupa
    Soupa Doupa May 17, 2007 at 10:20 am |

    Are white men really at the top of political blogs? They’re disproportionately there, sure, but people tend to exaggerate the case. Markos is not a white male. Digby is not a white male. Jane Hamsher is not a white male. John Aravosis is a white male, but a gay white male. Arianna Huffington is not a white male. Jeralyn Merritt is not a white male. Amanda Marcotte is not a white male.

    Again, I’m not arguing that women and minorities are represented as well as they should be among the top ranks, and that’s definitely true for racial minorities, but I think there’s a tendency to ignore those who are at the top.

  37. Rachel
    Rachel May 17, 2007 at 10:24 am |

    I personally, think some of the criticism has been over the top, but like most other folks I haven’t read the book.

    The criticism of the cover is fair game, but I think what is really missing are the voices of the younger demographic 14-22 (or whatever the target range may be). It would be nice to have a diverse group of younger women read the book and respond to it.

    And truthfully, I’d be lying if I didn’t get the crabs in a barrel feeling everytime I read a discussion of this book. I’m feeling some hateration. (I suppose I could read it and think the hateration is deserved, but I have a hard time believing the book is really that bad.)

  38. Jessica
    Jessica May 17, 2007 at 10:31 am |

    snappy mackerel: Remember when Jessica was silent while bloggers of color were getting ripped new ones over at Feministing for disagreeing with her choice of cover photo?

    Here’s the thread you’re talking about. I’m going to have to go ahead and strongly disagree with your characterization of this conversation. There’s some disagreement on the thread, clearly, but most of it is critical of the book cover and I don’t see anyone getting “ripped new ones.”

    Sorry, I know that’s off topic, but I just wanted to put that out there.

  39. Kristen
    Kristen May 17, 2007 at 10:37 am |

    I don’t think this whole mess is all about the book. I think we can probably agree that a lot of it is related to older fights and older wounds resurfacing, and the lighting of the tinderbox that has been large sections of the feminist blogosphere’s building frustration with mainstream feminism’s ignoring some pretty vital, urgent issues. There’s a lot that got set off here.

    Maybe that’s why some of us who are “grim and radical” and whose appearance is not approved by the menz, don’t feel welcome to this party. I’m a feminist because I am sick of my whole worth being nailed on being beautiful and a sex object. And now I feel like I have to be beautiful and a sex object in order to make feminism more palatable or else I’m somehow embarrassing all the pretty feminists and ruining the movement. (Apologies if I misinterpreted anything.)

    I think Exangelena really hit on the heart of the problem. We all came to feminism from different places and we all want to be accepted for who we are. As a result, to some extent we identify feminism as a reflection of ourselves. “Feminism means X, because that’s what feminism means to me.” So we get into these nasty fights about what feminism is rather than coming to some consensus about what feminism means and accepting that for each of us, our expression of feminism may be different.

  40. ekf
    ekf May 17, 2007 at 10:48 am |

    I haven’t read the book, in part because I’m not the target. I’ve read the old feminists, the postmodernists, the radicals, so I don’t feel the need for a primer. That being said, a feminist primer is desperately needed, particularly for young folk who say, “I’m not a feminist, but…”

    One need look no further than the last two issues of “Bust” magazine to know this. I know people tsk-tsk “Bust” for a lot of things, but for women just tipping their toes into feminist water, “Bust” is an easier sell than, say, “Bitch” or especially the more academic type presses. Anyway, in the last two issues, “Bust” interviewed Gwen Stefani and Chloe Sevigny, respectively. Each one was asked whether or not she was a feminist. Stefani said that she wasn’t sure, but that she was definitely “pro-woman.” Sevigny said she wasn’t sure, because she couldn’t define it.

    Say what you want about either of them, but it’s clear from what each of them said (in response to that question and others) that Stefani and Sevigny are feminists. They just don’t understand feminism to know that it covers their beliefs. And if Gwen Stefani and Chloe Sevigny could use a feminist primer, chances are a lot of other “pro-women” women who just don’t know what feminism really entails could use a feminist primer as well.

    Maybe Jessica’s book has problems, maybe it’s not perfect. But there are a lot of people for whom the book will have purpose, because for them it will be a place to start. And if other people think there ought to be a better feminist primer, I hope they put their efforts into writing one. The more options we give women to sign on to feminism, the better.

    [Note that I don't know why in the fuck "Bust" would even print interviews with famous women who don't have the presence of mind and strength of character to call themselves feminists, but whatever. It's not my only issue with the magazine, but on balance it's still better than many others in the "women's mag" segment.]

  41. Isabel
    Isabel May 17, 2007 at 10:49 am |

    I’m not even the legal drinking age and I’m definitely not FFF’s kind of feminist (and I started reading feministing three years ago.)
    See–and keep in mind I haven’t read the book euither thoguh I intend to–you’re not FFF’s kind of feminist because you consider yourself a feminist. I was thinking about this too–I’m 19, and my current taste in feminist writings is definitely a little more, ah, adult than FFF sounds from various excerpts and such. But I’ve been a feminist since before I knew what the word meant, and my hardcore badass feminist mommy was happy to help me along that road. Plus, I’m kind of a nerd, and very bookish by nature. I get the feeling a lot of people in the lefty blogosphere are fairly bookish and consider themselves pretty intellectual. The book is for girls who can read Seventeen without retching.

    A more conversational style won’t do anything for me, personally. But for someone who doesn’t read for pleasure much, if at all, except maybe the Da Vinci Code? For someone who thinks reading is a chore, not something fun? Again, I suspect among the groups “people who self-identify as feminists” and “people who enjoy reading” there is substantial overlap, if only because one of the best ways to get into feminism is by doing a lot of reading, much of it pretty dense. For someone who’s not into that, a sort of Cliffs Notes of feminism might serve as a good starting point.

    Joseph Kugelmass brings up the fact that Jill mentions only more difficult feminists, but I think even people like Faludi (whose Backlash I do adore) can seem pretty daunting and thick to people who just don’t like reading that much, or don’t like reading nonfiction, or whatever. Yeah, there are tons of girls out there who’ll see The Beauty Myth in a Barnes & Noble, pick it up, read it in a weekend, and spend the next three months obsessively reading feminist blogs. I was one of them. But a lot of girls (and boys) won’t. JPlum’s experience with her friend’s daughter is important, I think–not everyone finds that stuff condescending. Seriously, have you read the stuff marketed to teens? Seventeen is written with the reading level of a nine-year-old. Cosmo is maybe a little better, with the trade-off that it’s also more offensive. If you are used to reading teen magazines, FFF is going to sound like it thinks you are the smartest person in the universe.

  42. Bethynyc
    Bethynyc May 17, 2007 at 10:53 am |

    I haven’t read the book yet–plan to borrow it from a friend. However, I did work in publishing for quite some time, and so my opinion of the cover.

    I don’t know the whole story of the cover, but it is very rare that a new author gets a cover approval cause in her contract. Who comes up with ideas for the cover? Sales and Marketing, primarily, with some help from Editorial and Art/Design. Sales and Marketing chose a cover that they felt would add an “edgy” and “sexy” appeal to the book, in order to make it sell. That is their job.

    Even if the book doesn’t speak to me, specifically, I think someone needs to speak to young women about feminism.

  43. Rachel
    Rachel May 17, 2007 at 11:01 am |

    Bethynyc,
    Isn’t this also true for titles? Because it seems to me that the title and the cover match. Now frontal doesn’t have to relate to frontal nudity, but….

  44. Fellow-ette
    Fellow-ette May 17, 2007 at 11:08 am |

    I second Isobel’s point. I think a lot of the book’s critics say they understand that the book isn’t for them, but don’t really get it. This book is for teenagers. Teenagers. Most of us older feminists probably aren’t too wild about looking back on our tenage years–either because we were complicitous in the social system or excluded from it–or both.
    But these are the people the book is trying to reach. People who still say “LOL” and “OMG” and who like tootsie-roll flavored lip gloss, for crying out loud, but who may have the sense that there’s *something* wrong with the way they’re treated as women and want to understand that–while still being cute. Hopefully later, after they’ve read the book and gained some wisdom, they’ll ditch the desire to conform.
    I work with teenage girls from low-income minority backgrounds and privileged white backgrounds and I wish I could afford to give them all a copy of this book. I think they’d all like it, relate to its tone, and learn from it.
    I was one of those precocious feminists in high school, and I’d have loved having excerpts of FFF to hand out to the high-heel wearing boyfriend-worshipping crowd when I was rabble-rousing.

  45. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 11:10 am | *

    Joseph Kugelmass brings up the fact that Jill mentions only more difficult feminists, but I think even people like Faludi (whose Backlash I do adore) can seem pretty daunting and thick to people who just don’t like reading that much, or don’t like reading nonfiction, or whatever.

    I’m going to fess up here and note that I haven’t read any feminist theory, including Faludi. I have a copy of Backlash, but it’s the hardcover, and it’s too gigantic to lug onto the subway, where I do most of my reading.

    Point being, I came to feminism through lived experience, not academia. And frequently, my eyes glaze over when I read comments and posts full of theory (as I’m sure some of your eyes glaze over when I post about legal stuff).

    Jessica has said (and she says in her book) that she knew she had to find another way than academic feminism to reach out to women when she was in grad school and she started being unable to discuss what she was learning with her mother, who never went to college but who was a fierce feminist force in her life.

    I read the book. And I’ll be perfectly honest, I found the tone a bit much at book length. But I’m twice the age of the intended audience, and I’m already confident enough to call myself a feminist. This book was not written for me. If it gets anyone to start thinking about feminism in a new way, as something that’s not just for academics or radicals, but something that improves the lives of everyday women in thousands of ways, then it’s done its job.

  46. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 11:13 am |

    Can I just say that this part:

    and while I love me some theory, at the end of the day, the way women live their lives and negotiate feminism with their lived realities matters a whole lot more than theory ever will.

    Makes me want to marry you and have your babies. There are a lot of people I think who need to understand that.

  47. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago May 17, 2007 at 11:26 am |

    Okay, can we dispense with the false “Academic/Theory Feminism vs. Activist Feminist” bullshit binary?

    As an academic feminist that loves post-structuralist feminist theory and queer theory, but also will be found walking the lines at abortion clinics to prevent harassment of and attacks on the women accessing services, I think this kind of dualistic construction just weakens us insanely.

    Without theory, activism would be uninformed floundering, and without activism, theory would be merely jawing in the wind. We need both, and I am sick to death of being told I am not a real feminist because I love Butler and Anzuldua and thinking that we need to conceptualise things before pushing outward.

    Oiy, both are necessary, needed, and intertwined. Deal.

  48. Isabel
    Isabel May 17, 2007 at 11:35 am |

    I’m going to fess up here and note that I haven’t read any feminist theory, including Faludi. I have a copy of Backlash, but it’s the hardcover, and it’s too gigantic to lug onto the subway, where I do most of my reading.

    Omg I feel SO MUCH BETTER! The only ones I’ve read, and they’re really not that hardcore, are Backlash & The Beauty Myth, and I guess recently Appetites: Why Women Want by Carolyn Knapp. I keep meaning to get around to it, really I do, and I like it when I read bits & pieces online or whatever, but college eats up time & brain cells. I do recommend Backlash though as I found it very entertaining at points (her profile of Beverly LeHaye is PRICELESS). And I felt so guilty just absorbing what I could about MacKinnon and Dworkin and the rest from blog excerpts and wikipedia entries but now I know I’m no worse-informed than one of my favorite feminist writers on the web. Thank you zuzu!

  49. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 11:39 am |

    Point being, I came to feminism through lived experience, not academia.

    And now I want to marry zuzu and have her babies.

  50. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 11:49 am |

    Okay, can we dispense with the false “Academic/Theory Feminism vs. Activist Feminist” bullshit binary?

    I don’t know. I just spent a semester studying cultural anthropologists who spent their lives debating the same ‘bullshit’ binary, and I have to say I came down seriously hard on the side of the ‘what people do in real life’ crowd.

    A theory is supposed to be a model of reality that can be used to make predictions. If nobody actually does it like the theory says, it’s a pretty crap theory.

    But, I’m coming at this from an anthropological theory point of view rather than a feminist theory point of view, so I may be uninformed.

  51. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe May 17, 2007 at 12:06 pm |

    This is trivial, but I can’t help it: What’s with posting the photo reversed?

  52. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm |

    What’s with posting the photo reversed?

    (whispering) My guess is she took her picture in the mirror.

  53. mk
    mk May 17, 2007 at 12:13 pm |

    It’s not for young women who have never checked out feminism–it’s for young, femme, strictly straight women who expect to finish higher education.

    Snappy, you claim to have read the book, so where are you getting this from? “Femme” you could maybe, maybe make an argument for. But “strictly straight”? Seriously? You missed all the times Jessica specifically mentioned queer women? Because her inclusivity was one of the things that most impressed me about the book. Every time I found myself thinking “Uh oh, this is gonna be all about the heteros,” the very next line or paragraph would acknowledge queer experiences of the issue at hand. Every time.

  54. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago May 17, 2007 at 12:18 pm |

    Vanessa –

    To me theory is the understanding of the world around you, the patterns you see, putting them together as explanation and predictor.

    All theory is inexact, it’s about having understood models that best fit the world around us. More complex theory is merely more complex explanations and attempts to get at the complexity that exists in society. They are never going to be exactly performed in society as they are in the models.

    When someone says they came to feminism through lived experience, that is them DOING theory; the application of experience and observation to explain how society functions.

    I am a sociologist, and while we have a more theoretically located discipline than, say, anthropology (and I don’t mean that in an insulting way, just differences between disciplines) theory cannot be divorced from study.

    I personally came to feminism through theory. I looked at the understandings and patterns provided, and it made sense to me. But that doesn’t make my coming to feminism any more, or less, authentic than anyone else’s. The two are necessary.

  55. Sally
    Sally May 17, 2007 at 12:22 pm |

    (whispering) My guess is she took her picture in the mirror.

    Which is, I believe, a subtle reference to the Lacanian theory of the “mirror phase,” as understood in the work of Judith Butler and Julia Kristeva.

    Sorry. I couldn’t help myself.

  56. ekf
    ekf May 17, 2007 at 12:22 pm |

    I am sick to death of being told I am not a real feminist because…

    I am sick to death of people having preposterously thin skins and letting every criticism have power over them personally — feminists or no. If someone thinks I’m not a “real feminist” for any reason, that someone needs to fuck off. I am not defined by a “someone”; I define myself. Do I get pissed off when people get all high-horsey and puritanical? Yes, but I recognize that those people are either fundamentally insecure about their beliefs or overly dogmatic (both’s a possibility too, I guess), and in any case I can’t really give a shit about what they think. I’ve got work to do.

    I know that political movements tend to overcomplicate things, but the simple, elegant truth is that a person who believes that women are human beings is a “real feminist.” If people want to split hairs and be purists about one angle or another, fine — that’s part of the iterative process of trying to move us all forward, and it has value even when it’s irritating. But it’s up to all of us to be strong enough to take criticism, even when it’s unfair, even when it’s overly personalized, and even when it’s from people who share most of our beliefs.

  57. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 12:29 pm | *

    When someone says they came to feminism through lived experience, that is them DOING theory; the application of experience and observation to explain how society functions.

    Theory is a way of organizing and explaining knowledge gained through observation. But let’s be real, a lot of feminist theory is pretty dense and way over the head of someone who’s very young and just can’t see calling herself a feminist. And theory can be alienating if there’s no way to relate it to your experiences or if you feel that because you don’t have the academic background, you’re not part of the conversation. I think real work needs to be done bringing lived experience and theory together — telling women without a theoretical background that, hey, what you’re going through happens to others, too, and there’s a name for it, and here’s what we’re doing to change it. And, by the way, you can make a contribution, too.

  58. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:38 pm |

    Okay, can we dispense with the false “Academic/Theory Feminism vs. Activist Feminist” bullshit binary?

    As an academic feminist that loves post-structuralist feminist theory and queer theory, but also will be found walking the lines at abortion clinics to prevent harassment of and attacks on the women accessing services, I think this kind of dualistic construction just weakens us insanely.

    Without theory, activism would be uninformed floundering, and without activism, theory would be merely jawing in the wind. We need both, and I am sick to death of being told I am not a real feminist because I love Butler and Anzuldua and thinking that we need to conceptualise things before pushing outward.

    Oiy, both are necessary, needed, and intertwined. Deal.

    Word.

    Thing is, yes, “the personal is political,” and I am definitely for the idea of consciously bringing oneself to the “theory,” since we’re there anyway; “objective” is a pretty spurious concept when it comes to this shit particularly;

    on the other hand, if we -only- go off our own lived experience, well, that’s…gonna make for a fairly limited viewpoint.

    and, if we want to go off -other peoples’ lived experiences,- all kinds of shit comes up:

    you don’t want to appropriate or “speak for”

    you also don’t want to blithely ignore other peoples’ existence.

    So, that’s where the real work comes in: -engaging.- And yes, one can do that through readin’ and writin’–hey, look, academia!–as well as showing up live and arguing with the person at a co-op or task force meeting–hey, look, activism! Either way, it involves genuine listening and engagement. and the risks that come with doing those things, of -genuinely- opening oneself up to the Other and connecting.

    tricksy, isn’t it.

  59. Frumious B
    Frumious B May 17, 2007 at 12:39 pm |

    I like the cover art. I hear and understand the criticisms of the choice of a thin, nulliparous, white woman and the use of women’s bodies to sell things. What I get out of the cover art, which goes along with the title, is that feminism is provocative. As I am sure we are all aware, the words “full frontal” generally proceed the word “nudity”, and full frontal nudity is an in-your-face challenge to current standards about which body parts are acceptable to show. Full frontal nudity is also Xtreme, but not always in a good sense. I like the idea that feminism is something extreme and challenging.

    (Still amused by Firefox spell check. It doesn’t know the word nulliparous. Men, I tell you, it’s written by men.)

  60. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 12:40 pm |

    I am a sociologist, and while we have a more theoretically located discipline than, say, anthropology (and I don’t mean that in an insulting way, just differences between disciplines) theory cannot be divorced from study.

    Lol (and not in an insulting way, either) but you probably never read any of the post-modern anthropologists! Either that or I should never read any sociologists as it will make my brain melt and dribble out of my ears. Damn you Clifford Geertz!

    But I was specifically thinking about Sherry Ortner, an anthropologist and a feminist who wrote about women being universally devalued because the nature of their bodies (being able to reproduce) meant they were associated with nature, and (nature being dominated by male-oriented culture).

    Problem is, nature isn’t universally associated with the feminine. It isn’t even universally associated with the feminine in cultures where women are “devalued.” Also, define “devalued.” So-called ‘women’s culture’ is just as interesting and worthy of study. (At least, Margaret Mead thought so.) So the whole thing kind of falls apart there.

    But that’s kind of totally off topic.

    When someone says they came to feminism through lived experience, that is them DOING theory; the application of experience and observation to explain how society functions.

    Yeah I think we basically can agree on that.

    I personally came to feminism through theory. I looked at the understandings and patterns provided, and it made sense to me. But that doesn’t make my coming to feminism any more, or less, authentic than anyone else’s. The two are necessary.

    I can see your point. But I think if I had to choose, I don’t know that I would choose theory. (Or rather, I wouldn’t choose theory as I’ve seen it applied in the feminist blogosphere, which admittedly is a poor sample.)

  61. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago May 17, 2007 at 12:41 pm |

    telling women without a theoretical background that, hey, what you’re going through happens to others, too, and there’s a name for it, and here’s what we’re doing to change it. And, by the way, you can make a contribution, too.

    *nods* I agree zuzu, and that’s why I think Jessica’s book is so needed. I personally don’t think that Butler and Anzuldua (for instance *smile*) would have been good inclusions in this book, or much other heavy theory.

    I’m not saying that theory is needed 24/7, because it’s not, just as activism is not needed 24/7, and Jessica’s book is an example of such. Just rather saying we need both in the bigger picture.

    Oh and ekf –

    I am sick to death of people having preposterously thin skins and letting every criticism have power over them personally — feminists or no.

    Oh fuck off. The opinions of people that argue what I challenged above don’t change my identity in any way, shape or form. But that doesn’t mean I am not sick of their stupidity, and won’t challenge that stupidity, and that’s what I was doing above.

  62. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:42 pm |

    …which also ties into the idea of what’s “alienating:” again, I think if we were all better at actually listening to each other, and interested in genuine dialogue (as opposed to *”let me spout off now while you nod your head, and eventually it’ll be your turn, if I let you get a word in edgewise”), the fact that we use different language and come from radically different standpoints…would still be a challenge, but not so much of an impossibe hurdle.

    also, the basic assumption that we’re all intelligent beings, and that it’s okay to say “I don’t understand what you’re saying here, can you rephrase?” would help, also.

    *here referring to general and widespread observations only, not any particular person or even style/field/denomination, please note.

  63. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:43 pm |

    …64 was ellipsing off a quote still in moderation, btw.

  64. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:44 pm |

    –oh, no it’s not, it’s ellipsing off 60. -anyway-.

  65. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 12:48 pm | *

    …which also ties into the idea of what’s “alienating:”

    Let me define what I find alienating about theory-heavy discussions: when people who are thoroughly familiar with theory throw out an author’s name to explain a concept and everyone who has read that author’s works understands exactly what that person means, and I sit there scratching my head thinking, “Who’s that?” and dropping out of the conversation. I realize that it’s hard and annoying to have to summarize every time, but name-dropping really isn’t a substitute for setting out what you’re getting at. It’s a bit like being a freshman and walking into a graduate seminar at times. Yet when someone takes the time to explain what the author said rather than just name-check the author, it makes sense.

  66. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:48 pm |

    the one from Feminist Review, which is written by someone Jessica knows in real life and who did this whole weird “I’m going to send you an email under my real name congratulating you and go to your book party while trashing you in a very personal manner on my pseudonymous blog” thing.

    that isn’t on, no.

    I would however differentiate between that sort of thing and the critiques written by some of the WOC who did read it; even if there’s emotional baggage fuelling some of it, it’s of a different source and order.

  67. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago May 17, 2007 at 12:49 pm |

    But I was specifically thinking about Sherry Ortner, an anthropologist and a feminist who wrote about women being universally devalued because the nature of their bodies (being able to reproduce) meant they were associated with nature, and (nature being dominated by male-oriented culture).

    Problem is, nature isn’t universally associated with the feminine. It isn’t even universally associated with the feminine in cultures where women are “devalued.” Also, define “devalued.” So-called ‘women’s culture’ is just as interesting and worthy of study. (At least, Margaret Mead thought so.) So the whole thing kind of falls apart there.

    But that’s kind of totally off topic.

    *nods* Totally off topic :)

    The thing is, that argument isn’t about theory vs. experience, rather it can be rather easily refuted theoretically, as an example of universalising from a singular case. Sure, we could bring in all the societies where this hasn’t been the case to refute it, but using theory to do so is … well, easier :)

    Now, if she were arguing this on the basis of how women have been constructed (and moreover their bodies have been constructed) in the West, THEN we’ve got a jumping off point. But otherwise that’s just Bad Theory in my book.

  68. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred May 17, 2007 at 12:51 pm |

    I don’t know. I just spent a semester studying cultural anthropologists who spent their lives debating the same ‘bullshit’ binary, and I have to say I came down seriously hard on the side of the ‘what people do in real life’ crowd.

    The pre-revolution-non-bolshevik russian communists spent years arguing that point, Lenin collected a shit load of the arguements in what is to be done? and I kinda like his point of view which is that Activism without Theory doesn’t work (lenin specifically cites the example of trade unionism tends to settle down into a very comfortable symbiotic relationship between the unions and the bourgious that gets in the way of further socialist reforms), but Theory without Activism is worse than pointless: It’s obstructionist, for instance MIM and similar loud & stupid “radical” organisations that are very good at shutting down activist groups with the most rarified and waffling theory they can coem up with that leads absolutely nowhere productive.

    I’d usually make snarky comments about twisty about now, but I feel that that would be like throwing strips of meat into a shark tank as far as this thread goes.

    Apparently this is bad, because feminism is supposed to be totally serious

    Well the trouble is that when you come right down to it, “cool” makes everyone think of the spice girls and “girl power”, which is what the criticisms about “coolness” are largely about.

    Anyone who wants to have flash backs to the 90’s can do it on their own, I ain’t playing.

    I dunno, I’m getting more and more tempted to read the damn book, but you did miss out the slightly more serious problem that several WOC writers (Black Amazon for instance) have pointed out: that it speaks largely to white middle class feminist. does it mention solidarity and intersectional theory at all?

    Do you know what, I’ll try to track down a copy of the book and then I’ll point out some improvements.

  69. Sarah in Chicago
    Sarah in Chicago May 17, 2007 at 12:52 pm |

    Thing is, yes, “the personal is political,” and I am definitely for the idea of consciously bringing oneself to the “theory,” since we’re there anyway; “objective” is a pretty spurious concept when it comes to this shit particularly;

    on the other hand, if we -only- go off our own lived experience, well, that’s…gonna make for a fairly limited viewpoint.

    belledame, to go off the other such comments here … now I am totally having your babies ;)

  70. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 12:54 pm |

    But I was specifically thinking about Sherry Ortner, an anthropologist and a feminist who wrote about women being universally devalued because the nature of their bodies (being able to reproduce) meant they were associated with nature, and (nature being dominated by male-oriented culture).

    I apologize for the incoherent structure of this sentence, but I was typing with a baby on my lap.

    But anyway,

    Sure, we could bring in all the societies where this hasn’t been the case to refute it, but using theory to do so is … well, easier :)

    Yes, but to a cultural anthropologist, it’s so much more boring. ;)

  71. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:56 pm |

    zuzu: yeah, I hear you.

    I guess pop-culture allusions can be alienating in that way too, as far as that goes. (just thinking of a recent conversation I was having with a woman in her late eighties, for instance, and something i said that went over like a lead balloon).

    also, in academia, there are a few different reasons why the writing might be impenetrable for a lot of people:

    1) the author really isn’t writing for the general public, or isn’t used to such writing, or (gulp) just really isn’t as good a writer as sie is a thinker/researcher

    2) the author, however consciously, really believes that the more “difficult” a piece of writing is, the deeper and thus more valuable it is, and/or is writing primarily to please and get strokes from the narrow clique of colleagues and peers and critics who believe that

    3) the author is, as Orwell observed about many such, obfuscating a point of view/agenda that would be reviled by a lot more people if sie came right out and spoke plainly; the jargon acts as a smokescreen, the dulling is deliberate, you’re not -supposed- to engage with it -too- closely, just nod gravely and move on.

    I have a lot more tolerance when I think it’s primarily 1) than 2) or 3).

  72. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 12:56 pm |

    -blush-

  73. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 1:00 pm |

    I kinda like his point of view which is that Activism without Theory doesn’t work (lenin specifically cites the example of trade unionism tends to settle down into a very comfortable symbiotic relationship between the unions and the bourgious that gets in the way of further socialist reforms), but Theory without Activism is worse than pointless:

    I think this is what I was trying to say.

  74. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 1:02 pm |

    I dunno, I’m getting more and more tempted to read the damn book, but you did miss out the slightly more serious problem that several WOC writers (Black Amazon for instance) have pointed out: that it speaks largely to white middle class feminist.

    R. Mildred, would you be so kind as to link to the actual post, not just the front page of the blog? It’s time-consuming to comb through a strange blog looking for a post when you don’t even have a date reference to look for. Thank you.

  75. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred May 17, 2007 at 1:07 pm |

    Oh yeah sure, put me in moderation, fucking mcarthyites, YOU CAN’T STOP THE CHILDREN OF THE REVOLUTION! Nerr!

    It shoudl be noted that as far as people’s individual and personal relationship to things like feminism, there isn’t gonna be one true singular way to come at it, everyone is different and is gonna approach feministm from different perspectives, and each different approach, inso far as it doesn’t directly interfere with someone else’s take on feminism, is equally valid.

    To paraphrase: As you harm none, take feminism as you will…t.

    Which means, for a book like jessica’s, a primer to feminism would have either be A) extremely narrowly targeted toward a particular demographic or B) appeal to multiple view points, giving theory for those who dig theory, and appealing to experientialists also, not neccesarily in the same section.

    Of course pointing out the possibility of A will probably lead to someone mentioning that the book doesn’t have to in any way speak to woc because they’re “just” a minority and that it’s really aimed at the majority, who are for some reason the only sort of people who matter.

    I suggest you don’t, nameless faceless people. I don’t want to have to hurt anyone.

    But basically, I’d find any sort of feminism that was so exclusive as to be able to justify the things that WoC critics have ragged at the book about, would be a very sick sort of feminism that I’d look upon with a great deal suspicion, and poke with a very large stick indeed lest I catch something off it.

  76. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred May 17, 2007 at 1:16 pm |

    R. Mildred, would you be so kind as to link to the actual post, not just the front page of the blog? It’s time-consuming to comb through a strange blog looking for a post when you don’t even have a date reference to look for. Thank you.

    It was a tangent in post about something else so I’d have to reread all her more recent posts to find it again, which I don’t have the time for.

    Fortunately she’s an excellent blogger, so I thought I’d let you have the fun and joy of hunting for it (because everyone knows that rummaging is half the fun) when you have the time.

    I’m certain it’s one of her recent ones, no earlier than april/may at any rate.

  77. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm |

    I’m with Rachel:

    I personally, think some of the criticism has been over the top, but like most other folks I haven’t read the book.

    The criticism of the cover is fair game, but I think what is really missing are the voices of the younger demographic 14-22 (or whatever the target range may be). It would be nice to have a diverse group of younger women read the book and respond to it.

    And truthfully, I’d be lying if I didn’t get the crabs in a barrel feeling everytime I read a discussion of this book. I’m feeling some hateration. (I suppose I could read it and think the hateration is deserved, but I have a hard time believing the book is really that bad.)

  78. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 1:18 pm | *

    I dunno, I’m getting more and more tempted to read the damn book, but you did miss out the slightly more serious problem that several WOC writers (Black Amazon for instance) have pointed out: that it speaks largely to white middle class feminist. does it mention solidarity and intersectional theory at all?

    I don’t think that’s the kind of criticism Jill’s talking about in her post. Because that’s a substantive critique (assuming Black Amazon read the book before critiquing it).

  79. Rachel
    Rachel May 17, 2007 at 1:19 pm |

    Sarah in Chicago (#56) said, “I am a sociologist, and while we have a more theoretically located discipline than, say, anthropology (and I don’t mean that in an insulting way, just differences between disciplines) theory cannot be divorced from study.”

    I’m a sociologist too, and if you think our discipline is so theoretical–you haven’t read ASR (American Sociological Review) in a while. Those folks think theory is a hypothesis.

    In my area (race), anthropology is 10 times more theoretical than sociology..

  80. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 1:20 pm |

    I get the feeling the actual targeted audience – 15-20 year old girls of any color – would love this book.

  81. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 1:34 pm |

    BA did indeed read the book.

    going back to an earlier comment: I dunno about Butler so much, but as per Anzaldua: you know, I really don’t think, say, this, is so opaque:

    “But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and seperate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.”

    It’s more challenging in its concepts than you normally find marketed to 15-20 year olds, granted, but then so is the writing of pretty much all the major feminist writers; and I notice that young feminists of exactly that age seem to be picking them up and reading them, all over the blogosphere. And the language is pretty damn transparent, I think, if, again, above teen-magazine level.

  82. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 1:39 pm |

    and what RM said about BA’s blog being well worth reading through in general, and I’m sure it’s one of the more recent pieces:

    her blog

  83. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 1:39 pm |

    I’m with little light too.

  84. Jessica
    Jessica May 17, 2007 at 1:42 pm |

    R. Mildred: Does it mention solidarity and intersectional theory at all?

    I devoted an entire chapter to intersectionality. And I’m glad that you’re going to track down a copy of the book, I’m betting you’ll find the content a lot more substantive than some are making it out to be.

  85. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    fwiw, Queer Dewd/Bitch | Lab has been writing about this too, the last several posts, and you might find more of what’s going on in the various comments; unfortunately it’s gotten kind of acrimonious, which makes me unhappy seeing as how there are a number of spats between people I like and respect, but anyway, here

  86. Tobes
    Tobes May 17, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    Dear snappy mackerel,

    You wrote this:

    Jessica had simply said, I’m going for the crowd who buys into all the empowerful crap, thinks chick lit is rad, and is afraid of feminism because it will take away their high heels and padded bras.

    DID YOU READ HER BOOK AT ALL!!?!??!

    *pounds head against brick wall*

  87. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    “Jessica is also criticized for ignoring issues of non-white, non-middle-class women — and when I read those criticisms, I have to wonder if the commenters have read the book. Because Jessica recognizes the racism within the feminist movement.”

    Saying that the people criticizing that the book ignores issues faced by poor women and women of color means that the critics didn’t read the book? I read the book, and can count on one hand the number of times WOC are mentioned, and most of those are one-liners.

    That’s what I mean by invalidating people. It’s a valid problem with the book, and you’re saying, “Oh, well, did you read it?” to the people who bring it up.

  88. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 1:44 pm |

    and what RM said about BA’s blog being well worth reading through in general, and I’m sure it’s one of the more recent pieces

    When I’m not at work eight hours from now, I’ll try to search through her archives, but by then I’ll be referring back a good 40 or 50 comments and no one will know what the hell I’m talking about anymore.

    Sorry, but that’s one of my internet pet peeves: if you’re going to refer to a post that someone made, link to the damn post so other people know what you’re referring to! Name-droppers …

  89. Jessica
    Jessica May 17, 2007 at 1:46 pm |

    Vox: I read the book, and can count on one hand the number of times WOC are mentioned, and most of those are one-liners.

    Sorry, but that’s just not true.

  90. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe May 17, 2007 at 1:47 pm |

    (whispering) My guess is she took her picture in the mirror.

    But then wouldn’t the camera be…Oh, never mind. I’m confused enough as it is.

  91. Mel
    Mel May 17, 2007 at 1:55 pm |

    I must admit that I have not yet read the book, so I can’t comment on the quality of the arguments presented. I will say, however, that the only reason I’m now curious to read it is because of the controversy surrounding it. I hate, hate, HATE the cover- and was tempted to ignore the whole thing as a result. After all, why would I (as a young woman) trust the opinions of a woman who simultaneously claims to want to eliminate the existance of the patriarchy while bowing to the patriarchal pressure to turn her book on feminism into a capitalistic gold mine.

  92. Nanette
    Nanette May 17, 2007 at 1:57 pm |

    Waayyyyy up there, at post #29, I linked – directly – to both Blackamazon’s Sylvia’s

  93. Nanette
    Nanette May 17, 2007 at 1:58 pm |

    Waayyyyy up there, at post #29, I linked – directly – to both Blackamazon’s LINK (22 years old) critique as well as Sylvia’s LINK (21 years old) critique of the book, because it seemed to me that the voices of young women of color (who had read and rejected the book) were being ignored in this conversation.

    More true than I realized! heh.

    (repost. The last one had issues)

  94. Mostly Normal
    Mostly Normal May 17, 2007 at 2:02 pm |

    I second Isobel’s point. I think a lot of the book’s critics say they understand that the book isn’t for them, but don’t really get it. This book is for teenagers. Teenagers.

    I third, fourth, and fifth this point! I’m going to have a look at the book and possibly give it to my teenage sister, who thinks feminism is not for women who shave their legs.

    Regarding Jill’s original (excellent) post: I too get the feeling that Jessica could have done nothing to make the most vitriolic critics happy, except for not writing the book.

    The little satire over at Truly Outragous that you linked to Jill was so distasteful and unconstructive. I think Jessica got punished for getting a book published. Success pisses people off.

  95. Jen in Ohio
    Jen in Ohio May 17, 2007 at 2:03 pm |

    As another blended theory-head/activist who sees no intrinsic conflict there, rather much sees the same necessary overlap and inseparability that Sarah in Chicago & belladame see (either or both of whose babies I would totally have, so there), this particular argument in-thread is making me cry a little bit.

    Theory without activism nets useless pie-in-the-sky bullshit that ultimately results in a lot of needless pain and death; activism without theory nets bull-in-a-china-shop behavior that ultimately results in a lot of needless pain and death; theory and activism need each other for temperance and utility just as much as water and fire.

  96. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 2:04 pm |

    tangentially, I’d be just thrilled if we could declare a moratorium on the term “empowerful.” Yeah, you know what, -power-, it’s a real concept, and yes it frigging matters, and no, snarking at the poor unfortunate souls who’ve deluded themselves into thinking anything they’ve ever done might actually -be empowering-, (the Patriarchy controls all, fools!): really. Not. Helpful.

    especially, speaking of young feminists, when I see groups like Young Women’s Empowerment Project, using the term with (oh noes!!) -no irony.- Silly rabbits, they think they’re actually making a difference.

  97. jennie
    jennie May 17, 2007 at 2:07 pm |

    Note to Joseph Kugelmass and others wondering why Jessica hasn’t responded to reviews and criticisms: In general, authors, especially first-time authors, are discouraged from responding to negative reviews. First of all, it’s a recipe for madness—not everyone is going to like every book, invariably some reviewers will say things that the author thinks are bone-headed (this is the prerogative of reviewers). Secondly, it’s unwise to diss your publisher, if you ever plan on writing for that publisher again. So if an author doesn’t like the cover image chosen, he or she may register protests, but would be less than smart to do so in response to criticism. I’m not saying Jessica did or didn’t like the cover art—I don’t know Jessica, I don’t know her publishers, and I refuse to speculate—but I’ve had authors come back to me and say “Look? See? X reviewer didn’t like it either!” Thirdly, while engaging with critics in, say, an interview or a debate might make good publicity, engaging with them on the blogosphere will most frequently make an author look defensive, and has led to some making themselves look very foolish. In general, it’s just not a recommended tactic for authors. Especially in the critic’s own venue, the author is going to start at a rhetorical disadvantage.

    It’s just a bad idea. Some people can pull it off, but more have really bungled it.

  98. Mostly Normal
    Mostly Normal May 17, 2007 at 2:07 pm |

    p.s. Jessica, if your book manages to convert my teenage little sister from being an Ann Coulter devotee (really… really!!) to seeing the feminist light, I will be eternally grateful.

  99. belledame222
    belledame222 May 17, 2007 at 2:10 pm |

    …and by the way, that YWEP link, I got from brownfemipower.

    and, if you want to know what I think part of the root of all this is: bfp. Who many folks think -really really- should have a book, and a lot more recognition than she currently has; and who, rightly or wrongly, seems, I think, to a lot of people, to have been treated sort of like the stepsister in the cinders.

  100. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 17, 2007 at 2:24 pm |

    tangentially, I’d be just thrilled if we could declare a moratorium on the term “empowerful.” Yeah, you know what, -power-, it’s a real concept, and yes it frigging matters, and no, snarking at the poor unfortunate souls who’ve deluded themselves into thinking anything they’ve ever done might actually -be empowering-, (the Patriarchy controls all, fools!): really. Not. Helpful.

    Seconded. Plus, its use automatically identifies someone as a member of the feminist blogosphere ‘cool kids.’

  101. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 2:31 pm |

    Jessica, I was exagerrating slightly to make a point. It was probably more like two hands.

    The point is that I don’t think criticisms that the book wasn’t inclusive are because “people didn’t read it.” I don’t particularly think the book is very inclusive on some fronts, and I know plenty of others who felt the same way. That doesn’t make the book bad, but it is a valid criticism. Jumping up to say that people who think that must not have read the book or that it’s just not true is not very constructive. Obviously people feel that way for a reason.

    Now, I’m not in your target audience — I’m one of those 25-year-old grad students someone mentioned, and I ditched feminism — so you can take what I say or leave it, but reading the book, I felt that it centered mainly on issues faced by upper middle class white women. And saying that I must not have read the book because I feel that way, and saying that to other people who feel that way, is hardly productive.

  102. Kristen
    Kristen May 17, 2007 at 2:56 pm |

    This discussion just became more clear to me after checking out the headlines on CNN – with a video showing a poor young girl being stoned to death for falling in love with a boy from another religion. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to link to the video.)

    You know what. I don’t care how people come to feminism. I don’t care if it starts out as “empowerment” or talking about guilt-free sex. I don’t care. I don’t care if we argue over theory or practicality. I don’t care if some of us refuse to bend to the patriarchial system while others bend a little more than we should. What I care about right now is that we get as many people talking and thinking about how wrong this is.

  103. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 17, 2007 at 3:07 pm | *

    reading the book, I felt that it centered mainly on issues faced by upper middle class white women. And saying that I must not have read the book because I feel that way, and saying that to other people who feel that way, is hardly productive.

    Okay. But I don’t think your original remarks came across like that.

  104. aireanne
    aireanne May 17, 2007 at 3:30 pm |

    Long time reader, first time commenter.

    As someone who has read most of the book, I have to say I was dissapointed. The style of the blog seemed to be exaggerated in the book, and rather than drawing me in, I was distracted by the style. but I’m not the demographic that it was targeted for, as I’m already a feminist.

    I think the criticisms that it’s not inclusive of WOC or other issues within feminism are valid though. Even though Jessica tries to point the reader to issues of “isms” within traditional or second-wave feminism, what is lacking is the voices of people previously othered.

    Jessica made a decision to author her singular vision of what feminism is, rather than to work collaboratively with other feminists. Despite all of the references to intersectionality of oppression, the fact that it has one voice dilutes–if not erases–that message. Her decision to write this book and her popularity with more traditional forms of media mean that the myth of a monolithic white feminism will continue.

    Perhaps her next book she’ll take editorial credits, rather than authorial.

    Also, I was converted to feminism by a “primer,” so to speak. A little something called Feminism Is for Everybody, by bell hooks. Now, there’s a brief yet comprehensive book on feminism that is both relatively easy to understand yet doesn’t oversimplify or obscure the message in the simplicity of language.

  105. JPlum
    JPlum May 17, 2007 at 3:46 pm |

    It seems like some of the criticism is based on things that Jessica cannot change-she’s a young, white, educated, privileged woman. There was an Amazon ‘review’ that was upset because she wrote the book from the point of view of a young, white, educated, privileged woman-in other words, from the point of view of herself. And you cannot expect one person to write a book that includes absolutely everyone, and all of the particular issues affecting them.

    This type of criticism seems to be leveled disproportionately towards women who write as feminists. It also reminds me of the Hoff Summers (sp?) thing about how American feminists don’t care about Muslim women, just because they don’t talk exclusively about that issue.

    Jessica does address women of colour, and lesbians, in her book. Does she do it on every page? No. But why would she? Would you complain that a woman of colour didn’t address the issues of white women of every page of her book, or that a lesbian didn’t address the issues of straight women? Yes, I know it’s different, since white and straight are the norm, but Jessica is white and straight too. That’s what she knows best, and FFF is HER love letter to feminism. If you see a gap in the market for love letters written to feminism by women of colour, and lesbians, then go out and fill it! Don’t expect Jessica to do it for you. Fer gosh sake, she’s only one woman!

    I was really impressed with the (sadly short) interview with Jessica in the Guardian-it was a British paper, and she had obviously gone to the trouble of looking up British statistics for things, in order to make what she was saying meaningful to her audience.

  106. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 3:48 pm |

    Jessica made a decision to author her singular vision of what feminism is, rather than to work collaboratively with other feminists. Despite all of the references to intersectionality of oppression, the fact that it has one voice dilutes–if not erases–that message. Her decision to write this book and her popularity with more traditional forms of media mean that the myth of a monolithic white feminism will continue.

    Perhaps her next book she’ll take editorial credits, rather than authorial.

    Okay. This is the kind of criticism that drives me UP THE WALL because it’s basically, “I don’t like the decisions the author made in writing the book.” It’s not a criticism of the ideas in the book.

    Your criticism is that Jessica should have been a different person writing a different book that would include the people you would prefer. If that’s the book you want to read, you should write it. You don’t need a book contract to write a book, you don’t even need one to be published. Both The Celestine Prophecy and Bridges of Madison County were originally self-published, and the authors worked their asses off to get them distribution and publicity.

    If you don’t think Jessica did it right, DIY. Carping about what she should have done and how she should have been an editor, not an author, is Monday morning quarterbacking.

  107. JPlum
    JPlum May 17, 2007 at 3:57 pm |

    So, aireanne, she is to be criticised because…she wrote a book. By herself. The horror! The shame! How can she live with herself, going out and writing a book! Women should never be allowed to write books by themselves! Especially young women. She should edit books full of content written by other people, she has no right to her own voice! By using her voice, she invalidates my voice! She thinks that the things that she thinks are important are actually important. How can she not realize that by talking about the things she thinks are important, the things that I think are important will suddenly become irrelevant!

    [exagerrated for effect]

    Now, I’m off to French class. My decision to speak French should in no way be viewed as a way of denigrating or ignoring the importance of languages other than French.

  108. JPlum
    JPlum May 17, 2007 at 4:02 pm |

    And speaking of French, are we going to criticise Jessica for writing in English, since that automatically excludes anyone who doesn’t read English? Actually, writing a book automatically excludes all the people who can’t read-how is that fair? (apologies to Naomi Wolf, for stealing a charge made against her. Read Fire with Fire)

  109. petitpoussin
    petitpoussin May 17, 2007 at 4:09 pm |

    **** WARNING: THIS POSTER CANNOT READ, AND IF SHE CRITICIZES A BOOK, IT’S BECAUSE SHE DIDN’T READ IT. BECAUSE SHE CAN’T READ. PLEASE DISREGARD THE FOLLOWING:****

    What does Jessica get for doing that? She gets branded stupid and not feminist enough. She gets mocked by other feminists.

    That’s right, I said Jessica is stupid. I said she is not feminist enough. That’s exactly what I said! I don’t know why you don’t just put quotes around that sentence, because it is basically a direct quote.

    It’s not like that post was written in a context of examining the hierarchical structure of progressive movements, organizing and media in the US — with the specific goal of making feminist issues more accessible and more relevant to more people.

    Nope. I’m just jealous. But thanks for the link love!

  110. Heraclitus (Jeff)
    Heraclitus (Jeff) May 17, 2007 at 4:25 pm |

    Since this thread needs a little comic relief, allow me to ask, are we to understand that Alon Levy has turned on Jessica as well? These rank ageists are everywhere!

  111. petitpoussin
    petitpoussin May 17, 2007 at 4:27 pm |

    Jessica does address women of colour, and lesbians, in her book. Does she do it on every page? No. But why would she? Would you complain that a woman of colour didn’t address the issues of white women of every page of her book, or that a lesbian didn’t address the issues of straight women? Yes, I know it’s different, since white and straight are the norm, but Jessica is white and straight too.

    Hooray, I stuck around long enough for my favorite argument!

  112. Sylvia
    Sylvia May 17, 2007 at 4:34 pm |

    This discussion just became more clear to me after checking out the headlines on CNN – with a video showing a poor young girl being stoned to death for falling in love with a boy from another religion. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to link to the video.)

    You know what. I don’t care how people come to feminism. I don’t care if it starts out as “empowerment” or talking about guilt-free sex. I don’t care. I don’t care if we argue over theory or practicality. I don’t care if some of us refuse to bend to the patriarchial system while others bend a little more than we should. What I care about right now is that we get as many people talking and thinking about how wrong this is.

    Of all the things in this thread I’ve picked up on, this one perhaps stood out the most to me. There are feminists who address stories like these damned near everyday and try to discuss how wrong it is. And bless their hearts, all the stresses related to the Big Feminist Blarghosphere in combination with hate mail, and just plain apathy because no one would talk about how wrong it was or how to help sent them away. They’re all women of color bloggers, and the fact that shit like this chases them away hurts my heart.

    That’s my non sequitur comment for the day.

  113. Julie
    Julie May 17, 2007 at 4:56 pm |

    I just got done with FFF, I actually read it in a couple hours the night before last (a huge plus for busy mommies, it was a quick and easy read!). I’m a little older than the targeted audience (26) and I’m a married mom who’s been out of college for four years, but I’m also very new to feminism and not up on much heavy duty theory. I thought it was great, informative and easy to understand and put to use. I certainly don’t fit any typical beauty standards (I’m 5 foot tall, wear a size 18, have stretch marks from my breasts to my thighs, rarely wear makeup and never wear heels) and I didn’t feel like any less of a feminist because of it, but that’s just my opinion/experience. I have been reading feminist blogs for a couple years now, so yeah, some of it was more basic than I needed to hear, but I also understand that I am not exactly the targeted audience. It certainly didn’t come across as an academic work, it came across as a conversational piece, a book to make people think and maybe even point them in the direction of more “serious” works. The day after I read this book, I went to my public library and picked up three more books on feminism to help expand my knowledge. This book also convinced me to get off my ass and do something about my newfound feminism and I’m going to start volunteering as a sexual assault victim advocate. No, not every point was backed up with tons of facts, but I really don’t think it was the point of the book. All in all, I enjoyed it a lot, learned a few new things and felt better about myself as a person and a feminist when I was done. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to a young person who still struggled with the “I’m not a feminist but… ” and I think anyone could pick upsomething out of it. Again, I think remembering the target audience and the scope of the book is important.

  114. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 4:57 pm |

    “Yes, I know it’s different, since white and straight are the norm, but Jessica is white and straight too. That’s what she knows best, and FFF is HER love letter to feminism.”

    Then why is the tagline “A Young Woman’s Guide to Feminism”?

    Look, I’m not saying Jessica doesn’t have the right to write a book. Writing a book is a hard thing, and the fact that she did it and got it published is impressive, whether I personally like the book or not. And like I said, I’m not her target audience, so whatever.

    My criticism is that Jessica wrote a book purportedly for young women and left a lot of those young women out. And my problem is that when people point that out, they get blog posts like the above. If you want to write a good review of the book, write a good review of the book. If you think that the book is awesome, say so. But saying that people who had valid, supported criticisms of the book obviously hadn’t read it helps nothing.

    You get a book published, you’re going to have people who don’t like it, and people who do. That’s just the nature of the publishing industry. Either ignore the critics or learn from them, but don’t write them off as stupid or tools of the patriarchy or whatever.

  115. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 4:58 pm | *

    Then why is the tagline “A Young Woman’s Guide to Feminism”?

    Because Jessica is A Young Woman.

  116. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 4:59 pm | *

    And it’s actually “A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters.” Which is a very different thing.

  117. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 5:04 pm |

    This discussion just became more clear to me after checking out the headlines on CNN – with a video showing a poor young girl being stoned to death for falling in love with a boy from another religion. (Sorry, I can’t figure out how to link to the video.)

    You know what. I don’t care how people come to feminism. I don’t care if it starts out as “empowerment” or talking about guilt-free sex. I don’t care. I don’t care if we argue over theory or practicality. I don’t care if some of us refuse to bend to the patriarchial system while others bend a little more than we should. What I care about right now is that we get as many people talking and thinking about how wrong this is.

    And you know what? This is exactly what I’m talking about. There are women, including young women, who go out and fight against stuff like that. There are young women who write about it, and who worry about it happening to them. There are young women in organizations like INCITE! working to end violence against women, and writing letters for Amnesty International to end violence against women. And some of them may not consider themselves feminists.

    There are young women out there doing some serious, ground-breaking work, and a lot of them feel left out by a feminist movement that focuses on purity balls, Quizno’s commercials, and the right to get an abortion. Are they part of FFF’s target audience?

  118. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 5:05 pm |

    Sorry about the tagline, not looking at the book right this second! The question still stands, though.

    And I thought Jessica was 28?

  119. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 5:08 pm |

    While I don’t completely agree with Sylvia or blackamazon, I do think they make substantive points, and they didn’t engage in the kind of personal attacks that some other bloggers did.

    Im stuck in the middle as is normal in fence riding life (Am I Asian or American? Child or adult? Black or white? Impverished or rich? etc. etc.). My detached, non-blog, theoretical view on feminism is as follows: Feminism should not be dominated by any race or class. Whites should not dominate but neither should WOC. Everyone should have equal access and decision-making power.

  120. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 5:10 pm |

    And Black Amazon, BFP and Sylvia should all have book deals too.

  121. zuzu
    zuzu May 17, 2007 at 5:14 pm | *

    Donna, what’s stopping them?

    There’s no finite number of book deals. If Jessica gets one, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t.

  122. Kai
    Kai May 17, 2007 at 5:19 pm |

    There are young women out there doing some serious, ground-breaking work, and a lot of them feel left out by a feminist movement that focuses on purity balls, Quizno’s commercials, and the right to get an abortion. Are they part of FFF’s target audience?

    Vox, I’m assuming your question is rhetorical. Like you, Nanette, Sylvia, Blackamazon, many others, what strikes me from reading all this is that it’s pretty clear what is meant by a “young woman”: there are several hidden words between those two words, unstated because of their normative centrality in dominant discourse and thought, and in hierarchies of power. Therein lies the rub.

  123. Mostly Normal
    Mostly Normal May 17, 2007 at 5:20 pm |

    And I thought Jessica was 28?

    Good grief, Vox. Are you arguing about her definition of “young” too?

    You’ve said repeatedly that you don’t feel that Jessica included all kinds of women in her book. Ok, fine. Jill argued, in response to that sort of argument, that Jessica had included all kinds of women in her book. Again, great. You disagree.

    Jill also pointed out that many people who criticized the book didn’t bother to read it first. It is obvious that some of them did not, given people’s own admissions (in this comment section of places like Truly Outrageous, for example) that they “hadn’t read the book yet, but…” It really does appear that many critics have not read the book. Some, like you, have. Ok. Where is Jill’s sweeping statement claiming that no one who has criticized Jessica’s book has actually read it?

    Jill never said, “I liked the book, and if you say you didn’t, you probably didn’t read it.” She offered specific arguments against each claim made by critics against the book, and brought up the fact that many critics had (by their own admission!) not actually read the thing.

    I don’t understand what you’re trying to accomplish by arguing over and over that Jessica and Jill screwed up. If you want to write your own book about the feminism you see, or envision, write it. If you want to write your own review, write it.

  124. Blackamazon@gmail.com
    Blackamazon@gmail.com May 17, 2007 at 5:29 pm |

    Okay before this bad boy goes any further. I would really like if people stopped asking why don’t we have book deals, as if we ourselves have even expressed interest in them., as if thats the thrust of our critique.

    Right now I feel neither hear nor there and I critiqued the book because I was looking to make a gift to a high school class.

    Also the What’s stopping them is glib. People try for ages to get em and die before having them. Congrats to Jessica on her accomplishment but as BFP is a writer , can we not pretend like their so easy to get that people who want them are jsut not trying hard enough.

  125. Vox
    Vox May 17, 2007 at 5:50 pm |

    Yeah, Kai, it kind of was. Apparently pointless, too.

    Mostly Normal: I refer you to the original blog entry above: “Jessica is also criticized for ignoring issues of non-white, non-middle-class women — and when I read those criticisms, I have to wonder if the commenters have read the book.”

    And I wasn’t the one who said in the comments that her book was directed at young women and not 25-year-old grad students; I assumed that meant 25+ wasn’t young, but maybe it just skips a year?

    I’m not arguing that Jessica screwed up. I have no problem with Jessica writing a book, and while I may disagree with what she wrote, it’s her right to put whatever she wants in it, and if it gets more girls thinking about feminism and graduating on to more advanced writers, more power to her. That’s not my problem. I just came in here to say that people also have the right to criticize her book, and that some of their criticisms were valid, and Jill’s defense made it seem like they didn’t. That’s all. *shrug*

    But this isn’t my movement, and you can all do whatever you want with it. I’ve got too much to do to care anymore.

  126. Hugo
    Hugo May 17, 2007 at 5:52 pm |

    Jessica is just about the first member of the feminist blogosphere to publish a fairly hot, commercial, trade paperback title about feminism. Jessica built her rep as a blogger, as many others are trying to do.

    And I can’t think of a book more scrutinized or debated since we all started doing this blogging thing. And I think a lot of folks have projected their hopes and expectations on to FFF, hoping that it would reflect to a new audience their own particular understanding of feminism. In one sense, by being invited to write this book, Jessica got a poisoned chalice — whatever she wrote was going to fall short, to disappoint.

    I’ll reckon there are a hell of a lot of us who want book deals. Jessica got out there and got one, faster than most of the rest of us. There’s room for more, and Lord willing, we’ll see a plethora of titles on feminism hit the market, many reflecting different understandings of the movement than FFF. I’m not accusing her critics of rank jealousy, as I think the criticisms may be more legitimate than that. But where the criticism slips from the book into criticism of Jessica herself (which is what Jill is pushing back against) then I think that we are seeing envy and resentment at work.
    My women’s studies classes tend to break down as follows:

    60-70% are first-generation college students. Only 20% are white (and most of those are recent Armenian immigrants), 40% are Latinas, 30% are Asian or Asian-American, and just about 10% are African-American. They mostly don’t look like me, or like Jessica. And I’ve given them Gloria Anzaldua and bell hooks, and I’m going to give them some Valenti too. And I believe that the feminism Jessica defends so powerfully in FFF has universal relevance and appeal.

    I will report back in December, after they’ve had a semester with it.

  127. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth May 17, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

    I gotta say I read the first few pages on Amazon.com

    I am 15, almost 16. This book seems exactly like what my friend needs. We live in a very privilaged (almost all white) area. Yeah, it won’t touch as much on race issues, nor will it go into detail, but at this point all she needs is something to make her think a little, let her start forming opinions and realizing things.

    I think for my age group, it will be excellent for the most part, even if I would rather go more in depth and get a little more serious.

  128. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 6:26 pm |

    As I’ve commented on Feministing, all three waves grew out of Civil Rights movements. Black women lead the way in each movement. Black women also lead the anti-lynching movement.

    I am heartbroken because woc are shit upon from their own communities and feminist movements. Heartbroken when bloggers like nubian quit or when BA is upset.

    I would appreciate it if the entire feminist blogosphere read these blogs and addressed dire issues mentionned on blogs on this thread. Life and death issues. Massive health disparities. Etc.

  129. Rachel
    Rachel May 17, 2007 at 6:54 pm |

    (#124) zuzu said, “Donna, what’s stopping them?

    There’s no finite number of book deals. If Jessica gets one, that doesn’t mean someone else can’t.”

    I think many of that there are many women bloggers out there who should get a book deal, and they may not know how (or who to go to). They should get out there and bust their chops trying to get those deals.

    But let’s not pretend that Jessica’s brand of feminism is no more likely to garner attention from major publishing companies than someone like BFP. C’mon now.

    As someone who writes about race issues, I know the whole subject area frequently gets marginalized. Then your tack feminism on it, and it is much harder. The first thing they want to know is who is your target audience, having middle and upper class white women as your target group makes the dollar signs look at lot bigger than say, African Women’s feminism.

    And you know that.

  130. Tony
    Tony May 17, 2007 at 7:14 pm |

    Jill

    You finished reading this 2 weeks ago? In the middle of finals? Man, I don’t have time to read a magazine!

    Evidence really kicked me in the ass this semester.

    3L laziness here I come!

  131. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 7:14 pm |

    As someone who writes about race issues, I know the whole subject area frequently gets marginalized. Then your tack feminism on it, and it is much harder. The first thing they want to know is who is your target audience, having middle and upper class white women as your target group makes the dollar signs look at lot bigger than say, African Women’s feminism.

    And you know that.

    Yes, but … is it Jessica’s fault that publishers think her book will sell better?

    This is the point we always end up getting to. Because the media pays more attention to the feminist issues of white women, white feminists get more coverage, and it looks like the only feminist issues that matter are the ones that affect white middle- and upper-class women.

    Yet it’s not the media that gets blamed. It’s the white feminists. Which is how we end up with these nasty circular firing squad threads.

  132. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 17, 2007 at 7:15 pm |

    I should clarify what I meant when I said 15-20 girls of any color would love it. Gen X women of color who became feminists because of Sassy or Bust magazine such as myself would love it. Hard-core anti-racist 15-20 year old WOC will not become feminists because of it. Just like hard-core feminists such as myself do not fit into the Asian American community or communities of color, hard-core anti-racist girls still do not fit into the mainstream feminist movement. If only we lived in a world where hard-core feminists and anti-racists fit into both communities.

  133. Z. M. Davis
    Z. M. Davis May 17, 2007 at 7:15 pm |

    Re the mirrored photo (comments 53, 54, 57, 92): given that Jill has a MacBook, I’d guess that the picture was taken using the built-in camera utility, which displays everything mirrored. One can activate “Auto Flip New Photos” to take normal pictures.

  134. Joseph Kugelmass
    Joseph Kugelmass May 17, 2007 at 7:28 pm |

    Here’s what we’re getting over and over again: a non sequitur about Valenti’s critics writing their own books, which a) was already suggested in Jill’s post, and b) is nonsense, for all the reasons I outlined up there at #12.

    Your criticism is that Jessica should have been a different person writing a different book that would include the people you would prefer. If that’s the book you want to read, you should write it. You don’t need a book contract to write a book, you don’t even need one to be published. Both The Celestine Prophecy and Bridges of Madison County were originally self-published, and the authors worked their asses off to get them distribution and publicity.

    If you don’t think Jessica did it right, DIY.

    That was from Mnemosyne. And then, from Mostly Normal:

    If you want to write your own book about the feminism you see, or envision, write it. If you want to write your own review, write it.

    Meanwhile, at the same time, we’re told that Valenti had to accept the tummy cover, and can’t get involved in debates about her book, and couldn’t speak against her publisher even if she wanted to.

    This is circular logic. We shouldn’t criticize Valenti, because of the way the publishing industry works, but if we do want to criticize her, we should publish. Valenti’s critics are saying that the book is exclusionary, reductive, and compromised. We’re suggesting that this might, in fact, have something to do with its being published in the first place. That’s a response to the book, not to Valenti’s ethnicity, age, or class.

    I’m sure nobody needs to respond to the suggestion that if The Celestine Prophecy and The Bridges of Madison County can DIY, then a book challenging mainstream ideology should have no problem.

    Feminists are dismissed on a daily basis for being negative and unproductive, very often with the words “if you don’t like it, why don’t you go out there and create an alternative.” Making valid criticisms of a given book does not prevent anybody from working on positive projects, as has been amply demonstrated by the links on this thread going to different kinds of articulations of feminism.

    Remember the thread about the statue of Mary Jane? Here’s what kadmonprime wrote there:

    So, my point is, you don’t like the way women are portrayed in comics? Easy solution: Get a job in comics and portray them in your own subjective manner that you see fit. Even better start your own comic company. If you don’t like comics and statues don’t buy them.

    I actually believe Valenti’s book will do some good, as will her opportunities on the book tour, etc. to speak about feminism. But the book should be getting the reviews it deserves, and if it claims to be a guide to “feminism,” then anybody who cares about that term has the right to evaluate whether it speaks for them, and not just whether she did the best she could. Jill, when you write that there “are substantive criticisms to be made,” but then leave those out of your post, you’re letting the authors of blind or ad hominem attacks excuse the book’s faults. Those people — particularly if they’re just part of a given comment thread — do not speak for everyone.

  135. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 7:40 pm |

    This is circular logic. We shouldn’t criticize Valenti, because of the way the publishing industry works, but if we do want to criticize her, we should publish. Valenti’s critics are saying that the book is exclusionary, reductive, and compromised. We’re suggesting that this might, in fact, have something to do with its being published in the first place. That’s a response to the book, not to Valenti’s ethnicity, age, or class.

    That’s where we disagree, I guess — you seem to be blaming Jessica for the fact that it was easier for her to get a book published because she is young, white, and has a more media-friendly brand of feminism than, say, brownfemipower does. You’re not saying, “Wow, it sucks that our publishing and media system is set up so that it’s easier for her to get published.” You’re saying, “It sucks that she got published and not all of these other, more deserving people.” Which is, yes, a criticism of her for having her book published.

    It’s still coming across to me that you’re criticizing her not for what she wrote, but for what she didn’t write. You want to see a very specific kind of Feminism 101 book out on the market, Jessica’s book isn’t the one you wanted, so you’re upset with Jessica because her book isn’t the one you wanted.

    I may be taking this so personally because I am a writer, and I HATE HATE HATE when people tell me what I “should” have written rather than critiquing what I actually DID write. Lecturing a writer about what they left out of the book is not the same thing as critiquing what’s actually in the book.

  136. Rachel
    Rachel May 17, 2007 at 7:44 pm |

    Joseph said, “This is circular logic. We shouldn’t criticize Valenti, because of the way the publishing industry works, but if we do want to criticize her, we should publish. Valenti’s critics are saying that the book is exclusionary, reductive, and compromised. We’re suggesting that this might, in fact, have something to do with its being published in the first place. That’s a response to the book, not to Valenti’s ethnicity, age, or class.”

    Such a good point.

  137. Mostly Normal
    Mostly Normal May 17, 2007 at 7:58 pm |

    This is circular logic.

    You’re conflating everyone in this whole thread. I didn’t make any argument about the media or publishing, so don’t put words in my mouth.

    Feminists are dismissed on a daily basis for being negative and unproductive, very often with the words “if you don’t like it, why don’t you go out there and create an alternative.”

    And you’re putting me in that category? Give me a break. Your criticism would be valid had I suggested that other bloggers go out and, say, create their own publishing companies, ones which don’t prefer feminism as espoused by white women. But I didn’t suggest that. I said: Jessica wrote a single book expressing her interpretations and opinions, with which some people disagree. (Not so shocking–the purpose of writing a book is to express ideas and opinions, with which some people are bound to disagree.) So other blogging feminists, write your own articles/books expressing your ideas and opinions and get them out into the realm of printed paper, rather than attacking each other in blog land like you’re doing here. Respond, don’t sulk.

    There is a gaping difference between me telling Vox to write her own book, and someone telling a feminist to make her own brand of super hero comic books. In the first case I am telling someone they ought to add a minority voice into the discussion Jessica entered in the mainstream press. In the second case, someone is saying there is no place for a minority voice in an established institution.

    So don’t pull the “bad feminist” card on me and imply that I’m oppressing feminism somehow. That is beyond ridiculous.

    Honestly, this debate appears to me–who is relatively new to the feminist blogging sphere–to be so unproductive. When I find myself implicityly labeled a bad feminist, I know I’m in company with strange motivations.

  138. exangelena
    exangelena May 17, 2007 at 8:22 pm |

    Isabel at 43:
    I didn’t always consider myself a feminist. I did go through the “I’m an egalitarian, not a feminist!” period as a teenager.
    I can’t even remember how I found feministing in the first place but I don’t remember if I identified strongly as a feminist at that time. I was, however, enraged at the pressure to be beautiful and to be a sex object, and the frustration and suffering that it had caused me. Feminism seemed to be a natural for me, but I wasn’t sure what to think when it involved bashing other feminists who were opposed to beauty and raunch culture.
    I couldn’t relate to feministing’s brand of feminism and for awhile I was so frustrated with liberal/sex positive feminism that I decided I wasn’t going to be a feminist after all.

    I think that there’s female privilege, too. It’s not the same as male privilege, but I think there definitely is a kind of privilege that women get when they conform to patriarchal expectations. You are certainly still stepped on by the patriarchy but you’re spared a lot of other stuff, too. I become as frustrated with feminists who conform to appearance/sexual norms of femininity and become extremely hostile when those norms and hierarchies are criticized (refusing to recognize their female privilege), as I do with men who refuse to recognize their male privilege.

  139. Stephen
    Stephen May 17, 2007 at 10:41 pm |

    I think one of the central conflicts of the left blogosphere is between academics and everyone else. There are a great many bloggers who have high level degrees in humanities, which gives them a very different perspective on things. There are a lot of reasons for this, but I think it makes it hard for both sides to communicate. We (the non-academics) frankly haven’t read, for the most part, as much theory. I haven’t read anything about post-modernism. For us feminism, liberalism and the rest are political issues and policy issues for the most part, rather than philosophical. I don’t want to speak for everyone, but I think this kerfuffle comes from this divide, because I would seem that the critics of her book tend to come from the academy.

  140. Sylvia
    Sylvia May 17, 2007 at 11:07 pm |

    This is what I wrote when I spoke to Ilyka and Amanda Marcotte over at Ilyka’s blog. It’s pretty much how I’m feeling right now after reading all of these discussions. Black Amazon shared some great thoughts over there as well as on her own blog. I’m facing the rude awakening that I use the word “and” a whole lot.

    Amanda M:
    I don’t see why it’s wrong to praise the sexual pleasures of feminism and then turn around and crow about the pleasures of feeling superior and self-righteous. I’m very both/and. Why can’t you feel self-righteous and sexy all at once?

    Well…you see. Hmm. How do I put this…

    You know how you said this book wasn’t written for me?

    Well, this book isn’t really written for you either. Or most of the people who claim that any criticism of the book from people who are closer to the target audience than they is moot. When they bloviate about the awesomeness of this primer that is not an educational tool but will convince young women somehow someway, their opinions are just as bunk [under this target audience theory]. So while you feel very both/and about it; a lot of young women — even those within Jessica’s target audience — may feel rather neither/nor because she makes some assumptions in diction that she is preaching to her choir.

    And I’m not quite sure how I came off as elitist by suggesting that young women may be able to handle something that doesn’t try as hard to dress down and still conveys a convincing argument for feminism. And that doesn’t pay lip service to other demographics. While you don’t need heavy theory to sell feminism, you also don’t need expletive showers either. Call me confident in young women’s abilities to think for themselves; some do it even without feminism’s help.

    And I also think people are taking this opportunity to dish out very hefty ego trips. Criticism of a book is not the same as criticism of a person. I don’t know how many times this fact has to be said before it sinks into people’s minds, but it’s not.

    As I said before, I was waiting for this book to come out and prove me wrong about what’s inside and what I would look forward to as a way to reach out to my contemporaries who don’t ID as feminists. I was involved in the cover debacle; I reflected on the fact that we returned to the “young woman” = “white woman” crap again. I watched Nubian essentially get her ass handed to her because she called out the white normativity and everyone automatically started assuming that meant women of color wanted brown bodies plastered everywhere. People keep arguing envy when we’re really talking about erasure. Young women of color can look at that cover and read that book and realize feminism wasn’t meant to matter to them, or that the few women of color and references that are in there talk more about the worst of a woman of color’s existence and her experiences pushed aside for theory. The same theory that people didn’t want to bludgeon over the heads of “young women” is great for talking about women of color. Our relevance to feminism exists only in theory.

    And then, ironically, I watched the release of a similar book for young women around the time of the cover release for FFF — another primer about feminism and empowerment promoted a few days later on Feministing with different young women wearing clothes with a promising hook. Jessica endorsed it, even. So it got my hopes up about what Jessica would say in a similar effort. I was wrong to do so. I didn’t write any criticisms of that book to get Jessica to respond to me. [Note: AM made an allegation that I wanted to boost my blog cred.] I wrote what I thought of it on my blog after that experience and after I learned about its release. That’s what I tend to do — write my opinions of situations on my blog.

    And just because I’m sick of seeing this:

    Ilyka to Amanda [and partially in response to Jessica here, too]:
    Jessica’s not being abused. Yeah, chasingmoksha called her a patriarchal whore, but chasingmoksha’s crazy, everyone but Heart’s figured that out by now, and to cap it all off, it’s the internet.

    Ilyka’s right: on the day when women of color decided to engage in a conversation about the book cover on Nubian’s site (because Feministing commenters were too busy calling her a racist and a traitor to whatever and evil because it was so soon after Burqagate that Jessica only required blank praise and adoration [for her new book and cover]), many commenters asked Jessica to take the time to read Nubian’s criticism and reply. And the only thing she gathered from the whole discussion is “patriarchal whore.” The only thing.

    She used that silly trope to dismiss any chance for discussion then, and everyone’s using similar tropes to dismiss chances for discussion now. And yet the people who are trying to voice concerns and share dialogue beyond superficial shaming are the elitist self-promoters? Oh please; fucking grow up. Not everyone on the blogosphere takes up a site to out-grok Markos Moulitsas and put their e-fingers in honey pots.

    [In response to this from Amanda M:
    "Young women" is a broad group, but what it roughly means in the pitch is "young women who aren't into feminism", a category Sylvia doesn't belong. So she's not in the intended audience, and posturing as if she is in order to tear it down is disingenous.

    I can't even say that the first books I read on feminism were big tomes, really. In fact, I was more drawn in by rock music. I'm lucky in that---most academics of my generation are so in awe of rock music, they won't sneer at that as insufficiently intellectual, though it totally is. But Jessica is fair game, because there's nothing about her book that is cool in the countercultural sense. In fact, the opposite. This book is for sucking in the sorority girls.]

    And I feel so sorry for sorority girls right now, especially the ones who join the sanctimonious women’s studies sect and see what their newfound contemporaries thought and think of them. Maybe their newfound automagical empowerfulmentation will soften the blow.

  141. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 17, 2007 at 11:14 pm |

    Clarification: I realize now that I accidentally conflated two different points about publishing, so I’m going to try and make a little more sense.

    If you do not have a book contract, self-publishing is now a valid way to go, especially if you use a company like iUniverse that sells you the ISBN that will allow you to sell your book online at places like Amazon.com, or even have your local bookstore (if any) order and stock your book. Also keep small publishers in mind; a friend of mine had his novel published by a small press that usually only publishes nursing handbooks.

    That’s totally different from signing a contract with a publishing company, however. Once you sign a contract (as Jessica does), you are signing a binding agreement to deliver a product to them in exchange for payment. All of the people who were saying that she could have withdrawn the book if she didn’t like the cover choices offered have no clue how hard it is to break a publishing contract. The last person I know who did it spent two years and a lot of money to get her book back, since she had to repay the advance plus reimburse the publishing company for all of the editing and marketing work they’d done on it to that point (and she, too, was in the cover stage when she made the decision to try and withdraw).

    So, apologies for conflating the two points. I stand by my statement that if someone writes a book that you think should have been different, write your own book. Lots of songs, books, and movies have been written/produced because someone took umbrage to the way someone else told a story that they thought should have been told better.

  142. Girl with Pen
    Girl with Pen May 17, 2007 at 11:23 pm |

    I’m chiming in late here, I know, but I just wanted to say I’ve read FFF, loved it, and am moved by Jill’s passionate defense. Feminism has always been a fight, but you would think that, after 30 years of infighting, we’d have learned a thing or two. In an era where snark passes for substantive criticism, trashing is de rigeur, and it’s beyond frustrating how much of Jessica’s important message and substance get lost in the way some people are talking about her book. We need her book — and lots more popular books on feminism — and btw I know there *are* agents here in NYC on the lookout for more.

    I share your sadness, Jill, and congratulate Jessica on a JOB WELL DONE!

  143. Nomie
    Nomie May 18, 2007 at 4:09 am |

    We’re going to have the exact same argument when Amanda’s book comes out, aren’t we.

  144. R. Mildred
    R. Mildred May 18, 2007 at 4:17 am |

    All of the people who were saying that she could have withdrawn the book if she didn’t like the cover choices offered have no clue how hard it is to break a publishing contract.

    As people have been suggesting that working class single mothers should go around starting their own comics and publishing companies, I would like to point out that with a enough fire, and enough ritual beheadings of your enemies, ANYTHING is possible.

    The breaking of publishing contracts? Piece of piss.

    It’s still coming across to me that you’re criticizing her not for what she wrote, but for what she didn’t write.

    Except in this sort of book, conspicuous absences really are a substantial problem, especially in a climate where the feminist community already is suffering from a shit load of problems RE: inclusiveness and a worrying tendency that’s been displayed by some feminists to throw anyone they can under the bus if they think they can get something out of it.

    If a book is written, in such a climate, that could easily be renamed “Full Frontal Democrats”, because of all the very specific things it lacks, then yes, that strikes me as a criticisable problem.

  145. Maia
    Maia May 18, 2007 at 5:53 am |

    Petitpoussin, my entire post was not about you.

    Jill I think this reveals a problem in your post. Most of the time you are not responding to people’s actual criticisms of the book, but your paraphrase of what people said. You have entire paragraphs (about the fact that the book focuses on white middle-class women and that the book is an ego trip) where you don’t link to one critic.

    As you didn’t link to who you were responding to, it’s completely reasonable that people you did respond to take issue with your post, and people link to reviews which show that the reviews that you were responding to were not the only reviews out there.

  146. Mikhaela Reid
    Mikhaela Reid May 18, 2007 at 8:29 am |

    On the issue of “Jessica should have quit and just started her own small press rather than sign a book contract and be a sellout”–this is just silly. And I say this as someone who has just done just that (along with my fiancé Masheka–oops, bad idea before a wedding!), and is finding out how horribly, horribly expensive and difficult and time-consuming and miserable it is to be your own publisher, publicist and distributor and book tour planner, in addition to working full-time AND working part-time as a cartoonist and planning an impending wedding. I haven’t slept in weeks and it’s starting to show.

    If I’m lucky, I might get some interviews and reviews in a few queer and feminist papers and an alt-weekly or two and on discerning progressive and feminist blogs, and Masheka might get some minimal attention from black newspapers, and we might maybe swing four or five book signings. Maybe we’ll sell 300-1,000 copies of our books (and if that’s via Amazon, that’s a paltry $700 for all that work at best).

    I would LOVE to have a real book deal where instead of running up a credit card into scary figures to buy ISBNs and distribute and send out free review copies of a book that might not even sell at all, I could get mainstream press and an appearance on Colbert and get my message out as widely as possible.

    iUniverse can be a good option if you’re writing purely prose, but doesn’t allow for many graphics or illustrations so was out of the question for me–I went with Lulu.com for printing, but I have to distribute myself, and paying Amazon for the right to list my book there … and I just won’t be distributed in 99% of bookstores, which SUCKS.

    As for small presses, many small presses are awesome, but I also have heard many horror stories from friends of mine who never got a penny of their royalties.

    I think it’s awesome that a passionate feminist like Jessica who has been doing unpaid blogging work for years was able to swing a book deal and hopefully turn her passion into something that can pay the bills.

    *Not that Masheka or I had formal book deals or tried to get them–I was approached by a very nice agent who wanted to know if I had any marketable graphic novel memoirs (a la Fun Home), and I didn’t at the moment, though I’m thinking about one.

    Finally–obviously, criticism is totally fine and valid, and discussion and debate is a good thing. There are certainly arguments to be made about the style and content of the book, and what Jessica decided to include and not include, and about the title, cover, whatever.

    But I get the feeling from some critics that the only thing that would REALLY make them happy is if the book had never been published or Jessica never tried to get a book deal at all. I also get the feeling that there’s a double-standard –some critics are paraphrasing or generalizing or making sweeping statements about Jessica’s book without actually quoting from it, but are reacting quite angrily to anyone who makes sweeping statements or generalizations of their criticisms without quoting their blog posts in detail.

  147. lizvelrene
    lizvelrene May 18, 2007 at 9:45 am |

    I really hate seeing the words “jealousy” and “sour grapes” pop up in this conversation, it really saddens me. We have a group of people saying “this is the book we need” and another group saying “no, it’s really, really not”. It’s not about one blogger getting a book deal when another blogger you think is more deserving didn’t. It’s that once again the voices that are most marginalized are being told, go write your own book, nothing’s stopping you. Nothing except, I dunno, the exact societal forces we are supposed to be concerned with in feminism. Working women, women of color, poor women, these are the people who have important things to say and are least able to find a room of their own to say it in. They are the ones who are least able to sit down and write an entire book with no publisher, with no income stream to support them while they take the time to do that, maybe with kids to raise or three jobs to work at, or with no family or family with no means to give them a roof over their head while they take the time off work to write, the way a more privileged person would. And when they critique the people who are supposedly speaking for the entire movement and saying “this leaves my concerns out”, it is NOT a fair response to say “go write your own book.” Yeah, self-publishing is possible. So is driving three states over to find a reproductive clinic that will perform your abortion. It’s POSSIBLE, but it’s damned hard and it shouldn’t have to be that way. In terms of Jessica’s book, it’s not fair to start right off by saying it shouldn’t exist or that she shouldn’t have been the one to write it, but it IS fair to say that it’s not representative of the feminist movement as it stands today or that it’s not adding anything to the conversation that hasn’t already been said better by someone else. Whether those are true statements or not it’s a conversation that should be had without other people trying to shut it down.

    sorry if this isn’t particularly coherent. and it’s not aimed at the original post specifically so much as the general tenor of the conversation. /rant

  148. zuzu
    zuzu May 18, 2007 at 9:54 am | *

    Also the What’s stopping them is glib. People try for ages to get em and die before having them. Congrats to Jessica on her accomplishment but as BFP is a writer , can we not pretend like their so easy to get that people who want them are jsut not trying hard enough.

    You’re right, it’s glib. But asking why BFP, you and Sylvia don’t have book deals as a way of criticizing Jessica’s book is irrelevant. It’s merely saying that because Jessica has a book deal and I don’t, she doesn’t deserve the book deal.

    If people haven’t written books, or book proposals, then the question is moot. If they have and they’ve been rejected, then we have an issue to discuss.

    In any event, it’s not a valid criticism of the book itself. You’ve read the book, and you’ve criticized it substantively. But asking why someone else who, as far as I know hasn’t written a book wasn’t published instead or as well is not a substantive criticism.

    And yes, I’m aware of the discussion on Donna’s blog about this.

  149. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 10:30 am |

    In terms of Jessica’s book, it’s not fair to start right off by saying it shouldn’t exist or that she shouldn’t have been the one to write it, but it IS fair to say that it’s not representative of the feminist movement as it stands today or that it’s not adding anything to the conversation that hasn’t already been said better by someone else. Whether those are true statements or not it’s a conversation that should be had without other people trying to shut it down.

    I do agree with you (as I agree with your point that poor people aren’t necessarily going to be writing books, and don’t have the money to self-publish even if they did write a book). There are huge class issues tied up in the publishing industry that no one talks about. In fact, with most writing — it’s not a joke that most TV comedy writers are Harvard graduates. The one person I know who got a job straight out of film school was able to intern with that TV show for free for a full year because she lived with her parents in Brentwood, which was not something I could afford to do.

    However, I am not aware of another book out there that’s aimed at girls 16 to 22 that explains to them why feminism is important to their lives right now. That may be because I’m not reading a lot of feminist literature right now. Can you give us an alternate reading list for substitutes for Jessica’s book that are suitable for that 16-to-22-year-old audience?

  150. notWitherspoon
    notWitherspoon May 18, 2007 at 10:54 am |

    Mnemosyne —

    You can find a lot of alternative books with Seal Press, Jessica Valenti’s publisher. Most of the people who want book deals could probably find a home there, especially since they publish anthologies for young women of color, queer women, international women, disabled women, transpeople, and the like.

  151. mk
    mk May 18, 2007 at 11:14 am |

    I read Jessica’s book and thought it was great. I also remember thinking how impressively inclusive it was, specifically inclusive of women of color and queer women. But then, I’m not a woman of color- I’m a young white queer woman in the midst of a higher degree program. I just can’t help but wonder–if Jessica had written a book that more consciously appealed to women of color, queer women, uneducated women, or any other group that various commenters here have accused her of not representing, wouldn’t we be hearing criticisms that she couldn’t possibly speak for _____ because she isn’t _____?

    I guess I’m just a little disappointed that there’s so much feminist infighting over the book. And not just because I’m personally a fan. Rather, because it seems to me that we ought to be glad every time a book with a feminist bent comes out and sparks dialogue about the very issues we’re discussing here.

  152. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 11:33 am |

    I see Real Girl Real World from that publisher, but nothing that really talks specifically about feminism for a young teenager, just general “empowerment.” Any other publishers? I’m trying to make “feminism” less scary for my 14-year-old niece and avoid the whole, “I’m not a feminist but …” from her.

  153. the oh zone  » Blog Archive   » “Feminism seems like a lot of work,” says male person.  Apparently there’s life going on outside of the feminist blogosphere … choose a fucking side!

    [...] e-feminist-i-swear/#comment-2838 Or maybe stick with bell hooks… aireanne Says: May 17th, 2007 at 3:30 pm Long time reader, first time com [...]

  154. shannon
    shannon May 18, 2007 at 11:49 am |

    I think a problem is that girls my age(I’m 22) are considered to be monolithic. If you’re 16-22, people think that you are frivolous, silly, and incapable of understanding any concept more difficult than feminism is totally awesoooome!!!! (for us young people, the word empowerful makes sense because we know about crap like the spice girls and the pussy cat dolls- you don’t get political power by shaking your ass, people. If you did, who would be in charge of the white house and the world bank?) There are many young women who can pick up a book, like I did(I read bell hooks sophmore year in college) and understand it! We don’t all need to be talked down to. Not to mention, there are young women doing great work. We’re just ignored because we’re not cute white sorority girls. Who says that their involvement in feminism is more important than the rest of women’s work for domestic violence shelters or in the take back the night five k or us black women who fight against oversexualized and disrespectful images?

  155. willa
    willa May 18, 2007 at 12:07 pm |

    I work in publishing, (as do others here, I’m sure), and I can attest to the fact that it is very, very difficult to get a book published by a large, reputable house. And if you do get published by a large house, you still don’t have much of any chance to earn out your advance, let alone make an impact on society at large. You won’t make any money, and your book will be mostly unread and ignored. Your book will quietly fade away after a few months and then will be remaindered, and that will be that–unless, by some miracle, the book takes off and becomes a bestseller or a staple, and that almost never happens.

    If you don’t get picked up by a big house, you can make do with a small one, with little distribution and a tiny advance and no chance of getting out into a myriad of readers’ hands.

    Or you can self-publish. If you have enough money. And enough time. But then you’ll have to distribute and promote all on your own, and chances are good that your book will just languish, read by no one.

    The whole, “If you don’t like the book, write your own!” angle is so tired and annoying. It’s used to shut dissenters up. We just saw this on the Mary Jane thread, and here it is again. And I really do think it’s being used to dismiss the criticisms of others. Not cool.

    It’s not Jessica Valenti’s fault that she’s middle-class and white and got a book deal when others didn’t. She deserves to have her voice heard, and she’s reaching out to an important demographic (holy crap, I said “demographic!” Yikes). But many of her supporters here seem to be jumping on dissenters without engaging in actual dialogue about just what Jessica’s book conveys, and excludes, instead trying to shut the dissent down. Why is this? Because of “personal attacks?” Then what about the valid concerns of WOC? Why aren’t their concerns being addressed?

    This seems to be the way the thread’s going:

    Supporters: OMG stop being so mean and bashing Jessica!

    Critcs: We’re not bashing! This book ignores our issues!

    Supporters: OMG those issues are addressed!

    Critics: Where?

    Supporters: OMG this book is a primer, not a treatise!

    Critics: The book even as a primer does not address my problems as a woman at all!

    Supporters: This book is aimed at young women!

    Critics: WHITE young women! Women of color have been ignored yet again!

    Supporters: Then write your own damn book!

    Critics: Oh yeah, like it’s that easy. White privilege! White privilege!

    Supporters: It’s not Jessica’s fault she’s white!

    Critics: So what? Are you saying we should just shut up and not discuss how Jessica being white and speaking to white girls affects feminism and women of color?

    Supporters: Yes!

    Critics: …

    OMG I’m so tired. Need to lie down now…

  156. Mikhaela Reid
    Mikhaela Reid May 18, 2007 at 12:10 pm |

    They are the ones who are least able to sit down and write an entire book with no publisher, with no income stream to support them while they take the time to do that, maybe with kids to raise or three jobs to work at, or with no family or family with no means to give them a roof over their head while they take the time off work to write, the way a more privileged person would. And when they critique the people who are supposedly speaking for the entire movement and saying “this leaves my concerns out”, it is NOT a fair response to say “go write your own book.” Yeah, self-publishing is possible. So is driving three states over to find a reproductive clinic that will perform your abortion. It’s POSSIBLE, but it’s damned hard and it shouldn’t have to be that way.

    Again, I love Jessica’s book. But I do agree on this point–telling marginalized women that it’s easy to self-publish or just get their own book deals is kind of ridiculous. Only a privileged few have the time/resources to do a book of any kind, never mind a self-published one, and that doesn’t mean their perspectives aren’t book-worthy.

    Only a I still don’t understand the “a particular so & so should have gotten a book deal instead of Jessica” line. In order to get a book deal, you have to talk to an agent, and propose one, and as far as I can tell, that didn’t happen here. (Which isn’t to say the proposal wouldn’t be unfairly rejected, only that there was no rejection in favor of Jessica’s book in this case).

    In terms of Jessica’s book, it’s not fair to start right off by saying it shouldn’t exist or that she shouldn’t have been the one to write it, but it IS fair to say that it’s not representative of the feminist movement as it stands today or that it’s not adding anything to the conversation that hasn’t already been said better by someone else.

    Yes, it really isn’t fair to say Jessica doesn’t have the right to write a book about feminism. It’s A book, not THE book, it’s A young woman’s guide to feminism, not THE young women’s guide to feminism. She covers a damn lot in the book and incorporates a lot of ideas and certainly talks about issues for queer women and women of color and poor women. I don’t remember where, but one blog critic assumed her book didn’t talk about the forced sterilization of poor women (via the organization CRACK), but actually, Jessica mentions it quite a few times.

    Still, as she clearly states, it’s her own love-letter to feminism, from her own perspective and awesome irreverent pottymouthed voice, and she’d certainly be accused of being patronizing if she pretended to speak for other women. It’s not a group blog or an anthology or a group book. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.

    There’s CERTAINLY room for another author or editor to compile another book for young women on feminism that combines the voices of many women of various backgrounds–whether by reprinting their writing or through interviews or quotes and photos. It’d be damn awesome to see a book that specifically profiles (maybe with photos) some of the amazing things different young women have done and are doing to kick back against all kinds of bullshit and oppression and marginalization and racism and homophobia and transphobia and… etc.

    But I would think such books would complement each other rather than be mutually exclusive.

  157. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 12:25 pm |

    The whole, “If you don’t like the book, write your own!” angle is so tired and annoying. It’s used to shut dissenters up.

    As a writer myself, I use it to try and get more people to write. Yes, there are barriers to getting published, but the only barrier to actually writing is not having a pencil and a piece of paper.

    As I said, many many books, movies and songs were written because somebody read something and thought, “I can do better than that.” I’m hoping at least a few people on this thread will actually get motivated to create the book they want to read instead of complaining that there’s nothing out there for them to read.

    And it’s especially funny that this is coming up when in the thread directly above this one, people are getting together to self-publish their own answer to The Dangerous Book for Boys, which is kind of what sparked my whole DIY enthusiasm on this thread.

  158. What Jill Fillipovic said... Well, maybe not « Natalia Antonova

    [...] Jump to Comments Excuuuuuuse me ladies, for liking the cover of Jessica Valenti’s book. Yep, liking it. Not tolerat [...]

  159. Sickle
    Sickle May 18, 2007 at 12:49 pm |

    Just my thoughts, apropros of nothing. A disclaimer: this observation may be borne of ignorance, and may also signal an endemic problem with feminism itself. I don’t really know. But here goes:

    I don’t believe I know of a single African-American feminist blogger/writer who isn’t also queer. Of those I’m not certain about, I don’t know of one who still lives, works, and socializes in a predominantly African-American community. Like I said, this may just come from a place of ignorance, and I’d love to have that ignorance exposed to the light and be educated about this.

    So when I hear about books like Jessica’s ignoring the special issues of women-of-color in the feminist movement, I have to confess I’m not sure exactly what those issues are. I can guess, perhaps: gang culture, worship of the “video girl,” hair-care (this isn’t trivial, either…I live in a minority neighborhood and the posters in the beauty shops are all of women with extensions), educational opportunities, etc.

    So are there voices out there looking at the culture of being an African-American woman from a feminist perspective, written by a woman from that community who isn’t also queer?

    (I’m not trying to marginalize queer voices here. They’re obviously important and their perspective is sorely needed. But I perceive a lack of voices like Jessica’s and Jill’s in the African American community. Again, if I’m just plain wrong about all this, please educate me.)

  160. Sickle
    Sickle May 18, 2007 at 12:58 pm |

    Also, let’s be fair and accurate here. This isn’t a book for 16-22-year-old girls…it’s a book for 16-22-year-old white girls. That said, I fail to see anything wrong with that. Jessica would have very little credibility writing for WOC anyway. That’s not to say that WOC wouldn’t get anything from it, but let’s not pretend that Jess’s book is for everybody. It’s not, and criticizing it for not being something it couldn’t possibly be doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

  161. little light
    little light May 18, 2007 at 1:05 pm |

    Only a I still don’t understand the “a particular so & so should have gotten a book deal instead of Jessica” line.

    Yeah, I don’t, either. Pointing out the inequity of the system is great and all, but it’s not a criticism of the book or of Jessica. It’s not her fault that her narrative is privileged over others’, or that she’s in a better position to write and publish a book than more marginalized women are. Pointing out her privilege is one thing, and yes, it’s relevant. Blaming her for it is another, and it just doesn’t help anything. Can we maybe cut it out?

    Then, though, I think I’ve made it clear I don’t really think this argument is about the book; it’s a lightning rod and a rallying point, but it’s a whole lot more complicated.

  162. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 18, 2007 at 1:17 pm |

    What ilyka said:

    Most of the criticism I’ve seen is not so much criticism as it is questioning the selection of that demographic to target. One quick answer I can think of is, “Because that’s who grows up to be a huge pain in the ass, voting Republican and enabling patriarchy right and left.” I see ntohing inherently wrong with deciding to target sorority girls. I also see nothing inherently wrong with wanting to discuss whether that’s really the best group to pitch to.

    Then there should be ten books written for this demographic perhaps by sorority girls cum feminists themselves. I hope publishing pressures lead to these demographics and that’s what it seems to be. Jessica should have said the cover and book are targeted to sorority girls and avoided all this criticism but her publisher probably won’t let her say that either.

    What little light said:

    But I’m not surprised that even the best of the substantive criticisms have an edge of anger in them. Not one bit. And some of it’s a long time coming and justified…This is not about who deserves, and doesn’t have, a book deal–not really. It’s not like the Bucket o’ Book Deals isn’t, in the end, bottomless. It’s about, in part, the fact that the women-of-color contingent of the feminist ‘sphere has lost two bright-shining and brilliant voices because they couldn’t take it any more–not from MRAs, or anti-feminists, or avowed racists, but from the people we’re told are our own.

  163. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 18, 2007 at 1:28 pm |

    I’m with little light. Let’s move beyond Amanda, Jessica or books and onto feminism in general.

    zuzu, you may have confused me with Donna who has a blog. I had a journal but deleted it because the govt was reading it and it made me uncomfortable at the time. The FBI in Virginia and things like that. I don’t like criticizing anyone but feminism and progressivism in general. I’m psyched for Jessica and she knows that. The progressive blogs and feminist blogs need to read the blogs on this thread and address more serious issues. There are only so many posts I can read about Iraq or the stupid people in the government. Write more posts affecting women and minorities.

  164. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 1:43 pm |

    Can I agree with little light, too? Because I do, especially this:

    Then, though, I think I’ve made it clear I don’t really think this argument is about the book; it’s a lightning rod and a rallying point, but it’s a whole lot more complicated.

    I didn’t want it to sound like I was trying to minimize anyone’s anger over the fact that, yet again, the powers-that-be have chosen a young white woman to represent Feminism As A Whole. I just didn’t think that directing that anger at Jessica, or the book that she wrote, is the most productive way to do that. Once again, the circular firing squad does its job of getting us all mad at each other rather than getting mad at the people who actually run the system.

  165. evil fizz
    evil fizz May 18, 2007 at 2:04 pm | *

    Once again, the circular firing squad does its job of getting us all mad at each other rather than getting mad at the people who actually run the system.

    I understand your point, Mnemosyne, but I think that this obscures the fact that we, *as white women* are a part of that system. It’s privilege in action. I’m pleased as punch that Jessica’s got a book deal, but I don’t think that’s where the story ends.

  166. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 18, 2007 at 2:59 pm |

    So are there voices out there looking at the culture of being an African-American woman from a feminist perspective, written by a woman from that community who isn’t also queer?

    Jessica would have very little credibility writing for WOC anyway. That’s not to say that WOC wouldn’t get anything from it, but let’s not pretend that Jess’s book is for everybody. It’s not, and criticizing it for not being something it couldn’t possibly be doesn’t make a lot of sense to me.

    There are lots of hip hop feminists these days. I think they’re the forefront of WOC feminism. And check the National Asian Pacific American Progressive Forum posts on Feministing’s front page right now. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, the Refugee Women’s Network, National Advocates for Pregnant Women, Sista II Sista are among many other groups. All of these groups and others have been mentionned on Feministing.

    Is mainstream feminism for all women? It should be which is the point. Should the progressive blogosphere and the netroots only represent white males? Feminists are extremely angry about that. Can Democrats win by ignoring 70% of the population (women, gays, minorities, environmentalists, etc.)

    We have to ask these questions about the netroots, progressive and feminist blogospheres.

  167. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 3:17 pm |

    After looking at the many books that Seal Press offers, I withdraw any harsh remarks I may have made or implied about how OF COURSE they must only publish books by/about middle-class white women since they’re a feminist press.

    aireanne, that dream book you want to read with essays by young WOC? You can buy it on Amazon.com for $11.53.

  168. Michael Hussey
    Michael Hussey May 18, 2007 at 3:31 pm |

    The debate about the book seems to take away from feminism as a way to make the lives of women better. Equal rights, pay, sexual respect in the workplace. etc. I haven’t read Jessica Valenti’s book. (I can’t find it in a bookstore in Tampa.) My fellow blogger Litbrit was to review it.

    Jill made an intersting remark in the post.

    Jessica is also criticized for ignoring issues of non-white, non-middle-class women — and when I read those criticisms, I have to wonder if the commenters have read the book. Because Jessica recognizes the racism within the feminist movement.

    Many of these women Jill mentioned will not have the opportunity to go to college. They won’t read Virginia Woolf. They will wait tables and work two jobs to support their children. How can their lives be made better is a question not asked enough.

    These women need health care, grants for schooling, daycare, transportation to work, quality housing and a laundry list of other things. Do these women even relate to feminism? It’s hard to imagine grad school feminism arguments are something they would care about. They are living check to check. It has no bearing on their day to day lives.

    Telling women about empowerment is one thing. Putting empowerment within their reach is what needs to be done. I’m not schooled in feminist theory. I don’t claim to have the answers. We often lose site of why we started blogging to begin with. We should be trying to make a positive impact on people’s lives.

  169. shannon
    shannon May 18, 2007 at 4:21 pm |

    Hell yea, Michael! Even if you could provide child care for a poorer woman to be able to extend their education, that would help. Could you help repeal the Hyde Amendment please?(reminded of this b/c of Andrea Dworkin), economic freedom too! Many groups of color are working down at the gross roots, but they aren’t seen as existing because they aren’t the right demographic… We could all buy the Revolution Won’t Be Funded for the price of Jessica’s book, I say.

  170. Blackamazon
    Blackamazon May 18, 2007 at 4:25 pm |

    Now that it is official none of the substantive critiques of the women who disagreed will be addressed., can we finally stop with teh circular firing squad rhotrical trope?

    It’s not a circular firing squad if you don’t feel in the circle.

    People have made glib snide comments abut publishing. But No Not you you were substantive!!!!…. while not addressing those points.

    People have said but the mean ones…

    So the mean insubstansive points are more conducive to community building than the substansive ones..

    Fine well good!

    But since you won’t read you won’t engage please stop perpetrating a myth like we’re being treated as part of the movement and being give consideration.

    We’re not part of it we critiqued it we were mostly ignored.

    Cool beans , just be honest

  171. Wishy Washy
    Wishy Washy May 18, 2007 at 4:32 pm |

    I haven’t read it, as I don’t consider myself as needing to be persuaded to identify as feminist (even though I am a happily slack-ass makeup-wearing third-waver), but now i am curious.

    Snappy mackerel wrote that Jessica is going only for the “empowerful” young women who like chick lit and are afraid feminism will take away their high heels and padded bras… well now I’ll have to read it to see whether I agree, but either way, there’s nothing wrong with going for that demographic. They are the ones most in danger of buying into the patriarchal bullshit that is trying to sell them a line about how feminism takes away everything nice in their lives. Once again, the teen girl who read the book and put it in simple terms to her friends said it best: when they said, “yuck, feminism!” she asked them if they preferred being considered to be, and treated as if they were, inferior. because that is where it leads if you don’t acknowledge that, whether you identify as a radical or like your femme trappings and just simply want equal pay for equal work, feminism is way more valid than its alternative in terms of giving you as much agency as possible in your own life. No shame in that.

  172. zuzu
    zuzu May 18, 2007 at 4:38 pm | *

    As I read Jill’s post, she was responding to the criticisms of the book that she felt were unfair because they were unduly personal or were written by people who admitted not even reading the book (or whose criticisms did not extend beyond the cover).

    People have made glib snide comments abut publishing. But No Not you you were substantive!!!!…. while not addressing those points.

    I suppose that’s directed at me. I was responding to a comment about why so-and-so don’t have book contracts, and then to your response to my comment. Given that, what points should I have addressed?

    Again, criticism of the fact that this book was published (particularly when the complaint is that so-and-so didn’t get a book contract) is not the same thing as criticism of the book. There’s a lot of stuff that’s being conflated here, which is not surprising in a huge thread that deals with posts and comments from a number of blogs.

  173. willa
    willa May 18, 2007 at 4:40 pm |

    As a writer myself, I use it to try and get more people to write. Yes, there are barriers to getting published, but the only barrier to actually writing is not having a pencil and a piece of paper.

    As I said, many many books, movies and songs were written because somebody read something and thought, “I can do better than that.” I’m hoping at least a few people on this thread will actually get motivated to create the book they want to read instead of complaining that there’s nothing out there for them to read.

    Thanks for clarifying, Mnemosyne. I see you did that further upthread, as well.

  174. Sickle
    Sickle May 18, 2007 at 5:01 pm |

    Donna, thanks for the suggestions, but I’m still finding myself wanting. What exactly are the feminist issues ignored by Jess but important to WOC? I hear that all the time, that feminism doesn’t embrace these womens’ issues, but I honestly don’t know what they are, and I want to know what they are (beyond “white normativity,” that is).

    Also, can you point me to a link for some of these so-called hip-hop feminists?

  175. Medicine Man
    Medicine Man May 18, 2007 at 5:13 pm |

    So after thinking about this topic for some time, I came to this “Captain Obvious” conclusion: There is really no way that Jessica Valenti could have written a book that would satisfy all of the diverse feminist community. Rather than heaping the onus on her to champion everyone, there really is a need to have more books about feminism, from more perspectives by more authors. This is especially urgent when you consider Jessica’s ostensible reason for writing her book in the first place was to make feminist ideas accessible to a broader audience, or at least a demographic that isn’t typically reached by more traditional methods.

  176. Maia
    Maia May 18, 2007 at 7:18 pm |

    I’ve finally figured out my answer to the question Jill asked (I can be slow). What Jessica could have done different is quit universalising. Not begun the book by talking about an all encompassing ‘we’ not said ‘no young woman will…’

    She was writing for herself, and young women who face the same sort of issues/blocks to feminism that she faces. I think that’s a very useful project. As long as she acknowledges that that’s not all young women, or even all young women in the US.

  177. Nanette
    Nanette May 18, 2007 at 7:30 pm |

    Sickle:

    Donna, thanks for the suggestions, but I’m still finding myself wanting. What exactly are the feminist issues ignored by Jess but important to WOC? I hear that all the time, that feminism doesn’t embrace these womens’ issues, but I honestly don’t know what they are, and I want to know what they are (beyond “white normativity,” that is).

    Women of color are not a separate (or collective) species of women nor are woc bloggers blogging in outer Siberia. Actually, even if they were they would be as accessible as any other blogger – just through a click.

    I have no woc-on-a-platter for you, but if you are really interested in finding out more about the many different issues that are important to a wide variety of women bloggers, I suggest you follow the links I posted above… twice… for Blackamazon’s and Sylvia’s sites, start with reading those and then just move your mouse over to their blogrolls and begin furthering your education.

  178. shannon
    shannon May 18, 2007 at 7:44 pm |

    I’m not a hip hop feminist, but my blog has a lot of links to books and stuff…

  179. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 7:50 pm |

    I understand your point, Mnemosyne, but I think that this obscures the fact that we, *as white women* are a part of that system. It’s privilege in action.

    And here’s where we get to the part that frustrates me: what am I supposed to do about the fact that I get automatic privilege because of my social class and skin color other than, you know, not be an asshole and listen to other people?

  180. shannon
    shannon May 18, 2007 at 9:04 pm |

    I felt tempted to say nobody cares. It’s up to you to figure it out. We’re only random people who want the hurting to stop. We have no time to guide you. If it helps, I can cuss you out til you stop wanting to do whatever assholish thing you want to do? I like cussing people out!

  181. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 18, 2007 at 9:05 pm |

    sickle, INCITE! and SisterSong are other incredible orgs. I’m not black but check out hip hop and black feminists like Joan Morgan, Tracy Sharpley-Whiting, Natalie Hopkinson, Natalie Moore, Aisha Simmons, Johnnetta Betsch Cole, Beverly Guy-Sheftall, Tara Henley, Jennifer McLune, Cora Daniels, Yvonne Bynoe (who has an article on Alternet right now), Mark Anthony Neal, Michael Eric Dyson, Byron Hurt, William Jelani Cobb.

    The progressive movement should be called the white male progressive movement.

    Feminism should be called middle-class, white feminism.

    Asian American movement should be called the East Asian American men’s movement. Communities of color should be called the African American men’s movement, the Latino American men’s movement and so forth.

  182. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 18, 2007 at 9:11 pm |

    Violence against women is probably the biggest issue for women of color. Check out Color of Violence: The INCITE! anthology for that. Massive health disparities of all women of color are rarely addressed because they are not white women nor men of color.

  183. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 9:55 pm |

    If it helps, I can cuss you out til you stop wanting to do whatever assholish thing you want to do? I like cussing people out!

    Apparently, me thinking that Jessica’s book might actually help a few people makes me an asshole, so cuss away!

  184. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 18, 2007 at 9:57 pm |

    Okay, when I start getting needlessly snarky, it’s time for me to bow out. ‘Night, all.

  185. Raging Moderate
    Raging Moderate May 19, 2007 at 1:13 am |

    And here’s where we get to the part that frustrates me: what am I supposed to do about the fact that I get automatic privilege because of my social class and skin color other than, you know, not be an asshole and listen to other people?

    I’m gonna guess the same thing that men are supposed to do about the fact that we get automatic privilege because of our gender.

    Although I’m not quite sure what that is, either.

  186. Kallah
    Kallah May 19, 2007 at 10:35 am |

    Mnemosyne: And here’s where we get to the part that frustrates me: what am I supposed to do about the fact that I get automatic privilege because of my social class and skin color other than, you know, not be an asshole and listen to other people?

    Well, I suggest you consider the response you’d have to a white man saying that on any other thread on this blog, and then you take whatever advice you’d dish out in that case.

  187. Bandaids on gangrene » Mighty Quare Dewd

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  188. Lloyd Webber III
    Lloyd Webber III May 19, 2007 at 2:56 pm |

    As an independent observer, I honestly can’t say I expected much from the three musketeers of (White, middle-class, heterosexual, only pay lip service to so called “pet issues”) feminism, (Amanda, Jessica and Jill) but Jill kinda surprised me since I always assumed she and feministe were slightly different. You guys wouldn’t take this from any liberal guys, so I wonder why you expect everyone to take it from you.

  189. Sally
    Sally May 19, 2007 at 3:35 pm |

    Hmm. If you aren’t actually a concern troll, Lloyd, you might want either to alter your tone or to establish your bona fides by posting something somewhere that doesn’t sound so concern-trollish. (And I can’t find any evidence that you’ve ever commented anywhere under this name.) Because right now, I’m willing to put $5 on your being a misogynistic creep.

  190. Radfem
    Radfem May 19, 2007 at 3:58 pm |

    It’s not a bad primer for young White middle-class women, I guess although given that it’s aimed at the ages 15-22 and written by someone a bit older(28), it still seems that it’s based on the perception of what these women are like. And as we get older, often we forget what it’s like to be younger and we often underestimate the abilities of younger women.

    Still, it limits the exposure of even women who can read and relate to it to what’s out there and what many women go through and since it does this, it shouldn’t be generalizing as much as it beginning with its title that it’s about all young women. But if you’re White and you’re young, your status in society ensures that you don’t have to give racial issues that impact other women and girls much thought unless you choose to.

    And the problem as mentioned here, is that it states that it’s for “young women” yet it’s clearly not and it leaves the perception that if you don’t fit in the group of young women who read this book and relate to it, that there’s something wrong with you.

    In our society, “women” is often default for White women and I just feel that this book adds to that, whether it’s intended to do so or not.

    I’m still reading it, but I noticed some sections of “You’re a hardcore feminist, I swear” that really are geared towards White women. Like the worst thing being for young women that they’ll be called ugly. Well, I know lots of teens and there’s different concerns or worse thing that they face than being called ugly. Maybe it’s being called a racial slur or something based on a racist stereotype. Even in chapter one, it seems that sexism has been surgically incised from racism with a scalpal and the reality is just much different.

    Book contracts are not infinite and not accessible to everyone equally. Please, you should know by now that this society is not just inequal based on gender, but race and class. Though I do agree in that to an extent, the publishers have a lot of say in what’s ultimately published in a book.

    But if you want to learn more about feminism involving women of color, great links have been posted here to sites, books and blogs.

    Oh, and who was it who said Angela Davis wasn’t a good place for young women to start? Please don’t sell us that short. Some of us did start with Davis.

  191. Feministe » Full Frontal Feminism Update

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  192. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 19, 2007 at 4:50 pm |

    (I think what BA meant was it didn’t start with Davis but Sojourner Truth and others in the first wave who Jessica does mention but she doesn’t credit abolitionists for starting the first wave. Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony for the first time at an abolitionist conference.)

  193. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 19, 2007 at 4:53 pm |

    Lucretia Mott inspired Stanton to start the feminist movement when women weren’t allowed in the International Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England in the spring of 1840.

  194. Radfem
    Radfem May 19, 2007 at 7:20 pm |

    [quote](I think what BA meant was it didn’t start with Davis but Sojourner Truth and others in the first wave who Jessica does mention but she doesn’t credit abolitionists for starting the first wave. Elizabeth Cady Stanton met Susan B. Anthony for the first time at an abolitionist conference.) [/quote]

    Yeah, I noticed that too. And Sojourner Truth did a lot more for women than just make her famous speech where she addresses racism including in the “first” wave of feminism and both the masculinization and dehumanization of Black women under slavery and beyond it. Though it seems in the summary that again, there’s this surgical excision of racism from sexism in that the battles fought by women of color are almost seen as “other” from the first-wave feminist movement because they didn’t put the White feminists’ platform first?

    The fact that the movement in the middle-1800s involving White relatively aflluent White women was even called and is still called the “first wave” is part of the problem in my opinion as if there’s no predecessor movements involved with the liberation of women. Because the fact is, women have been fighting to liberate themselves and resisting on this continent for hundreds of years before the “first wave” just as they have everywhere else in the world.

  195. Radfem
    Radfem May 19, 2007 at 7:24 pm |

    Oops, Truth was addressing both racism and sexism, truly my bad.

  196. Ledasmom
    Ledasmom May 19, 2007 at 9:03 pm |

    Here’s me, not having read the book, scratching my head: It is a book. It is not the book on feminism, the one and only possible such book in the absence of which one cannot be moved to become a feminist. There is no such book. Cripes. At this point, enough has been written criticising the book to fill several other, quite long, books.
    If this book had not been published, would that have meant that a book on feminism written by someone who wasn’t a white woman would have been published in its stead? Fuck no, it doesn’t; editors are not sitting around saying, “Jessica rejected us! Now we must seek out a woman of color and publish her feminist writings!”
    Oh, well. Fuck it.

  197. Hugo
    Hugo May 19, 2007 at 11:53 pm |

    The historian and the Puritan in me feels compelled to point out that the women who ended up in the first wave of feminism were as closely tied to the temperance movement as to abolition. Because we all tend to think slavery is a bad thing, and many of us think alcohol is just fine, we often leave out the vital role of the anti-booze crusaders in the early moments of the women’s movement.

    Sorry, way way off topic….

  198. Radfem
    Radfem May 20, 2007 at 2:37 am |

    Actually, it was Jill who said that young women would rather start off with Valenti’s book, not one of Davis’s. Hmm, I know a few teenagers who read Davis and wouldn’t see much of themselves in Valenti’s book.

    I don’t think Valenti mentioned Davis at all, except to say she, like rocks. Well, yeah but can you think of anything else to say about Davis?

  199. Donna Darko
    Donna Darko May 20, 2007 at 10:56 am |

    I looked at the history chapter again today. WOC may be heartened or not. Jessica continuously talks about the dismissal and erasure of women of color. She gets the facts right but centers whiteness but of course she’s white. She includes a number of women of color. First, she says Cady Stanton, Anthony, Paul and Burns fought for the vote and won. Then she says:

    The problem with the way the first wave is generally talked about and is taught is that it tends to ignore contributions by women of color and women who weren’t all rich and privileged. It’s all white, middle- to upper-class women all the time. (You’ll see that this is a trend though the waves.) In fact, the most famous suffragettes turned out to be a tad racist. Stanton and Anthony got all pissed that black men got the vote over white women and forged some pretty unsavory alliances with groups that opposed enfranchisement for black people and even said that the vote of white women (of “wealth, education and refinement”) was needed in order to combat the “pauperism, ignorance, and degradation” of voting immigrants and men of color. (reference to Stanton). Lovely.

    Fact is, women of color were fighting their own battles at the time and not getting nearly enough recognition. One speech that (thankfully) gets a lot of play is Sojourner Truth’s ‘Ain’t I A Woman?” delivered in 1851 at the Women’s Convention in Ohio.

    Excerpt of Aint I A Woman Speech starting with that man over there ending with And ain’t I a woman? (reference to Truth’s speech)

    Awesome.

    Now, of course, it’s great that women got the vote and that so many women fought for it – hard. But we have to take an honest look at history. Because unfortunately, this dismissive nonsense about anyone other than educated women women would repeat itself, to some extent, later on in feminism.

    She then goes into the second wave for a while and says:

    Criticism of NOW as being a middle-class white women’s organization – along with the second-wave movement as a whole – isn’t exactly a new trend. After all, much of the movement was based on the idea that women should be working outside the home. But low-income women and women of color had already been working outside (and inside) the home – they had to!

    She then mentions Marcia Ann Gillespie (of Ms.), Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, Angela Davis, Alice Walker who

    coined the term “womanist” (“a black feminist or feminist of color….Usually referring to outrageous, audacious, courageous or willful behavior.”)

    Onto the third wave:

    When I think third wave, I think academic stuff, like different feminist theories (queer, postcolonial). But the less dry stuff associated with third wavers is magazines like the fabulous BUST and Bitch, books like Manifesta, and (swoon) Kathleen Hanna scrawling SLUT across her stomach.

    She speaks of theory (which nowadays is all about queers and woc):

    A note of academic feminism: So I have a master’s degree in women’s and gender studies[...] That said, academic feminism isn’t for me. I like activism. My parents didn’t go to college, but my mom is the person who really got me into feminism. (Though grudgingly at first.)[...] When I started coming home from grad school with ideas and theories that I couldn’t talk to her about, academic feminism ceased to be truly useful for me. I think feminism should be accessible to everybody, no matter what your education level. And why while high theory is pretty fucking cool, it’s not something everyone is going to relate to.

  200. salty sunday « salty femme.
    salty sunday « salty femme. May 20, 2007 at 1:34 pm |

    [...] ce in Atlanta in September. You do not need to attend the conference to submit your work. Jill at Feministe responds to the recent criticism of Full Frontal Femini [...]

  201. Feminist Review
    Feminist Review May 20, 2007 at 4:06 pm |

    I’ve really enjoyed reading all of the comments posted here, and I must confess that I have spent quite a lot of time reading this blog today. Despite the slightly unflattering manner in which it was posted, thanks to Jill for the link to Feminist Review blog’s review of FFF.

    There are a lot of half- and un-truths stated in reference the post on Feminist Review so I think it’s only fair to clarify the most egregious of them. This supposed congratulatory email never happened. I did, however, send an email about an entirely different topic that said, simply, “see ya ladies tonight!” as I had intended to go to the book party until (essentially) being told not to by Jessica’s sister, Vanessa (full disclosure: Vanessa was my co-worker at Girls for Gender Equity and a good friend, which is primarily how Jess and I know each other). This is why hearsay isn’t admissable in court.

    People keep writing that the review was personal, but with nothing more than conjecture to back it up. Certainly Jessica and I don’t have the same feminist ideology or methods for addressing social change, but so what? There’s no personal beef in that; that’s a professional difference of opinion and action. I go to events/protests/speeches all the time to show support for people and organizations that I don’t entirely agree with. I even vote for Democrats sometimes, despite the party being largely centrist and not on point with my ideas about social justice. So if I vote for a Democrat and then critique his or her “keep funding the troops” stance on the Iraq War or their punitive ideas about Immigration Reform, does that mean I’m somehow dishonest when I vote for her or him because I do support their unabashedly pro-choice record and efforts to pass a bill that would create Universal Healthcare coverage? My point is that I’m not so dogmatic in my own belief system that I’m not willing to give credit where credit is due, but I’m also not going to write a less-than-honest book review just because that person is my friend’s sister or a feminist colleague.

    On comparing Jessica Valenti to Ann Coulter, Ann Coulter is a right-wing, polemic commentator who is infamous for making ad hominem arguments against those she disagrees with (e.g., calling John Edwards a faggot) and stirring up controversy with her less than tactful mannerisms. This is exactly what Jessica does in her book and on Feministing, but from a leftist, feminist point of view. To a large degree, it’s what her fans like about her writing style.

    I think it’s abundantly clear from this thread that “feminist,” like “woman,” is not a homogenous category. And although there is a lot of time and energy spent giving lip service to the desire for “sisterhood” and how “in fighting” is a cause of the stunted growth of the women’s movement, it is just this kind of necessary criticism and the demand to seen and represented that allows for voices of marginalized groups to be heard. So keep it up, y’all, because nobody’s gonna hear you if you’re silent.

  202. censored by Feminist Review!
    censored by Feminist Review! May 20, 2007 at 6:11 pm |

    I’m glad Feminist Review showed up, so I can publicly say that I attempted to post two comments in response to her review of FFF – one of which did initially appear, but I see from the link has since been removed (not for being inappropriate, I assure you, but for questioning Feminist Review’s use of a pseudonym in writing the review and her convoluted explanation for it), as well as a comment subsequent to that which was never published at all. That comment was not inappropriate either, but did have the *gall* to question your hide-and-seek method of publicly “contributing to the discourse.” Not trying to thread-jack here – but at least here on Feministe I know I won’t be censored when I attempt to call attention to this.

    Bottom line, how disingenuous of you to say *keep it up, no one will hear you if you’re silent* and pose as some noble defender of critique and disagreement, when you CENSOR dissenting opinions on your own blog and then lie about it. That’s just sad, and it makes me doubt your intellectual and moral heft and thus your credibility as a reviewer of any cultural product. *Feminism* may not mean the same thing to everyone, but *honesty* in my eyes is a little more cut and dried.

  203. Feminist Review
    Feminist Review May 20, 2007 at 7:10 pm |

    What you write is patently false, not to mention antithetical to FR’s mission, and it’s hardly a ligitimate accusation coming from a person who posts anonymously. As I’ve said elsewhere, ALL of the posts that were on the FFF review thread on Feminist Review were approved. Perhaps what this person is referring to is a question from “jenW” on the “Small Note on Full Frontal Feminism” thread, which was posted two days after the initial review. “JenW”‘s question was answered shortly after it was asked. To be clear, ALL of the comments on the “Small Note…” thread have also been approved. And I continue to approve all comments on both threads.

  204. censored by Feminist Review!
    censored by Feminist Review! May 20, 2007 at 7:55 pm |

    ALL comments were patently NOT approved, of which you are more than aware, and I’d continue to debate it with you but you’re on the fast track to irrelevance and I’m not going to interfere with the natural course of things. Except I will say that by your logic (“anonymous” somehow = illegitimate) your own review of FFF is therefore illegitimate, since the identity of the author was not clear (no matter what your protestations to the contrary may be). Yeah, makes no sense, I know.

  205. Feminist Review
    Feminist Review May 20, 2007 at 8:14 pm |

    My review of FFF wasn’t anonymous. And I think it’s highly suspicious that you won’t identify yourself. I stand by my word, and my reputation.

  206. still censored...
    still censored... May 20, 2007 at 9:42 pm |

    No, the review wasn’t anonymous, it just used a pseudonym that obscured your real identity, on a site that claims to draw from hundreds of authors, obscuring your identity even further. (*eyeroll*). A pseudonym that you only connected to your real identity AFTER the FACT, in a convoluted explanation that tried to assert it was obvious all along, when in reality it truly was not.

    And again, if *not identifying oneself* is suspicious and detracts from the credibility of a comment, as you seem to say, then I’ll just wait for you to go ahead and delete those numerous Anonymous comments that DID make it up on your site in both of those threads, apparently because they happened to agree with you….because, being anonymous, they must be suspicious too, right? Oh, riiiiigggghhhtt…..

    Peace.

  207. Coldorderful
    Coldorderful May 21, 2007 at 2:58 am |

    I’m a high school aged woman, and no I haven’t read the book yet, but what bothers me are some of the comments Jessica has made in interviews, like how no young woman would ever buy a book with a raised fist and a woman’s symbol on the cover.

    Look, I’m not shannon, I’m not sylvia, I’m not exangelena. They’re all incredibly intelligent, well informed young women. I’m as ignorant as they come, I can admit I don’t know anything about anything, and I’m pretty typical in the ways I participate in American culture I think. Still, I don’t think the ubiquitous stereotypes of young women as completely vapid, flaky, shallow, unable to process basic concepts and not concerned about anything except the next issue of Seventeen and if holding a book will make us unattractive to the football team or how much cosmos are or whatever are true. I hope I’m wrong, but in most of the reviews I’ve read by young women, they seem to feel condescended to, while it’s older women who maybe tend to think kids today aren’t as bright as they used to be who think it’s just our speed and about all we can handle.

  208. Feminist Review
    Feminist Review May 21, 2007 at 7:10 am |

    I will admit that using a pseudonym obscures my identity to some degree, but it doesn’t erase it. For those who care to know who runs the blog, a simple google search of my address, which is plainly featured, will do the trick. Many bloggers use pseudonyms (Nubian, petitpoussin, BlackAmazon, etc) for a variety of reasons (safety being a big one as the internet is certainly NOT a safe place for women, and like I said earlier, my home address is on FR), though most don’t fully hide, as you are doing.

    What causes suspicion is that you are leveling an accusation anonymously on a blog that (I’m assuming) isn’t yours, which is a different matter entirely than regularly writing reviews on a blog that opts not to have a hierarchy and, therefore, doesn’t have an obvious spokesperson or figurehead. This is also why the “Who We Are” section of FR changes weekly. And we have nearly 350 writers who work with us, actually, and some of them also write using pseudonyms.

    I do want to point out that the supposedly deleted posting that you described is actually on the site, and there’s nothing that you’ve described that isn’t. Also, there are several dissenting posts – Bobichael, JenW, Anonymous (maybe that’s you too?), Serenity – not just on the FFF threads, but also others.

    None of the accusations that you’re leveling actually have any substance to back them up. Yeah, that needed to be bolded. I’m done here.

  209. Sickle
    Sickle May 21, 2007 at 1:09 pm |

    Donna, thanks for the recommendations. I’ve been checking them out and they’ve been very enlightening.

    And Nanette, thank you as well, though be warned I found your tone a little condescending. I don’t think that was necessarily deliberate (but I tend to think the best of people whenever I can), but thought you should know how you intially came across to me. Sorry I missed your links upthread, and I appreciate the help!

  210. "Here we go again." « Feline Formal Shorts

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