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  • Full Frontal FeminismA Young Women's Guide to Why Feminism Matters
  • Alyssa Berthiaume (bio)
Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Women's Guide to Why Feminism Matters By Jessica Valenti (Berkley, CA: Seal Press, 2007)

Every semester my students walk into Introduction to Women's Studies gritting their teeth and pissed off at their advisors for convincing them they should take the course. Every semester I am met with the same "I'm not a feminist but…" mantra, complete with all the reasons they are not feminists: they shave their legs, they like men, they do not want to burn their bras. Sad that they believe all the false hype, I know. Consequently, every semester I am looking for new ways to apply feminism to my students' cultural experiences, showing them what feminism [End Page 67] really means and that they may find they too are feminists. No ifs, ands, or buts.

"You're a hardcore feminist, I swear," is both a chapter title as well as the overall message Jessica Valenti, the founder and executive director of the popular website, Feministing, wants to send to her young, hip, unidentifying-as-feminist readers. Her purpose: to override the anti-feminist ideologies and stereotypes that have young women running and screaming from the movement; to convince her readers of the reality of women's lives, not just so they understand that misogyny is still everywhere, but so they recognize that if they agree with Valenti's positions than they may actually be feminists; and if she succeeds in recruiting them, she may just succeed in calling them into action. Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Women's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, is a valuable tool in the liberal and/or feminist classroom.

Valenti's Introduction explores her own personal resistance-narrative. Valenti, too, was a feminist-scared young woman. She, too, used to claim "I'm not a feminist but." From here Valenti identifies the aims of her book, an "invitation to [her] readers to embrace feminism for everything it gives to and does for women" (3). In a similar but reverse effect, the last chapter of Full Frontal Feminism focuses on what readers can now do with the information they have been provided and brings this grabbag of a book full circle.

The chapters in between are loosely linked via a feminist perspective, but each emphasizes a separate women's issue: feminism, sex, pop culture, sexual assault and violence, reproductive rights, relationships, motherhood, history, gender, body image, politics, and education. Valenti's chapter on reproductive rights, "If These Uterine Walls Could Talk," is a terrific example of Valenti's approach. As she points out:

repro rights are about more than abortion and birth control. They're about being able to have sex when we want to. They're about having affordable, accessible contraception. They're about being able to control our bodies even if we can't drive a car or vote yet. And if we're feeling parental, they're all about being allowed to have children. Unfortunately, these seemingly reasonable things are a lot more complicated than they should be. Especially for young women.


Young women enter my class believing that the entire crux of reproductive rights is abortion. Forget contraception, gynecological care, or sexual liberty, three things I know that 95% of my female students take for granted. Abortion only begins to skim the surface. Though Valenti does spend time discussing abortion rights and issues, she does much more in this chapter, drawing attention to the following: "conscience clause" laws that allow pharmacists to refuse to provide birth control; forced sterilization of women of color; laws against lesbians adopting children; and pregnancy crisis centers that provide inaccurate information to pregnant women to talk them out of having abortions. These are only a few things Valenti discusses in this chapter, but even this list successfully illustrates its worth.

Her chapter, "The Blame (And Shame) Game," is equally rich with information. Here she focuses on rape, sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and sexual harassment. She pays particular attention to the unfortunate reality of victim-blaming in any one of these instances. In fact, she focuses on the reality...