That’s Eryn Loeb’s title for her Bookslut review of two recent feminist primers: Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters and Megan Seely’s Fight Like a Girl: How to be a Fearless Feminist. Loeb details the strengths and weaknesses of both works, and questions both the clarity of the stated authorial intent in the first place and the effectiveness of such books in advancing feminism.
I wonder, too, if people are really likely to find feminism through a book whose agenda is plastered across its cover. It tends to be a more slippery process, without one clear entry point. Feminism is at its best when its politics have some room to breathe… its best expressions are books and music and movies and ideas that live in the world, rather than trying to explicate it directly. That’s why so many people embody feminist politics without recognizing them as such. A lack of specific identification with feminism is not what’s holding back the movement.
I’m not sure that I agree entirely with the final sentence above, although I was nodding assent all the way through the rest of the paragraph. Primers are useful for those who are already half-persuaded that feminism is worthwhile, as they help to shape a coherent perception of the bigger picture, but do they persuade anyone utterly unaligned? And if the lack of a specific identification with feminism arguably is what’s holding back the movement, are feminist primers actually the best way to persuade women to identify and advocate for the feminist movement?
I have no cavils with Loeb’s concluding paragraph however.
It’s time for us to demand more of feminist books. Sure, let’s recognize their authors for giving it a shot. With that gesture out of the way, let’s get real. Good intentions aren’t enough to make for a convincing argument, a useful resource, or even just a good book. Feminism has come far enough for us to stop worrying about hurting it with our criticism. We have to take ourselves seriously enough to hold feminist work to task.