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Posts Tagged ‘Feminism’

Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine

In Feminism, Nonfiction on January 14, 2010 at 5:11 pm
BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine by Lisa Jervis, Andi Zeisler, and Margaret Cho

BITCHfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine by Lisa Jervis, Andi Zeisler, and Margaret Cho

Title: Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine

Author: Lisa Jervis & Andi Zeisler

Genre: Nonfiction/Feminism/Magazine/Pop culture

Rating: ***/****

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The price of the book alone is worth the stunning introduction by comedienne Margaret Cho. She’ll give any woman enough reason to declare with sincerity that she is a bitch without the least bit shame & if she’s called it, she’ll know to carry it as a banner of pride. Of course, those who are unfamiliar with this magazine may not realize that ‘bitch’ is not used in a way that degrades women or encourages meanness & insensivity towards other people. It’s just declared the label that society gives women for standing up for themselves & demanding equal treatment. So, from one bitch to another, this book is for you.

It has topics ranging from the absence of positive African American women on tv to a feminist’s take on the use of ‘guys’ to include women. I do not necessarily agree or understand all of the ideas expressed in this collection, but it did cause me to think over what I see on the tv. We like to pretend that popular culture has no inherent value, but as spelled out in the pages of Bitch, we see that our culture’s ideals & perceptions of us are portrayed in pop culture for all to see. Why are commercials for domestic cleaning products almost always featuring women? And why are they so happy to be cleaning? I don’t mind cleaning or doing the laundry, but I’ve never been that cheerful about it.

What I love about this book & about Bitch magazine itself is that it tries (& doesn’t always succeed) to reach out to us on the fringes who are sitting
there, remote in hand, wondering what the hell has happened. Didn’t the feminist movement take place? So, why are females so ashamed to call themselves feminist anyway? Do they want equal treatment or not? Why does tv seem so vanilla when we’re in an era that supposedly celebrates diversity? There are plenty of questions left unanswered & reading this, you’ll be thinking of your own to add to it.

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http://www.bitchmagazine.org

Purity, not just a pastime!

In Feminism, Nonfiction on January 4, 2010 at 1:20 pm
The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Title: The Purity Myth: How America’s Obsession with Virginity Is Hurting Young Women

Author: Jessica Valenti

Genre: Nonfiction/Feminism/Virginity/Sex education

Rating: ****/****

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Having been vaguely familiar with Jessica Valenti’s work at Feministing, I was eagerly looking forward to her study on the American obsession with virginity & how it affects those of who are deemed pure & impure.  For a laugh, I recommend you read the lowest starred Amazon reviews, for a lesson in how to blatantly misunderstand an author’s thesis.  At no point does Valenti discourage those who want to wait for marriage in their attempt to remain pure, rather she attacks the dichotomy that a woman is either a docile, passive virgin or a woman of ill-repute, damaged goods.

Also, Valenti exposed the virginity movement (AKA abstinence movement) for what it really is: a movement to create submissive women who support traditional gender roles e.g. the man is in charge & his wife is his property & more disturbingly, but equally true, is how the movement sexualizes teen girls.  Why are the girls always the targets?  Why must their sexuality  be kept in check while the boys are left to roam free & sew their wild oats without repercussion?  As one parent answered in an Amazon ‘review’ of another of Valenti’s books (which I hope to read & review soon): her daughter could be taught integrity through not being sexually active, while her son could be taught integrity in other manners.  So, as I must crudely state it: her daughter’s integrity lies between her legs.

Isn’t that a disturbing lesson to teach young women & to level against all women as whole?

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Check out a great feminist site: http://www.feministing.com for more information about this book & Jessica Valenti.

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Valenti included a set of questions at the back which I think would be relevant to discuss with your friends/family:

1. How do you define virginity?  Where do you think this definition came from (e.g. society, parents, friends)?

– I define virginity as being without experience in sexual acts (of any sort) which involve another person.  I arrived at this definition when realizing that the mainstream definition of virginity is really only applied to straight women.  The mainstream definition was told to me many times through society & friends without a thought for anybody outside its parameters.

2. How do you think the ethics of passivity affected your life, or how do you see it play out around you?

– I saw how mothers would tell their daughters to act in a certain way, usually an attempt to control their behavior, lest someone think they were loose & wild, but their male children were not encouraged to control themselves.  I’ve seen it induce a lot of shame into people for not acting the ‘right’ way, or being frustrated at failing to perceive the reason why they should have to conform & constrict their activities when males clearly are not obligated to a similar moral code.

3. What values–other than “purity”–should we be instilling in young women to ensure that they grow up to be active moral agents?

– I would say that compassion for all people need to be expressed to girls, solidarity, loyalty, & hardwork, so they can achieve all they want to without having to harm another person to reach their goals.  As this patriarchal society likes to teach girls to compete with each other over men, rarely do all women who are even close friends, feel that they are accomplished when they lack what another friend has, usually in the form of a romantic attachment & status symbol that a male partner  can bring to their lives.  Women would feel good about themselves for doing their best, rather than believing what they have isn’t good enough since they have not received a man’s approval & they would not have to feign ignorance or ignore their interests/goals in case a man may be intimidated.

4. Were you brought up to think of female sexuality as somehow dirty? How did it affect you?

– I would say yes, in the sense that girls would be tainted if they had sex or if anybody found out. I was brought up to believe that men were liars who would bed multiple women, leave them, & then, no one would want to marry these fallen women.  Even though I do not believe this or think it is true in many circumstances, I still have doubts that men can be entirely trustworthy.  They’ve dominated this arena for far too long & it still brings many women down, some even are killed over the matter.  Until I stop hearing ‘bitch”, “ho”, “slut”, etc. leveled at women, I won’t be changing my mind.

She included more questions, but I don’t think it polite to post them all here. If you are interested in purchasing her book, here is a link to order it from her official site:

http://jessicavalenti.com/?page_id=38