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Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics Paperback – March 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Sometimes confused but ultimately insightful, this cultural study pries open that ambiguous can of worms called "sexual choice" and looks at it with eyes wide open. Baumgardner, coauthor of the "third wave feminist" Manifesta, discovered her own bisexuality shortly after graduating from college, when she unexpectedly fell in love with a "girlie girl" co-worker at Ms. magazine, which was, significantly, the first place she "truly saw women without men as being successes, not failures." Her story of how she explored her "urge toward bisexuality as a means to figuring out how to have a satisfying, truly equal and truly intimate relationship" weaves a personal thread through the book. In between, she evokes the heady days of second-wave feminism, lauds Ani DiFranco as the quintessential bisexual of her generation and analyzes the TV heroine Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a powerful, vulnerable, tragic, feminist superhero. Baumgardner controversially argues that bisexuality, especially in younger women, is more widespread than we think, and that recognizing this "could harness the multiplicity of attraction that Kinsey described" and "lead to better relationships, both political and sexual, between men and women." Her insistence that bisexuality has the potential to further the goals of feminism and gay rights challenges the limitations of "gay" and "straight." (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

"Images of bisexuality in ads, on TV, and in erotica reflect the lives of real women and girls--including me," Baumgardner says, noting that during the last decade she has encountered "hundreds of girls who have had significant experiences with other women and not simply in order to turn on their boyfriends." She theorizes that female bisexuality represents an evolution in women's feminist consciousness and sexual freedom. Today's high-school and college students, straight-identified and in favor of gay-straight alliances and clubs, will be the next generation of parents, and they will view these struggles over sexuality "as bigoted as segregation." Employing telling details from her own and others' experiences, Baumgardner consistently emphasizes the need for listening to women's stories rather than focusing on the gender of their sex partners. Part memoir, part pop-culture study, part analysis of a bisexual community (including Anne Heche, even), this significant contribution to sociosexual and gender studies helps build bridges from feminism to the gay rights movement. Whitney Scott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; Reprint edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374531080
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374531089
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,141,981 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jennifer Baumgardner is a writer, activist, filmmaker, and lecturer whose work explores abortion, sex, bisexuality, rape, single parenthood, and women's power. She is the Executive Director/Publisher at The Feminist Press at CUNY.

After five years as an editor at the feminist magazine, Ms.(1993-1997), Jennifer began writing investigative pieces for Harper's and The Nation, commentaries for NPR's All Things Considered, and contributing to magazines such as Real Simple, Glamour, Redbook, Babble, Harper's Bazaar, Teen Vogue, Marie Claire, and Elle.

In 2005 she created and produced the award-winning documentary I Had an Abortion. In 2013, she released her second film, It Was Rape, which tells the story of eight diverse women.

Jennifer and her work have been featured in venues from Oprah to NPR, and BBC News Hour to Bitch Magazine. She has keynoted at more than 300 universities, organizations, and conferences, including the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, Amherst College, Take Back The Night UW-Madison, and the New Jersey Women and Gender Studies Consortium, to name a few. In 2008, she became Writer-in-Residence at The New School, where she taught non fiction workshops for four years.

Jennifer is the author of five books: Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics (FSG, 2007, a Lambda finalist), Abortion & Life (Akashic, 2008), and the essay collection F 'em! Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls (Seal, 2011), as well as two best-selling books about feminism written with Amy Richards--Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future (FSG, 2000) and Grassroots: A Field Guide for Feminist Activism (FSG, 2005). She is the co-editor, with Madeleine Kunin, of We Do!: American Leaders Who Believe in Marriage Equality. In 2002, Jennifer and Amy founded Soapbox, Inc., a speakers' bureau that also produces week-long Feminist Camps and Intensives. Soapbox and its projects connect people hungry for feminism with resources and with one another.

Among other honors, she is a Jezebel 25, a Feminist Press 40 Under 40, and a recipient of the Stand Up for Reproductive Justice Award from the Feminist Women's Health Center of Atlanta. The Commonwealth Club of California honored her in their centennial year as a "Visionary for the 21st Century," commenting that "in her role as author and activist, [Jennifer has] permanently changed the way people think about feminism...and will shape the next 100 years of politics and culture."

Originally from Fargo, North Dakota, Jennifer lives in New York City with her husband and two sons.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Other reviewers have praised this book to high heaven. Therefore, I will not go over what the author does well--they have done it for me. I will simply critique what drove me INSANE about this book: The notion that, for men, bisexuality is a sexuality, but for women, it is an "evolved" political statement, a "feminist choice", or a way of experimenting in the college and post-college years. Maybe this is true for some women (and if it's true for many women, it would certainly explain why so many so-called "bi" women from my college years are now monogamously married to men and never even think about women sexually). Yet certain bi women have sexualities very much like bi men: They are sexually aroused by women as hot bodies and faces. They did not need to attend a women's studies class or work at Ms. magazine to find this to be true; they knew it from puberty. I would have preferred if the author had explored this type of bisexual woman a bit more. In addition, I felt that she took the 'sex' out of bisexuality, at least when it came to bi women having sex with other women. Again, there are some bi women who find sex with women to be just as (if not more) physical, libidinous, lustful, and frenzied than sex with men--not the sexual equivalent of a commercial for herbal tea or feminine hygeine products. Female bisexuality is not some kind of fad that grew out of riot grrrl, the 1990s brief moment of third wave feminism, or the shrill warblings of folk singers. For some at least, it is no different than male bisexuality: desiring sexual activities--as distinguished from sappy romantic friendships--with both genders and both genders equally. In the author's view, it seems no more than a brief girl-girl kiss after a stereotypical weepy bonding moment over how much 'boys stink'. Lastly, not all lesbians are or desire masculine women. One does not have to be bisexual to both look feminine and exclusively desire feminine women.
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Format: Hardcover
Reading Jennifer Baumgardner's Look Both Ways is like discovering that you share a secret with a friend you've known all your life. Part-memoir, part-cultural critique, the book is essential for anyone who wants to understand bisexuality and how it fits into our culture. On a personal note, as a woman who's been repeatedly rejected and trampled on by men, Look Both Ways helped me to realize it's not so strange to find the emotional support I need in relationships with women. Using Ani DiFranco, Anne Heche, the L-Word, and Virginia Woolf as her gateways into pop culture, Baumgardner both deflates and embraces the bisexual stereotypes she discusses. As a single mom and an advocate for feminism and reproductive rights, Jennifer Baumgardner is a pillar of strength in a world of Paris Hiltons. Today, people might be willing to embrace "alternative" lifestyle choices if you'd label yourself so they can package you up and stack you on the shelf with the rest of the queers. In this book, Baumgardner makes the point of saying it isn't that easy--sexuality is a complicated creature, with every experience, every moment of one's life influencing who we choose to love. With interviews from women from all walks of life, Look Both Ways helped me to really consider and ultimately embrace the ambiguities of my sexuality--she helped me lift the stigma I'd associated with my relationships past. And I can't think of anything more important than a book that makes you stop and reevaluate your life for the better.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
By far the most interesting, most readable and most satisfying exploration of bisexuality I've read, and certainly the most interesting book on the intersection of bisexuality and feminism ever written. Baumgardner is young, and of a different generation, but her thoughts and experiences are completely in line with my own, and so of course I embrace them as brilliantly insightful.

The connections to feminism are fascinating, though she gives short shrift to male bisexuality. That said, her insights are fascinating and her weaving of personal anecdote with a more global and maturing political awareness is well worth reading.

This book belongs on the bookshelf of every one interested in human sexuality, and especially those active in the Queer community.

A remarkable book.
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Format: Paperback
You may recognize Jennifer Baumgardner, the co-author of "Manifesta." "Manifesta" was great, a basic and in-depth feminist, well, manifesta for young women of the early 00's. I highly recommend it as a primer.

And then "Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics" by Jennifer Baumgardner caught my eye at the library. [...]

I've noticed that the vast majority of nonfiction I read can be divided into two categories: purely objective information and subjective semi-autobiography. Sadly, these two writing styles can be divided between the sexes. Women authors almost always include personal anecdotes and opinions in their nonfiction, while men are more likely to just write the evidence and analysis. "Look Both Ways" really takes the cake - Baumgardner appears to have interviewed only women akin to her class, background, profession, gender expression and urban location. Their stories intermingle with her own - this is not hard journalism, this is a blog. Which is fine! But don't write a 227 page blog of one's opinions and pass it off as "women's studies"!

And then there are all the issues in the book itself. At first, I schlepped through this book to find a few gems of actual information; about halfway through, it became a page-turning hurricane of shock. Many of the "drawbacks" of bisexuality she describes can be remedied by having a spine. A brain wouldn't hurt either.

On page 32, Baumgardner explains her relationship with a man, Steven, and cheating on him with a woman, Amy. She states in very clear terms that her relationship with Steven was just what she always wanted BECAUSE of her relationship with Amy. By stretching her relationship wants and needs across two people, she was better able to appreciate them both. So what does she do? Dumps Steven!
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