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F 'em!: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts on Balls Paperback – September 27, 2011
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The book is composed of old and new material; about half of it consists of essays that have been printed elsewhere, while the other half consists of "epilogues" to the previously printed material and interviews with an array of feminists. Focusing on topics like motherhood, gender, sexual orientation, patriarchy, and the political and cultural legislation of female sexuality, Baumgardner explores the many contradictions within the feminist movement(s). Her willingness to explore these gray areas is the thing I loved most about this book.
There are a lot of valuable lessons to be gleaned from this book's pages; she frequently discusses the need for each feminist wave to learn from each other and properly build upon the previous generation's work. Baumgardner also writes openly about confronting her own privilege over the years; she is even willing to be honest about her transphobia in years past, analyzing the evolution of her behaviors and beliefs over the last couple of decades.
My favorite interview in the book is the one featuring Loretta Ross, who is the national coordinator for the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. I'm in awe of Ross's story, and I'm so glad her interview was included; she discusses at length the implications that the reproductive rights movement has had on women of color. In response to being overlooked, women of color organized and created the reproductive justice movement (which melds reproductive rights with social justice for women of color). The interview is a must-read.
Unfortunately, not every interviewee was as awesome as Loretta Ross; some of them clung stubbornly to the past and were completely out of touch with the current feminist climate. I was dismayed by BUST founder Debbie Stoller's interview in particular. Considering that she's running a magazine geared toward younger feminists, it was upsetting to hear her dismissing the work of...younger feminists! But worse than Stoller's dismissal of the work that younger feminists are currently doing is her troubling stance on major issues in feminism. For a Third Waver, she sure seems completely clueless about the necessity of intersectionality:
"There is this whole issue in feminism I always find really difficult and touchy. I don't even know if I can broach it. But I feel like trying to struggle for feminism, just feminism, is almost impossible, because all of these other causes get placed in front. If you look at the democratic convention from the 1970s, when women agitated for equal rights, then the feminist cause became the lesbian cause. Gay rights are absolutely important to me, but gay rights are not feminism. And neither are civil rights. I mean, these are all important things, but they're not central to feminism."
*sigh* Debbie. Debbie, Debbie, Debbie. That's so mainstream Second Wave of you. And that's all I'm gonna say about that.
Regardless of my "disagreements" with some of the interviewees, I do think it's incredibly important to hear opposing viewpoints, and Baumgardner does a good job trying to clarify questionable statements. There's a good balance of differing perspectives presented throughout the book, and readers will undoubtedly find something that resonates. I read a lot of books on feminism-all waves included-and F `em! is one of the most engrossing feminist reads I've encountered this year.