A Little F’d Up… Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word
Founder of prominent teen feminist website the FBomb Julie Zeilinger has written a feminist primer primarily but not exclusively for teens.
There are a lot of feminist books out there. Not nearly enough, of course, but so, so many. If you’ve got as far as reading Caitlin Moran (or maybe even a bit of Gertrude Stein, if you’re lucky) you might have had the lightbulb moment where you sit up and go “yep, I’m pretty sure I’m a feminist” but you’re wondering what your next steps might be in terms of educating yourself.
How do you bring feminism into your everyday life? What sort of things should you be watching out for? Does feminism begin at home, in your school or college or workplace, in your bed or in the third world? How do you stand up for yourself? How do you make a difference? And if you’re standing on the shoulders of progressive female giants, who the hell are those giants anyway and what did they ever do for us? Mary Wollstonecraft had never heard of Facebook or the pill. Does she still count in this day and age? And what do you do when someone tells you to go and make a sandwich, anyway?
If those are the sorts of questions you’ve got, A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word, written by the intelligent and informed young feminist Julie Zeilinger, is a genuinely excellent place to start.
Buy: A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism Is Not a Dirty Word on Amazon
You’ve probably heard of Julie already. She created the feminist blog The FBomb in her teens, before she’d finished high school. Initially a safe online place for her to vent, the blog gained huge traction and a community of contributors with experiences to share about their frustrations on experiencing downright blatant gender inequality in all areas of teenage life. Sharing insights and outlooks in communities is very much a third wave feminist activity. And, let’s face it, in the current day it’s as vital to think of yourself as a feminist (regardless of your gender) as it ever was. Even today, it’s still considered a bit ‘unrelaxed’ to publicly declare yourself to be one. We live in times when many girls feel obliged to ironically like Facebook pages extolling the virtues of sammich-making to show just how ‘relaxed’ they are, and the insiduously casual term ‘feminazi’ is thrown around like handfuls of stale confetti.
Yes, of course we loved Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”. The thing is, however, that it’s essentially a very witty and readable autobiography of a woman who happens to touch upon how she relates to feminism as a child, a teenager, a lover, a career woman in a male-dominated industry and as a mother.
Zelinger’s book is different. It’s a readable feminist primer which gives you a really solid grounding in feminist history and contemporary perspective and happens to touch upon her awareness of herself as a teenager and young woman.
You see the difference?
This book has ‘freakin” or ‘awesome’ or ‘badass’ on every second page, especially in the first few chapters, but don’t worry about that. You don’t have to be a teenage american girl to enjoy it and learn form it. The information in this book is sound, with enough in-depth research and focused direction to be an insightful read for all feminists, not just those in their teens. Obviously, as a hugely grown-up UK feminist nearing 40, I would prefer to see all those instances of ‘awesome’ replaced with the far more, um, sophisticated ‘amazeballs’ or TYPING THE REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS IN CAPS, but Julie’s refreshingly friendly and casual style supports a very classy aim: to encourage teens to read about the past, present and future of feminism and devour every word. Because those words matter.
Okay. So what’s in the book?
Weighty topics have been covered in some depth, not just glossed over, in an accessible and informal style that will appeal to the teens this book is aimed at. Starting with an interesting take on ancient history (and the refreshing stance that Mohammed was a massive feminist), we’re led gracefully and engagingly by the hand through the first, second and third waves of feminism. Like the Jabberwock, third wave feminism (where we’re at now) is a tricky beast to pin down. The first wave was all about getting laws passed. Just really useful laws like being allowed to own property and getting the right to vote (which was proposed in the USA in 1878, and had to be re-introduced to each session of Congress for the next forty one years before it was passed. The second wave of feminism was about getting a few more laws passed, and about talking about feminism and keeping it in the public eye because a passed law doesn’t count for sh*t if social, civic and political support isn’t there to back it up. This was the time of bell-bottomed flares and the awakening of the concept of sisterhood, and, incidentally, bras were never burned.
We’re in the third wave now. We still have to keep our eye on laws: If you’ve heard of Roe vs. Wade, it’s a ruling made in court in 1973 that first-trimester abortions were to be allowed. As Zeilinger points out, in 2011, 57% of politicians in the House of Representatives were against the allowing of first-trimester abortions. This isn’t about what you would personally do if you were pregnant and didn’t want to be. It’s about women being allowed to decide. Can you imagine your own future consisting of dirty knives, predatory quack doctors and backstreet abortions? No. Hopefully not. Laws that have been passed need to be kept a careful eye on, because those laws that were fought for and made on womens’ behalf can easily be lost.
The third wave of feminism isn’t just about laws. It’s about individualization, about integration of gender equality into your daily life, about ending violence against women, about sex education and reproductive rights, about career vs. family and body image and sexual identity.
Zeilinger goes into strong detail with language that inspires and simplifies as much as it educates. She covers feminism’s PR (or lack thereof), feminism and the internet, global misogyny and how to tread through murky waters if you’re growing up as a teen feminist. It’s all really good stuff. Worth reading, whoever you are.
In fact, let’s face it: A Little F’d Up is totally badass.
Julie Zeilinger. Credit: Eric Mull