Tag Archives: Jessica Valenti

Books I think everyone should read (part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

These are feminist and women’s history books. I believe both men and women should read these. If you don’t believe in feminism, or think it’s a bad word, all the more reason to read them. Also, women have been forced to read about men’s history – or, “history” as it is commonly known – for years. It’s time to give some of the love back, guys.

FlowFlow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation by Elissa Stein and Susan Kim

The book takes the reader through an intense and confusing journey of womanhood from the ancient world to today’s society. Stein and Kim show how society views of menstruation have changed (and not changed) over the course of time, as well as the products and marketing that go along with many female “problems”. The book is littered with colorful (and rather eye-opening) advertisements for women’s products from the 1950s and 60s. They’re a lot like car wrecks – horrible to witness but you can’t take your eyes off them.

The Purity MythPurity Myth by Jessica Valenti

Many of us have heard about purity pledges (not having sex until married) and may have even signed one when in high school. But have you ever witnessed a purity ball? Valenti describes them in full detail, which I recounted and reacted to on my blog post Purity Balls and Sexy Virgins. But there is more to the book than the “rituals” people partake in. Valenti drives home the point that women are self-standing humans. We do not need men to take care of us or give their permission to live our lives. Valenti argues, and backs up her argument with many detailed examples, that expecting young women to stay “pure” until marriage is a damaging concept.

Full Frontal FeminismFull Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti

Do you live in an anti-vibrator state?* Yes, there are states that have “anti-erotic massager” laws on the books. If you think this is absurd, then this book is definitely for you.

Full Frontal Feminism is aimed at young women, with a chapter geared specifically for young men as well. The word “feminist” can draw many images to one’s mind so a lot of women (and men) don’t identify themselves as a feminist. Take this little test to see if you’re a feminist: What are the worst names you could call a woman? Perhaps you thought of slut, bitch, whore or something along those lines. Now, what are the worst names you could call a man? Did you think of pussy? Bitch? Nancy-boy or girly man? Final question: Do you think that it’s really fucked up that the biggest insults to both men and women are a derogatory terms for a woman? If you just answered yes, then congratulations. You are a feminist. Anyone who thinks that the way women are treated is sexist and unfair is, in the truest sense, a feminist. So what should young feminist women and men do? Valenti offers advice in all kinds of scenarios, along with shocking examples of the way women are treated and viewed in modern society.**

*Turn to page 39 to find out if you do.

**I emphasize modern society because some of the acts are so barbaric, one may mistake the scenario as happening in the ancient world.

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Posted by on July 2, 2012 in Literature


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The most common question has the hardest answer

“What are you reading right now?” coworkers and customers alike ask me.  Sometimes I think it might be easier to answer the question, “What aren’t you reading right now?”  I usually have two or three books going at once but currently I have a few more than even that.  Some books take longer than others, especially if the subject is a difficult one.  Even if I finish one book, another one may grab my attention so I begin that one rather than finishing another one that I’ve already started.  It really doesn’t help that I see all the new books that come into the bookstore where I work or that I’m constantly talking about books and authors with friends, coworkers, and customers.  So, in no particular order, here is what I am currently reading:

Heist Society by Ally Carter
I’ve enjoyed reading Carter’s Gallagher Girls series so I picked up this stand-alone.  In the book 15-year-old Kat Bishop is blackmailed into returning some stolen paintings to Arturo Taccone, who thinks that her father took them.  Believing her father is innocent, Kat sets off to find the paintings and get them back to Arturo before her deadline is up.  She locates the paintings but has to assemble the best teenage thieves she knows to get them back.  So far, I’m enjoying the humor and adventure in the book.  I also like how Carter has tied WWII history into it (Kat thinks that Arturo’s paintings were stolen out of homes by the Nazis).  There are minor things that irritate me, though, like how many times the action breaks right after someone hears a familiar voice and confusion over who is speaking and to whom.  I did not have this problem with the Gallagher Girl books, but those are written in first person whereas Heist Society is written in third.  Overall, though, it’s a fun read.

The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins
This book is all arguments for why god doesn’t exist.  Dawkins views several areas of argument for and against religion to drive home his thesis.  I am already atheist so I agree with what Dawkins says but I still find it interesting to see how others argue for religion (and his rebuttal to said arguments).  I’ve been reading this for several months now, not because I’m not enjoying it, but because Dawkins is quite intelligent and it’s hard for me to read too much at once.  Also, I do the bulk of my reading in the morning to wake up my brain and this book is not one for a sleepy mind.  Keep checking back as I will write a full review of the book once I’m done reading it.

Yes Means Yes!  Visions of Female Sexual Power and a World Without Rape ed. by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti
Not only am I an atheist, I am also a feminist.  Jessica Valenti has written some amazing books on feminism so I snatched this book up when I found out she helped with it.  The book is a collection of essays from several writers.  Each essay has several themes and the reader is encouraged (from the introduction) to use the themes listed at the end of essays like links on a webpage.  “If you like x theme, try these essays next.”  Like clicking on a webpage, the reader can jump around the book rather than being constrained to reading from front to back.  This is one of the many things I like about this book.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood to read about “Media Matters” or I may be drawn to “Surviving to Yes” some days.  It’s also a perfect layout for someone like me (someone who is reading a lot of books at once).  The essays are easily read in short increments.  The subject matter, though, is tough and gets me riled up (we shouldn’t put blame on the victims of the crime but on the criminals!) or depressed (why does rape even have to happen?).  Females and males both should read this book.  Everyone is affected by rape and it can only end when we start talking about it (silence breeds the disease).

The Big Bento Box of Unuseless Japanese Inventions by Kenji Kawakami
I’ve seen this book around for years but it wasn’t until recently that I acquired it.  The book is exactly what the title says: “Unuseless Japanese Inventions”.  Apparently, it’s a form of art to make something people could use but is so ridiculous that it can’t be used.  Pictures, of course, show these inventions and brief descriptions of each are given.  Take for example The Earring Safety Net.  Tiny bowls are strapped to a woman’s shoulders and should an earring come loose from her lobe, there’s no need to worry!  The Earring Safety Net will catch it.  You’ll never have just one earring again!  The idea itself is hilarious but to truly appreciate it, you must see the picture.  Go pick it up at your local library or bookstore.  You won’t regret it.

Finally, there are two books I am just a few pages into so I can’t really say much about them.  They are Waiter Rant by Steve Dublanica and On the Road by Jack Kerouac.

Well, it looks like I have some reading to do!  Until next time…


Posted by on June 29, 2010 in Literature


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Purity balls and sexy virgins

Working in a bookstore is hard for a bibliophile.  It’s even worse to work in the receiving room, seeing and touching every book before it gets put out for the customers.

This is what I do.  Often, I tell my friends that working in receiving is like Christmas every day.  I open a box and there is a brand-new book, begging to be flipped through.

Now, since I have to open a lot (and I mean a lot) of boxes, plus get other tasks done, I cannot stop and look through every book that piques my interest.  Instead, I set aside anything I want to take a closer look at when I’m off the clock.  (And, yes, I often make a snap judgment on the book’s cover, but really, who doesn’t?)

Last March, while working, I opened a box and found a brand-new title written in stark white against a black background: The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti.  I don’t buy as many books as one may think I do (that doesn’t mean I don’t want them!) but this one I knew I had to.  I knew before I even opened to page one that I would want to mark passages as I read them and make comments in the margins.  Sure enough, that is exactly what I did.

The bulk of my reading is done in the morning before work.  I sit at the dining room table, sipping at my coffee, reading and slowly waking up.  The mornings that I read The Purity Myth I could have skipped the coffee altogether because the book had me so fired up.

From chapter one, Valenti argues how the idea of virginity and the expectation of staying pure until marriage is detrimental to young women (because, Valenti points out on several occasions, it is up to the female to be the “gatekeepers” of purity because boys will be boys and cannot help themselves).

Man, I wish I could portray the disgust in my voice.

Throughout the book, Valenti relentlessly argues against different societal ideals, from abstinence-only education, to idolizing famous virgins, to purity balls and so much more.

Take, for example, Jessica Simpson and Brittany Spears.  Both publically declared she was a virgin and was waiting until marriage.  Yet both were made up to look sexy in tight shirts or shorts.  Who remembers the media coverage of Brittany Spears when her boobs grew in (or, as the media argued, were put in)?  *in my best hick impression* “She’s a virgin, folks, and she’s a good girl waiting to get married before giving it up, but check out that rack.  Think that’s real?”  In the societal eye, what could possibly be more sexy than a virgin?

How ass-backwards is that?

Valenti’s description of purity balls shook me to no end, though.  Growing up in a household where we didn’t practice or even talk religion sheltered me (thankfully) from purity balls.  At these lavish events, young women pledge to their fathers to wait until marriage for sex.  In turn, the fathers pledge to “hang onto” their daughters’ virginities until a proper husband comes along.  At that point, the fathers give the virginities to the husbands, not even back to their daughters to give to their husbands themselves.  Some of these balls even use a little pink box as a symbol of the daughters’ virginities (because, as Valenti points out in the first chapter, virginity is pure myth – pardon the pun).  The fathers take the little pink boxes (ugh) and pledge to hold onto them.  What is most shocking to me, though, was that sometimes girls as young as six participate in these balls.  Who, at the ripe age of six, knows what her feelings will be about sex as she grows?  Who at six even knows that the concept of virginity even is?

It makes me sick.  This is a blatant portrayal of how men control women’s bodies, how they have “ownership” over them and we willingly (willingly!) give it to them.  Are we not free-thinking humans in our own right?

The absolute worst part about purity balls, though: they are federally funded.

There’s so much more to the book and I can’t write about all of it here.  It is a book worth buying, even during a recession, because it gets its readers thinking and gearing them up to take action.

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Posted by on August 21, 2009 in Literature, Rants


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