Not Oprah’s Book Club: F’em!

Cover of F'em!Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of Manifesta and Grassroots, and sole-author of Looks Both Ways and Abortion & Life, has a new book out. It’s actually a collection of essays she’s published over the years, with updated epilogues, spliced with interviews with feminists Baumgardner admires.

The book is boldly titled F’em! Goo Goo, Gaga and some Thoughts on Balls. As a feminist in my mid-twenties, I’ve paid attention to Baumgardner’s work. As someone who was working at Ms. Magazine while I was growing up, Baumgardner represents this middle generation of feminists, almost in-between the third and forth waves. She’s also a mainstream feminist who seems intent on listening and learning from the new wave of younger feminists, something she continues to do in her travels speaking around the country at college campuses.

To be entirely honest, I sometimes find it difficult to engage with the thoughts and writing of the feminists before me. I feel so compelled by the conversations happening today, among the feminists of my generation, that I don’t often remember to look back at what came before. Of course, we are constantly in dialogue with what came before, with the thoughts and work of the feminists who’ve walked this ground. Part of it is that I didn’t follow a traditional women’s studies trajectory–I didn’t take the classes where many of these texts were studied.

Reading Baumgardner’s new collection of essays provides some insight into that body of feminist scholarship that so influenced her, and allows me to fill in some of my knowledge and understanding of this history with her perspective as a bridge between them.

I don’t agree with everything in the book. In particular, a few of the interviews with other feminists she admires really showed me exactly how much I disagree with some of the feminist pioneers of the previous generation (her interview with BUST founder Debbie Stoller in particular made me wince a few times). But it’s a reminder of how important it is to read the opinions of those I disagree with, if simply to understand better how my opinions diverge.

You can purchase F’em! here.

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