Author of A Little F'D Up: Why Feminism Is Not A Dirty Word, (and founder of the feminist teenage website the fbomb) 18-year-old Julie Zeilinger has created an introduction to feminism for a teenage audience. In her foreword, Zeilinger notes that few feminist websites and feminist books target a younger audience. Therefore, the main audience for A Little F'D Up is foremost younger teenage girls (but also boys since Zeilinger argues that the feminist movement needs to be inclusive).
Presenting the book as an introduction to feminism is probably the best way to describe its content. Zeilinger gives a brief history of the feminist movement, the three waves of feminism (even though some feminist writers argue that we are on the cusp of a fourth wave), the women (and men) who have fought for women's rights and liberation, hallmarks and key events that have spurred each wave, different characteristics of violence against women and girls, as well as reasons why feminism is beneficial to teenagers.
A very interesting aspect of the book deals with technological advances of the internet and how social networks, websites and other online tools can help spread awareness, connect people and distribute new information. At the same time, Zeilinger briefly discusses the drawbacks of online connections, such as harassment and bullying. This notion of online worlds and social networks has become increasingly popular with the advent of social networking sites (such as facebook and twitter) and has spurred controversy. Acknowledging and discussing the notion of downsides of technological advances is advantageous, especially as we are becoming more and more connected with social networking sites.
Perhaps the most controversial part of the book however is in part two "Please stop calling me a feminazi" where Zeilinger discusses renaming the feminist movement due to negative associations based mostly on past historical events (it being predicated by white, middle-class women and historically racist). The notion of renaming the movement to make it more desirable is understandable, but it may also be detrimental to "forget" or disassociate the past waves with the present ones.
With every wave of the feminist movement the "newer" and younger feminists have found it necessary to break free from the previous generation. The second wave saw the first wave as ignorant, and less than diverse in terms of race and class. The third wave women often felt that the second wave women were sexually prudish, while they focus more on celebrating women's sexuality overtly in the third wave. If we are on the brink of a new feminist wave, then it is understandable that the younger feminists feel that the movement needs to change again to more fully accommodate them (and others). But as noted, renaming the movement can create antagonism between younger and older feminists and diminish the hard work and struggles of the previous generations. Therefore, Zeilinger presents somewhat of a double standard as she notes, "...it's really important to understand the history of the women who came before us..." (p. 9), while later stating that "...Associating ourselves with the earlier stages of the movement (and as, a consequence, with their faults, which we do not share or represent) is detrimental" (p. 103). In many ways, Zeilinger is right, as many of us would like to keep the "good parts" about the movement and forgetting about the "bad", but the question remains of whether or not this is possible?
Zeilinger also states that history is important for three reasons: because of the fact that the new generation needs some perspective, history has a tendency to repeat itself, and because it makes sense to start at the beginning. Therefore, renaming the movement may result in a "loss" of such valuable information, especially since many of the key achievements, such as Roe v Wade are again under fire.
One of the useful aspects of the books is that it is written by a teenager for other teenagers, which is noticeable in the language used, and the examples shared, whether these are fictional case studies or real life accounts from Zeilinger herself. Zeilinger is therefore able to connect with her intended audience in a way that is very successful. By applying feminism to her own life and to the lives of teenagers, feminism becomes more than a word or even a movement, it becomes more tangible and accessible; it becomes part of teenage life.
As an introduction to feminism, Zeilinger helps waken the interest in many different parts of feminism and feminist theory. As her topics are broad and diverse, they serve as more of a preface to engage her readers. As such, teenagers who are interested in feminism, and the many diverse topics presented can use the book as an initial source to read and research more about the topics they find interesting. Very effortlessly, Zeilinger is also able to integrate theory (which can be one of the most difficult aspects of feminism). When discussing her experiences as a white, straight, teen girl, Zeilinger incorporates standpoint theory with ease. The same is true when she discusses the belief of some people that feminism is not needed and equality is reached, thereby introducing postfeminism into her discussion smoothly.
© 2012 Hennie Weiss
Hennie Weiss has a Master's degree in Sociology from California State University, Sacramento. Her academic interests include women's studies, gender, sexuality and feminism.