Friday, October 27, 2006

Musings from a Black Woman: Full Frontal Feminism

The picture above is the cover of Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Women's Guide to Why Feminism Matters, available in April 2007. It was written by Jessica Valenti, Executive Editor of

I, as a black female human being with well-developed and defined pop-culture sensibilities, have multiple concerns about the cover art, including the messages it presents to potential buyers. As the book doesn't come out until the Spring of next year, I cannot comment either favorably or negatively on its content. But I could rant extensively about why the naked body of a skinny white hairless, headless woman (it's a woman; Ms. Valenti confirmed that) is being used to market a book about feminism to young women.

I'm a fairly young woman, even though I will be exiting the 18-24 demographic by the end of this year. I get the idea of using of the sexualized image to simultaneously subvert the patriarchy by claiming your body as your own, and attracting an audience that may not otherwise be interested in "feminism," but already believe in feminist issues. Even though I don't agree with the effectiveness of this method, I do get it. But by using this image, the book alienates potential readers who are neither skinny, nor white, nor hairless. Nor naked.

My first problem is, why does the woman on the cover have to be white? My second problem is, why does she have to be skinny? My third problem is, why does she have to be naked, and hairless, blemishless, unfreckled, whatever?

My biggest problem with this entire situation is, why must the discussion turn hateful when individuals bring up these obvious (obvious to me and others, anyway) questions about this controversial cover art on a book which clearly has something important to say inside? To understand what I'm writing about, take a gander at the posts And the winner is.... on, and i'm not a hater, but.... on blac (k), along with the litany of comments that follow each of them.

I understand the deep emotions and insecurities that come from writing and publishing a book. I also personally understand the anger that stems from being dismissed first as a woman, then additionally as a person of color, size, and intelligence, and then from being yelled at by people who do not understand your complaints, and therefore refuse to acknowledge the justification for and existence of your frustration. If you are not a woman, or if you are not a colorful person, and especially if you are neither, then you probably have never thought of the multifaceted issues that women of color (and basically anyone who is neither white nor male nor straight in America) have to deal with on a daily basis. Just because you don't have or know about our problems does not mean our problems don't exist.

Above all else, I wish people on all sides of the arguments could calm down and realize that although their complaints may be valid, they are also not personal. I also wish I had a pony that lived on rainbows and dreams.

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