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Book Review: F’em: Goo Goo, Gaga, and Some Thoughts On Balls by Jennifer Baumgardner

Posted in Book Reviews on March 12th, 2012

F’em is an anthology of short essays by Jennifer Baumgardner about feminism, music, family, and politics. Baumgardner writes in such a personal style that the book reads like a memoir, even though not all of the writing is autobiographical.

Interview subjects include rock stars like Bjork, Kathleen Hanna, Ani DiFranco and Amy Ray, whom Baumgardner previously dated. The book covers issues like abortion, feminist critiques of popular culture, transfeminism, anti-rape activism and female sexuality. In her essays, she explores her own vulnerabilities, her romantic and family history and the ways her views about feminism have changed throughout her life.

F’em was a quick and pleasant read and ended with an essay sketching out the possibility that feminism has entered its fourth wave, or forth wave, as Shelby Knox dubbed it earlier in the book. I think that the book was organized to make this argument, but until I was done reading it, I often found myself wishing that the essays had appeared in chronological order. While many essays were very poignant and thought provoking others seemed repetitive. I think that organizing them by theme would have solved this problem as well.

Some reviewers have commented on their dislike of the title, but I like the inherent geekiness of it. Fem-inist, Femme, Fuck ’em… the word play is something I appreciate.

Although this book can be understood as one defining the current state of feminism as it transitions into the 21st century and potentially a new wave, it’s also a good resource for the history of the third wave and how feminists with different perspectives can form a coherent movement. As someone who found my feminism because of the feminist blogosphere, I like having a primer on the days of ‘zines and Riot Grrls.

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