Author and Guardian US columnist Jessica Valenti has been leading the national conversation on gender and politics for over a decade. Now, in a darkly funny and bracing memoir, Valenti explores the toll that sexism takes from the every day to the existential.
Sex Object explores the painful, funny, embarrassing, and sometimes illegal moments that shaped Valenti’s adolescence and young adulthood in New York City, revealing a much shakier inner life than the confident persona she has cultivated as one of the most recognizable feminists of her generation.
In the tradition of writers like Joan Didion and Mary Karr, this literary memoir is sure to shock those already familiar with Valenti’s work and enthrall those who are just finding it.
I had heard great things about Jessica Valenti's feminist novels in the past and since I am participating in Feminist Lit February (click to read my post on it!) I decided to pick up this book to complete the "feminist non-fiction" challenge. And I am happy I picked it up because I really enjoyed it!
Knowing absolutely nothing about Valenti and her life, I found her life experiences interesting and engaging. I related to some of her experiences as a woman and what she had to deal with and I was completely disgusted by the stuff thrown at her at such a young age. I didn't always relate to everything she talked about when it came to her past but at the same time I could take my experiences and match them to some of hers. Throughout the whole book I either related to her stories or I empathized and knew women in my life had been in those experiences. I found her harassment about online hate was raw and real. She has a whole chapter dedicated to a chunk of messages, tweets, comments from most likely the majority being men and it was stuff I see daily to many women online. It's typical harassment everyone who is vocal about feminism being good or any sort of liberal ideas get harassment like this all the time. She also talks about her privilege as a white cis woman being able to stand up for herself in moments where she was being harassed. Valenti recalls news reports of multiple women (some women of color) in the news for being attacked and killed for simply rejecting a man. So she credits her safety to luck and privilege.
My biggest issue with the book was the way it was organized and formatted. Some of the stories felt out of order or they didn't belong in the same chapters. Sometimes the different sections of each chapter clicked really well and other times it felt like I had scrambled chapters. Valenti is a talented storyteller and writer so I had didn't have any issues with the content itself, for me it was the jumping back and forth in her life without much a format that I wasn't a fan of.
I really enjoyed this memoir. I am always up for learning more about feminist thoughts and ways to practice being a feminist. I like that Valenti touched on identifying as a feminist but almost feeling like a fraud, because I think that's something a lot of people deal with. I felt her overall message of "everyone is kind of winging it, no one is having a perfect life, but we can't stay silence about how we are treated" super inspiring. There's also a few chapters about her pregnancy and going into labor that just soldifies that I never want to get pregnant, go into labor, or have kids because phew, that was rough to read!
Overall I recommend this memoir. If you're in the mood for a book with feminism themes, parental pressures, and kind of dealing with bad decisions, I think this could be a good book to pick up! I am happy I read it and I am definitely interested in reading more by Jessica Valenti.