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Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politicsby Jennifer Baumgardner
Synopses & Reviews
For the acclaimed author and activist Jennifer Baumgardner, bisexuality has always been more than the "sexual non-preference of the '90s." In Look Both Ways, Baumgardner takes a close look at the growing visibility of gay and bisexual characters, performers, and issues on the national cultural stage. Despite the prevalence of bisexuality among Generation X and Y women, she finds that it continues to be marginalized by both gay and straight cultures, and dismissed either as a phase or a cop-out. With intimacy and humor, Baumgardner discusses her own experience as a bisexual, and the struggle she's undergone to reconcile the privilege she's garnered as a woman who is perceived as straight and the empowerment and satisfaction she's derived from her relationships with women.
Part memoir, part pop-culture study, Look Both Ways connects the prominent dots of a bisexual community (Alix Kates Shulman, Ani DiFranco, Rebecca Walker, and, of course, Anne Heche) that Baumgardner argues have bridged feminist aims with those of the gay rights movement. Look Both Ways is a compelling and current study in bisexual lives lived secretly and openly, and an exploration of the lessons learned by writers, artists, and activists who have refused the either/or paradigm defended by both gay and straight communities.
"Sometimes confused but ultimately insightful, this cultural study pries open that ambiguous can of worms called 'sexual choice' and looks at it with eyes wide open. Baumgardner, coauthor of the 'third wave feminist' Manifesta, discovered her own bisexuality shortly after graduating from college, when she unexpectedly fell in love with a 'girlie girl' co-worker at Ms. magazine, which was, significantly, the first place she 'truly saw women without men as being successes, not failures.' Her story of how she explored her 'urge toward bisexuality as a means to figuring out how to have a satisfying, truly equal and truly intimate relationship' weaves a personal thread through the book. In between, she evokes the heady days of second-wave feminism, lauds Ani DiFranco as the quintessential bisexual of her generation and analyzes the TV heroine Buffy the Vampire Slayer as a powerful, vulnerable, tragic, feminist superhero. Baumgardner controversially argues that bisexuality, especially in younger women, is more widespread than we think, and that recognizing this 'could harness the multiplicity of attraction that Kinsey described' and 'lead to better relationships, both political and sexual, between men and women.' Her insistence that bisexuality has the potential to further the goals of feminism and gay rights challenges the limitations of 'gay' and 'straight.'" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Jennifer Baumgardner's Look Both Ways is a jaunty, fearless, personal and political look at bisexuality today. Because she knows that sex is a way we communicate, not just procreate, she gives us a glimpse of a freer future in which sexuality is less about who is talking and more about what is said." Gloria Steinem
"In a time when the powers that be are closing borders, narrowing our thinking and sexuality, Look Both Ways is a brave and celebratory call to open to complexity, to live in the questions, to surrender to the non-PC world of desire, to become sexual nomads." Eve Ensler, creator of V-Day and The Vagina Monologues
"From the personal to the political, Baumgardner speaks about bisexuality with honesty, eloquence, and authority. This interesting and contemporary book deserves a spot on every tuned-in woman's bookshelf." Cathi Hanauer, author of Sweet Ruin and editor of The Bitch in the House
"I can't believe it's non fiction! From subway to bathtub and back again, this book reads like a great novel." Kathleen Hanna, activist and musician, founding member of Riot Grrrl
"In Look Both Ways, Jennifer Baumgardner elucidates the pivotal — and too often unacknowledged — role that bisexual people are playing in America's social awakening. Deriving her own inspiration from renegade truth-tellers like Ani DiFranco and June Jordan, Baumgardner unleashes a gentle assault on those of all sexual preferences who would deny the complexity of human sexuality." Johnny Temple, writer and publisher, Akashic Books
"Jennifer Baumgardner is the big sister you’ve always wished you had. She is daring, intimate, and raw. She shows you how normal she is, how normal you are." Leora Tanenbaum, author of Slut! and Catfight
"Baumgardner believes that bisexuality has the potential to further the goals of both feminists and gay activists. This valiant but fragmentedattempt to bring a marginalized subject into the light will be especially valuable for women's-studies classes." Kirkus Reviews
“A necessary read for those looking to expand their understanding of both bisexuality and the contributions of Third Wave feminism.”—Rebecca Walker, Bookforum
“Revealing, smart, titillating . . . Look Both Ways [cuts] straight to the heart of many young womens fraught relationship to both feminism and their own femininity.” —Jessica Clark, In These Times
“Baumgardner's voice remains as compelling as ever, not only because she writes with the candor of your closest friend, but because she herself appears to be learning and questioning along with the reader.” —Fiorella Valdesolo, Nylon
“Baumgardner is generally thoughtful and honest, with a refreshing sense of humor about herself and her politics. . . . Baumgardner's prose, at its best, is warm, unpretentious and funny . . . And as a memoirist, she is impressively willing to make herself vulnerable. . . . Her arguments for sexual complexity and openness are compelling, as are her claims that bisexual experiences can supply a kind of stereoscopic vision.”— Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow, Salon
An acclaimed author and activist delivers a compelling and current study in bisexual lives lived secretly and openly, and an exploration of the lessons learned by writers, artists, and activists who have refused the either/or paradigm defended by both gay and straight communities.
About the Author
Jennifer Baumgardner, co-author of Manifesta and Grassroots, frequently writes and lectures on feminism, activism, and popular culture for magazines and on college campuses around the country.
What Our Readers Are Saying