‘Feminism’ is not a Dirty Word

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 by

“So. I’m a teenager and I wrote a book. And not just any book. A book about feminism. What kind of obviously pretentious and generally ridiculous teen does that?”


This excerpt comes directly from the first page of Julie Zeilinger’s book, A Little F’d Up: Why Feminism is Not a Dirty Word.  From girls’ anxiety over body image to sex trafficking and female genital mutilation, the book details issue after issue that women face in the world today.  With women constantly up against double standards, rampant sexism, and outright abuse, Zeilinger argues that feminism is the solution.

Zeilinger,19, is also the founder of the feminist blog “The FBomb” (thefbomb.org).  Originally from Pepper Pike, Ohio and now studying at Barnard College at Columbia University, Zeilinger began her foray into the world of feminism when she was in eighth grade.

In A Little F’d Up, Zeilinger describes how she first discovered feminism when giving a speech in school about feticide and infanticide (mothers’ killings of their infants and fetuses because the children are female).  She searched the Internet for feminist websites designed for young adults, but she couldn’t find what she was looking for.  Zeilinger’s solution was to start thefbomb.org to create a space for young feminists to share their experiences and ideas.

Now, the fbomb.org reaches 30,000 readers per month, and its content is written by devoted young feminists like Zeilinger.  Since the blog’s beginning and throughout the rest of her high school career, Zeilinger managed the blog.  She contacted more established sites such as feministing.com and jezebel.com and encouraged them to promote The FBomb.  Though the blog is an incredible resource, Zeilinger felt compelled to continue exploring her cause by writing a book.

“Through my work with The FBomb and also just as a high school student…I found it really difficult to get into meaningful and provocative conversations about feminist issues because I was constantly faced with the roadblock of people my age not even understanding what the word ‘feminism’ meant,” says Zeilinger.  “The way I chose to approach it was through a book…to basically lay out what this movement is in this day and age and how it’s relevant for teenagers.”

Much more than an instructional text, A Little F’d Up is a refreshing take on a subject that has soured somewhat in the public view.  Throughout the book, Zeilinger persuades readers to identify as feminist regardless of age or gender because equality is at the heart of the movement.

She believes that it is extremely difficult to pin one definition on such a broad, multi-faceted movement.  While recognizing that the term means different things to different people, she defines feminism in A Little F’d Up as “the pursuit of ‘being able to live your life in the way that supports all of your human rights and makes you the happiest, no matter who you are.’”

In A Little F’d Up, Zeilinger writes with a youthful, captivating voice as she discusses various aspects of feminism and how it is relevant not only to women, but to men in the world today.  Julie begins the book with a historical synopsis of past feminist movements, and then she discusses public misconceptions about the aims of feminists (such as that feminists hate men). A Little F’d Up also covers why feminism should be all-inclusive, the impact the internet has on feminism, and global issues women face today.

TOTG asked how she managed to finish writing the 225-page book while still in high school.  She admits that she pushed herself to write perfect material the first time through but discovered that her best writing emerged when she let her guard down.  “…we’re always taught that we need to reach this unattainable standard and I sort of imposed that on myself. It was once I really let go of that and just wrote that I think the best material came out of that.”

Julie Zeilinger has been named one of the eight most influential bloggers under 21 by Women’s Day Magazine, one of Moe Magazine’s “New Feminists You Need To Know,” one of The Times’ “40 Bloggers Who Really Count,” and one of the Plain Dealer’s “Most Interesting People of 2011.”  Zeilinger is notable beyond her titles for the simple reason that she is passionate about her cause.

She is challenging the idea that feminist discourse only belongs in certain venues.  “Social media democratizes the feminist movement, and really anyone is able to have a say just by setting up a free account…it can start really meaningful and global conversations.”

A sociology major and women’s studies minor, Zeilinger has been working on a second book entitled College 101: A Girl’s Guide to Freshman Year.  Scheduled to come out on April 1, 2014, the book is a case of what Julie calls “stealth feminism.” Even though feminism is not the primary subject of the book, the book is still written from a feminist perspective.

“The college experience, especially for freshman women, is a time rife with these issues…I’m able to talk about sexual double standards…” where women and men are expected to behave differently regarding their sex lives, especially on college campuses.  She hopes that her new book will both raise public awareness and assure the women facing these injustices that they are not alone.

Zeilinger has this advice to offer to other young people looking to make a difference: “I know a lot of people are afraid of the backlash they’ll get, but I think people underestimate…the kind of impact they can make just by creating a feminist group, just by being there at all and raising awareness and making people think about those issues…Start in your own life and your own backyard.”

I chatted with Julie about The FBomb, A Little F’d Up, College 101, and her experience as a young feminist using the internet to raise awareness about her cause. Listen to a snippet of the interview here.

Listen to the full interview.

For more information about Julie, The FBomb, and A Little F’d Up, visit:




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