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Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics

3.28  ·  Rating Details ·  444 Ratings  ·  75 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 ...more
ebook, 256 pages
Published March 4th 2008 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published January 1st 2007)
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Jun 20, 2007 HeavyReader rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer
The most annoying thing about this book was not that it was mostly a piece of fluff, an excuse for the author to mention all the famous people she knows. (She is especially proud that Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls was once her partner.)

The most annoying part of this book is not even that it is waaaaay longer than it needs to be. (It is mostly just a magazine article barely fleshed out into a book.)

The most annoying part of this book is the author's insistence on using some form of the term "look b
Lola Wallace
I can't really disagree with a lot of the criticism leveled against this book. I find Baumgardner's thesis to be valuable and enlightening, but it is largely based on her own sexual and romantic experiences, which were largely dysfunctional, it seems: she seems to simultaneously give more weight to relationships with men while contending that women make better partners and much better lovers.

I was drawn to this book because my sexual history is, on paper, pretty similar to Baumgardner's, and, a
Contrary to the criticism raised in previous reviews, I actually enjoyed this book. It's definitely more of a sexual memoir than anything but I actually prefer my personal reading to be more personal and less pedantic. However, as an autobiography there are certain flaws within the narration. Baumgardner tends to describe sexual politics from a very binary perspective, even while she's arguing for a more inclusive, fluid definition of sexuality. While I related to some of her feelings, I felt sh ...more
Dec 05, 2007 Grace rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: I wouldn't
Shelves: 2007
Last month, I posted about my irritation with the Bitch interview with Jennifer Baumgardner, the author of Look Both Ways: Bisexual Politics. I was very disappointed with the interview, but at that time said I'd still read the book, as maybe she had more to say than she'd let on.

Once again, I'm disappointed.

The book is just as bad, if not worse, than the interview was. Baumgardner honestly seems to see a special place for herself and other bisexuals (or at least bisexual women, she has very litt
Aug 17, 2007 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone needing something to mock
This book is hours of my life I will not get back. It received a great deal of positive press in feminist circles earlier this year, so I was really excited to read it, enough that I almost bought it in hardback. How glad I am that I waited to get it from the library. Baumgardner, a third-wave feminist with some bizarre atavistic 70s separatist tendencies, believes that relationships between women are without exception nurturing and sheltering, offering protection from the oppression that (also ...more
Sarah Hanck
The main premise of the book is a great one - that bisexuality is inherently isolated from gay and straight, lacking in a sense of community/identity, and that one is always defined by the gender of your current partner. I like the premise, but was frustrated by the way she makes her argument. Ultimately it seemed that she believes what some feminists/lesbians argue, which is that being with women is inherently 'better', both in terms of intimacy, power balances, role negotiating, communication, ...more
Bad Penny
Aug 20, 2008 Bad Penny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I don't know why I hated this book so much, but I did. It seemed like Baumgardner never made a succinct point; her writing was like someone talking just to hear themselves talk. In her endless yammering on about herself and her relationship with Amy Ray, she really did nothing for bisexual politics and her overuse of the phrase "look both ways" made her come across as a high-schooler trying to meet the word count requirement for an essay.
I really wish I could give 2.5 stars, because I don't think this one deserves 3, but it isn't as bad as a plain 2.

I went into this one aware of a lot of the criticism, but still wanting to give it a shot, because I feel like there's a dearth of good books on bisexuality. (Also, I enjoyed Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future when I read it for a class in college.)

Unfortunately, this book has two huge problems. First (and worst) of all, as mentioned in many of the reviews, Baumgardner
I was a little disappointed by this book. I've read some of Baumgardner's previous writings. As someone who has read a lot of literature, popular to scholarly, on sex, gender, and sexuality, this book was a fluffier read than reviews had led me to believe. Marketing it as more of a memoir would have been a more accurate representation of the writing in the book. It works as a memoir; as a treatise on current bisexual politics, or a bisexual state of the union, not so much.
Mar 12, 2014 Jennifer rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Look Both Ways by Jennifer Baumgardner is supposed to be about bisexual politics, however it is more of a chance for Baumgardner to pontificate and name drop. Baumgardner tries to create a cute nickname for bisexuals in this book; she frequently says that people “look both ways.” This continues long after readers have the point, and is almost like she hopes that by repeatedly saying it, that if you didn’t think it was a cute name before you’ll learn to love it. She mentions that in every day con
Jun 16, 2010 Kellyann rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, lgbtq
I feel that this should be an important book, but we'll see. Baumgardner keeps coming back to the issue of bisexual identity, and related problems: are you bisexual only in theory, and either gay or straight depending on the sex of the person you're currently with? She makes a case for holding onto bisexuality as an identity as a way of being true to one's self and one's history, while also holding a political and cultural place different from gay/lesbian or straight, helping to illustrate the c ...more
Jun 29, 2008 Jen rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Queer women, bisexual women, feminists, fans of Amy Ray or Ani Difranco
Recommended to Jen by: Bust magazine
I enjoyed this book a lot, but mostly in a way that might be sort of self-indulgent. I've only ever seen one other book devoted solely to bisexuality. So this was a cool find for me because it is so rare to find any writing on that topic that goes beyond the "hot girl on girl action!" surface to substantial analysis. And substatial analysis is what Baumgardner dishes out, but I wish her scope was a bit broader. She interviewed a lot of veteran, 2nd wavers who've had relationships with men and wo ...more
Apr 28, 2014 Penny rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I think there were two things that nailed the coffin here for me on Baumgardner's fluffy man-focused pseudofeminism:

1) She talks about how she finally had a positive, egalitarian relationship with a woman... and the followup was that she wanted to see if she could have that positivity and openness with a man, because she missed straight privilege, and

2) She talks about all of the positive things being involved with women brings to women's relationships with men, but makes absolutely no discussi
Aug 05, 2007 alicia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not the most well-written book that I've ever read - in fact at many points throughout I found myself wondering: "what's her point." It could have been 100 pages shorter and better for it. Finally in the last several pages Baumgardner gets to the crux of her point (or at least she finally articulates it in a concise way) - clearly making the link with feminism. That is, that accepting who women choose to have relationships with is ultimately about embracing the notion that sexuality is always co ...more
Nov 20, 2008 Emily rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
this book is ridiculous. it comes to us from one of the co-editors of Manifesta, which is what first caught my attention. she completely lost my interest when she casually mentions in a first chapter anecdote that she SEXUALLY HARASSED AN INTERN WHEN SHE WORKED FOR MS MAGAZINE! hello! she does not even acknowledge that "casually" making all your intern sstate their sexual reference over drinks counts! my attitude towards the rest of the book? ugh.

mostly this book was whiney and made no real poin
Sep 27, 2007 Sara rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
baumgarder touches on, but doesn't fully explore, what it means these days to consider your sexuality as fluid, or queer. i'm bothered by her constant binaries.

perhaps my problem is the idea of "bisexual", which feels so limiting.

this is a simple good start, probably best for younger readers. but there is too much more to be said here, too much terrain blocked out.
Jul 21, 2008 kyle rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm about 1/3 in so far... but I'm confused about the so-far unquestioned assumption that a "bisexual" must be a woman. Unless I missed something, there hasn't been anything about choosing to focus only on bisexuality in women.
Jan 07, 2013 Adrienne rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I was so, so excited when I found this book on the shelf at Powell's Books. I am always on the lookout for books that deal with the specificity of bisexuality/attraction to multiple genders, rather than reducing queerness in all its complexity to same-sex attraction. And there's such a dearth of books on the subject, too-- although they exist, the publishing world seems to think that people interested in writings on bisexuality want not a nuanced analysis comprising history, theory, politics, an ...more
notes: the "problem of bisexuality" as the nonexistence of a mixture of gay and straight within our imaginations; how we interpret our arousal is connected to our life narratives; society views bisexuality the wrong way - defining identity based on someone other than the bisexual person herself; sexuality is who you are, not who you sleep with, and doesn't change according to whom you're sleeping with; understanding bisexuality requires listening to the stories of bisexual people; AC/DC as metap ...more
Nina Cooper
Oct 20, 2015 Nina Cooper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
With Look Both Ways Jennifer Baumgardner wrote a book that shows how an important part of her identity evolved. It is a book about her own experiences, about how she explored her bisexuality and how difficult it was for her not to be misunderstood as either lesbian or straight. At the same time she analyses the influence of feminism on her way of perceiving sexuality, how it has helped her just as much as it has hampered her in some moments.
There is definitely something in Look Both Ways that c
Keely Hyslop
There aren't a lot of books out there on the topic of bisexuality so I had pretty high hopes for this one.

The good:
It brought up a lot of interesting points which I hadn't considered. Baumgardner talks about bi women coming into hetero relationships with queer expectations and thus being able to obtain a more egalitarian relationship structure. She also makes an intriguing point about how greater recognition of bisexuality in society might have a positive impact on LGBT rights because what was
Jun 10, 2012 Claire rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really a 2.5.

Like with a lot of third wave feminist books--too much memoir; great integration of feminism and bisexuality; wonderful interviews with '60s and '70s feminists that add some complexity to what is known as second wave feminism; terrible transphobic and misogynistic claims against trans women and transphobia against trans men; racism...etc.

(view spoiler)
Real Supergirl
It's not a heady academic analysis of feminism and bisexuality, but I'm OK with that because I find those annoying. It's more of a personal memoir interspersed with thoughts about how the author has made meaning of her sex life.

I'm amusing and somewhat disturbed by some of the reviews of this book - I think they represent people's discomfort with bisexuality more than anything about the book itself. But I think that's why Baumgardner's voice is important - she challenges us to not assume anythi
Sep 10, 2007 Carrie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked Baumgardner's writing in Manifesta and Grassroots, so I was interested to see what she had written here - especially since I had never really taken the time to consider how being involved with both men and women would necessarily be different personally and politically than being either gay or straight. Important to think about since, I think, bi people tend to get labeled as one or the other depending on what relationship they are in. In the book, Baumgardner says "It's simply that peop ...more
Jessie (cupofbooks)
While I'm not sure I would feel the same today, I really appreciated this book when I read it a few years ago. It adheres to the 70s model that the personal-is-political and as a result, most of this book is Baumgardner recounting her experiences as a feminist who is bisexual. Its memoirs-y style resonated with me, despite its failings. I related to this book and that's why I liked it.

It has its problems though. Look Both Ways needs a stronger intersectional approach in its analysis. It's not al
Jul 22, 2009 Ross rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

I rated it two stars because it had some good anecdotes and some actually clever insights, but it was quickly obvious that all of them were wholly accidental.

Is it too much to ask for a single bisexual book out on the market that has:

a) An actual understanding of what sexuality is
b) No moralizing speeches on how much better bisexuality is than all queer identities
c) No speeches revealing deep heterosexual privilege and a seemingly reveling in traditional gender dynamics and the aforementione
This is a wonderfully well-informed look at bisexuality in feminism which argues that you can be bisexual woman and still be a radical feminist, and in fact many notable feminists were bisexual and they were better feminists for it.

That said, intellectually this is not a book that truly looks both ways. The lone "male" perspective I recall being cited was Pat Califa. While she has a lot of insight into women, she doesn't seem to understand men, notably less so than I would generally expect from
Sep 28, 2007 Jodi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queer, gender, sexuality
Jennifer Baumgardner is a good writer. She weaves together narratives from interviews and other writings and connects them to her larger argument about bisexuality. Since Baumgardner was a writer for Ms. Magazine, the book reads like a who's who in the feminist movement. She interviews feminist theorists, musicians, and more. I have to admit her pop culture references left this TV-less woman googling (embarrassingly, I didn't know who Anne Heche is).

I read the book, because I tend to think of b
Oct 08, 2009 Rosalía rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The subheading tells all. Bisexual Politics told by a Bisexual author, using her sexual story and her awakening as a backdrop for the whole idea, makes this book unique and a page-turner.What do Coco Chanel,Billie Holiday, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and Drew Barrymore have in common? That's right. They're attracted to men AND women. And until reading this book, I had no idea that the bigotry that exists with heterosexual men and lesbians is profound. The men are angry that they actually compete fo ...more
Jan 03, 2014 Nikki rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Nikki by: Lee Doyle (Christmas 2008)
This book is mostly memoir, with some gloss on feminist and queer history viewed heavily through the lens of the author's own experience. Much of the book seems overly egocentric, and all of it relies heavily on name-dropping and quoting a small handful of feminists and bisexuals of Baumgardner's acquaintance. Some of the history, perspective, and personal story might be useful for someone seeking a first foray into queer writing, community, and history, but overall this was disappointing. I fin ...more
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“What I'm asserting is that we are looking at bisexuality the wrong way, making the identity entirely dependent on someone other that the bisexual person him- or herself. If I'm dating a man, I'm straight. If I'm dating a woman, I'm a lesbian. But sexuality is not who you sleep with, it's who you are. It doesn't change according to who is standing next to you.” 27 likes
“Freud's most radical legacy is the one that is the least actualized. After years of evolution on the topic, he came to the conclusion that any exclusive monosexual interest - regardless of whether it was hetero- or homosexual - was neurotic. In a sense Freud is saying what second-wave critic Kate Millet said a half-century late: "Homosexuality was invented by a straight world dealing with its own bisexuality." By the end of his writings, in 1937, Freud was downright blythe about bisexuality: "Every human being['s] . . . libido is distributed, either in a manifest or a latent fashion, over objects of both sexes.” 10 likes
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