Feminist Fight Club by Jessica Bennett
Rating: 4 stars
As you might remember from my review of Startup by Doree Shafrir, I used to work in a sexist workplace. All of the women in the office were told to just get over the inappropriate advances made by an alcoholic senior manager since they took place after hours, or even take it as a compliment because it meant we were pretty. Seriously? We should take harassment as a compliment? Unfortunately, all of the women affected by this were only a couple years out of college at most, and we didn’t want to cause problems.
I wish I could have read Feminist Fight Club back then, but I had my own version of it with my college friends. We all went into male dominated industries like investment banking, consulting, and tech startups, and had frequent Skype sessions to complain about the frat-cultures in our offices.
Bennett chooses to focus more on the subtle forms of sexism that still plague us today, which is exactly what we need help with. She reassures us that it’s not ok, and it is worth speaking up over. I think this is the biggest issue with today’s subtle sexism. It can feel so small in the moment that you don’t think you have any right to bring it up. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Bennett let’s us know that while the behavior can seem like a molehill, when you consider the culture it reinforces it is really a mountain.
This book is provides quick and amusing explanations for different sexist actions and attitudes women* still have to deal with. This covers everything from more frequent interruptions, mansplaining, and even loaded word choices. If you remember the #banbossy incident, you know how words can reinforce negative stereotypes that hold women back. While I’m not for banning any words, it’s important to think critically before you assign anyone labels like “bossy,” “aggressive,” “emotional,” or “nagging.” Would you use the same word if that coworker was the opposite gender?
While I did love how entertaining this book was, I think Bennett could have toned down the conversational language somewhat to help underscore the importance of these topics. I also like that she referenced actual studies, but wish she had provided more details about them. Some only get a quick shoutout that reduces their findings to one line. The studies on women experiencing more frequent interruptions and being penalized for negotiating could have been expanded on more.
I highly recommend this book for anyone who is looking for an amusing and informative take on current workplace culture or needs a feminist fight club of their own.
Also, my favorite definition from the “Dick-tionary” section:
Nag: a word reserved for a woman who asks twice.
*I am referring to anyone who identifies as female, but want to note that transgender women also face additional prejudices that are not addressed in this book.