This book is so important. Not just for women, but for everyone.
Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club (or FFC) is cutting, humorous, incredibly well researched and brilliantly written. In a society where feminism is given a plethora of definitions and receptions, Jessica Bennett’s FFC strikes the perfect balance in acknowledging and challenging sexism in the 21st century (which will make you laugh, cry, and feel more proud to have a vagina than ever before).
With the tagline ‘A survival manual for a sexist workplace’, I’d argue that Feminist Fight Club isn’t just for those in a workplace environment – it applies to those in education – whether it’s school or university – and those in retirement just as much as it suits those in a full-time career.
In this book Jessica has created a sassy and eloquent blend of the key aspects of sexism today, as it:
– allows you to be shocked and frustrated that your life is structured differently depending on the genitals you’re born with
– teaches you how this inequality came about
– helps you to recognise where you’re subconsciously enabling sexism
– gives tips and advice on how to combat everyday issues experienced undoubtedly by every woman in the world
Feminist Fight Club is divided into six parts, complete with Fight Moves. I’ve quoted an issue analysed in the book and one of the suggestions that Jessica offers to combat it:
Part One Know the Enemy: Behaviour to watch out for
The Enemy: the menstruhater
The menstruhater assumes that any time a direct assertion comes out of a woman’s mouth it must be “that time of the month”….The Menstruhater is Donald Trump to Megyn Kelly- who suggested that the Fox News anchor must have been “bleeding out of her whatever” because she dared ask about his verbal attacks on women. But he also goes as far back as the early days of space flight, when menstruation was part of the official Nasa argument – in the 1960s – for why women shouldn’t become astronauts. These days, he’s also likely to emerge in the form of that mostly likable bro who comes up to you after a meeting – a meeting where you expressed displeasure with something.
The Fight Move: Call him out
“Nope, Paul, I’m not on my period, but your sales reports look to be bleeding this company dry.”
“Oh, wait, Sam, I’m confused. Do you mean the time of the month when I conduct your performance review?”
Part Two Know Thyself: Female self-sabotage
The Saboteur: the Humble Bragger
She’s #blessed to have been granted a full scholarship, “grateful” (and “surprised!”) to have been promoted, and feels #lucky – not proud – to have won a prestigious award. She may not even be conscious of it, but the Humble Bragger knows that nobody likes a woman who boasts. But she also knows that too much modesty will undermine her. So she’s come up with a system to attribute her accomplishments to luck, so that we still like her. Which might be OK if it worked, but it doesn’t.
The Fight Move: Just the facts
State facts, not opinions, when talking about yourself. It’s a lot harder to accuse someone – or perceive someone – as bragging when they’re stating something indisputable. While you’re at it, try to frame your accomplishments in a way that compares you to you – not you to somebody else.
Part Three Booby Traps: Office stereotypes and how to hack ’em
The Trap: The Lone Woman in the room
Research shows that it requires a certain number of women to have an impact on a male-majority room. Without it? Women speak up less, they have less influence, and people tend to think that because they’re speaking as a woman that they’re speaking on behalf of all women. No pressure, right?
The Hack: Support your local Girl Gang
Meaning the one in your office. Look around the room. How many women are present? The goal is to reach at the very least a third. That’s the point of “critical mass”, as psychology studies have put it, at which a woman’s perspective is more likely to be hear and her opinions less likely to be perceived as representing her entire gender (or her gender and her race) rather than herself. Remember: white men constitute just 31% of the American population. There is no situation in which they should be constituting the majority of the room.
Part Four Get Your Speak On: The clusterfuck of speaking while female
Verbal Tripwire: Houston, I feel like we have a problem
“I feel like” started catching on in the 1970s (an era of all sorts of feelings) but really gained traction in the early 2000s — like most things linguistic, among young women. It made sense: many of these speech patterns go back to our very adolescence, when girls make friends based on sharing (secrets, stories, feelings), while boys tend to play in groups, shouting commands. (No feels there).
But How much of “I feel” has to do with the expectation that omen must play the nurturing, feeling role and cannot simply be direct? We’re talking about business here – not a couple’s therapy sesh. “At work, it’s wimpy, weak and wishy-washy,” writes Phyllis Mindell, a professor at Georgetown, in ‘How to Say It for Women’. “Describing events or issues in terms of ‘feelings’ substitutes ‘psychobabble’ for clear thought.”
Part Five F You, Pay Me: A negotiation cheat sheet
Cash in Your Woman Card
It guarantees you a 21% discount! Just kidding. But talking up front about gender bias isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I have a friend – a filmmaker – who walked into a salary negotiation with the following: “The research shows you’re going to like me less after I negotiate. So I just wanted to get that out of the way before I do.” Her delivery was friendly, almost nonchalant, and yet she was able to alert the other party to their own bias.
Part Six WWJD – What Would Josh Do? Carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white man
Here’s a stat I cite frequently: A woman will apply to an open job listing if and only if she thinks she meets all – that is, 100 freaking percent – of the requirements listed for that job. But a man? He’ll apply for that job when he meets just 60 percent. Perhaps it’s the product of what one study dubbed “honest overconfidence” – in which men rate their performance better than it actually is, while women tend to judge theirs as worse. Who’s actually more qualified for the job? That’s a great question. But it’s safe to assume most hiring managers will never find out – because you haven’t sent them your resume.
The FFC is empowering, informative and exceptionally written (and, unlike many good books, hopefully not timeless) and complemented beautifully with illustrations by the incredibly talented Saskia Wariner (www.saskdraws.com) and Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell (www.cartoonsbyhilary.com).
I genuinely wish I could give this book to everyone out there. I also wish I’d read it immediately upon exiting the womb. I’m so excited for the day that Feminist Fight Club is used as a study source in a history class, rather than a painfully relatable manual for dealing with society right now.
‘Every woman needs this book. And they needed it yesterday.’
Check out my previous blog post here!
featured photo: www.minimums.com
photos: www.saskdraws.com and The Feminist Fight Club