Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace

by Jessica Bennett

Despite being decades past the women’s liberation movement and federally enacted legislation to ensure equality in the workplace, many women still encounter work-related sexism on a regular basis. And despite the advances in technology and ever-quickening pace of work, much of this sexist behavior still looks the same as it did for women in the past. From blatant sexism like the continued wage gap, to the more subtle disparities that emerge from double standards (men who follow up on requests and timelines are seen as strong leaders, while women engaging in the same behavior are judged more harshly for nagging), to the missed opportunities when women aren’t even included in discussions, sexism remains a significant factor in women’s professional growth and opportunities. After fighting this battle again and again and again, what other options do women have? Bennett lays out tips, tricks, and responses for handling workplace sexism, all grounded by the support of a “feminist fight club,” a group of women who consult on each other’s professional dilemmas, usually while enjoying wine and cheese. Whether mirroring the behavior of other, balancing air time in meetings, or reframing ideas, her suggestions are broadly accessible for women – and men – who want to see women succeed in the workplace.

“Feminist Fight Club” by Jessica Bennett brings a millennial perspective to an ancient problem: women work harder, are judged by higher standards, and have less access to social capital that means they struggle to get ahead while constantly behind. Perhaps to emphasize the reality, relevance, and importance of workplace sexism as a modern problem, Bennett writes in millennial lingo and short segments (maybe to accommodate a Twitter-length attention span?), and includes sarcastic comments and illustrations throughout. Introductions to chapters are 1-3 pages, and the remaining content of each chapter consists of paragraph-length snippets. While this at first seems like a unique and innovative approach to writing feminist theory that appeals to millennials, it soon starts to feel gimmicky and disjointed. The quick transition between ideas leaves little time to digest the material, and hardly makes a clear connection between one segment and the next. Although she tries to appeal to a broad audience, many of her experiences and suggestions come from her background in corporate settings, which doesn’t necessarily translate to other work environments. Her efforts to bring discussions about workplace sexism into the modern era are valiant, but limited.

I didn’t particularly enjoy this book. I was intrigued by the formatting early on, but quickly grew bored with it, and later grew bored with the content. Maybe I just don’t like thinking about work outside of work, but I felt tired reading this book. I do appreciate her efforts to modernize the discussion of sexism, and although she does throw in a few comments about intersectionality, her perspective felt narrow to me because it was based on her limited experience. I will admit she did have a few helpful tips. Maybe worth a read.


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The Amber Spyglass

By Philip Pullman

Across all the different worlds, Dust has been changing over the past 300 years, and the worlds themselves have been changing rapidly ever since Lord Asriel tore the sky open. Forces gather from the different realms in preparation for a massive battle that seems to center on the fate of Dust, and the fate of the ultimate Authority, God himself. While the opposing sides marshal their battle strategies, life goes on. Mary Malone finds herself in the world of theĀ mulefa, who depend on the giant seed pods that have recently begun to dwindle in number, threatening their survival as a species. Will and Lyra wander among worlds in search of the land of the dead and Lyra’s friend Roger. Mrs. Coulter follows her own agenda that leads her to Lord Asriel, back to the church, and even to the clouded mountain where the Authority lives. Meanwhile, Lord Asriel maintains a singular focus preparing for battle with the Authority. Somehow, all of these efforts center on Lyra and her freedom to make choices. A prophecy says she will be led into temptation, and her decision ultimately determines the fates of Dust, the Authority, and all the different worlds.

“The Amber Spyglass” by Philip Pullman is the third novel in His Dark Materials series, preceded by “The Golden Compass” and “The Subtle Knife.” Pullman crafts a narrative that spreads across all three novels, building through each story and adding layers of complexity and understanding. Even the titles themselves reflect on this progression: Lyra is gifted the alethiometer in the first story, Will gains ownership of the subtle knife in the second story, and Mary builds the amber spyglass in the third story. Each device facilitates the ability of the characters, and subsequently the readers, to understand a bit more about both the forces that impact their lives and how they can impact the world around them. As the culmination of the storyline, “The Amber Spyglass” moves at a rapid pace to keep up with the discoveries of the different characters. Chapters are shorter and skip around between different characters, giving roughly a real-time account of what happens to different characters in their different worlds. Pullman also adds an element to the reading experience by beginning each chapter with a quote, offering paratext that foreshadows the coming chapter. “The Amber Spyglass” is a relentless and enthralling culmination to the series.

This book is long, but moves quickly. Although I tried to slow down more to contemplate Dust and all the various implications of Dust, I was pulled by the story and still probably missed a few things. I also probably missed some of the metaphors between His Dark Materials and Christianity/various biblical stories. Even without catching every last nuance, this novel and the series are highly engaging. It offers a fantastic perspective on what is possible, with an emphasis on subversion, deceit, and independence. I highly recommend not only reading this book, but the entire series. After reading the first two, it’s almost impossible not to read this one.

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