Tag Archives: nonfiction

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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Survivor Cafe: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory

by Elizabeth Rosner

Everyone copes with trauma in their own way, including the way they share their (hi)stories of trauma with others. However, there does seem to be a generational pattern of how trauma is passed from parents to children to grandchildren, and so on throughout human history. As a member of the second generation after holocaust survivors, Elizabeth Rosner has the experience of living with stories told and untold about the horrors her parents experienced during WWII. Her own experience listening to her parents, traveling to holocaust memorial sites, and bearing witness to the stories of survivors and children of survivors informs her understanding of not only the way families understand their past, but also the way communities, societies, and countries make sense of their collective past. Throughout her writing, she focuses primarily on the experience of holocaust survivors, but also delves into the stories of holocaust perpetrators (and their progeny), atom bomb survivors, refugees and genocide survivors, others who have experienced collective trauma. The themes she finds throughout these (hi)stories testify to both the indomitability and fragility of the human spirit, and the way that, spoken or unspoken, trauma is shared by more than those who are directly affected.

“Survivor Café: The Legacy of Trauma and the Labyrinth of Memory” by Elizabeth Rosner is part memoir, part exploration of the limited research available on epigenetics and the generational transmission of trauma. Rosner’s writing is centered on anecdotes, her own experience and the experiences of others that lead to informed speculation about what happens when parents do and do not tell their trauma history to their children, and what pieces of the full story are told. She takes a holistic view by including the story of holocaust survivors, their children and grandchildren, and also holocaust perpetrators and their children and grandchildren, questioning not only the ways people are hurt, but also the ways people are hurt by hurting others. Her writing is full of prose and vulnerable honesty, making her anecdotes compelling and emotionally-laden. Although her honesty reveals deeply painful truths about humanity and society, it is also imbued with a profound sense of hope. At times the stories she shares are so overwhelming it can be hard to connect with the emotional content of the book, which emphasizes Rosner’s point that we must bear witness to the suffering of others if we are to collectively do anything to reduce the amount of suffering in the world.

I was expecting something with a little more research to it, but the human stories are always more compelling than the numbers and statistics behind research. This book reinforces many of the anecdotes I hear through my work, and many of the speculations I have about how trauma is held and shared both for the person directly impacted and by those close to the trauma survivor. Her holistic perspective, including holocaust perpetrators, feels neither forced nor contrived, but necessary and balanced. The whole book is authentic and compelling. I highly recommend reading this one. 

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