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.