October 16, 2016

Author ‘pulls no punches’ on workplace discrimination

“Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual” by Jessica Bennett
2016, Harper, $24.99 / $31.00 Canada, 295 pages

Nobody just handed you your job.

No, you had to strike fast and scratch up a decent résumé that packed a wallop. You knew there were other clock-punchers who wanted that job, too, and you were determined to beat them all. Turns out, though, that the work practically knocks you out every day, but in the new book “Feminist Fight Club” by Jessica Bennett, there are ways to attack your dissatisfaction.

A few years ago, Jessica Bennett and her friends all found themselves in the same place: someone’s living room, drinking seltzer and kvetching about their jobs. Each of them, it seemed, had a problem that sprang from a “gender war,” so they started their “club” to work on solutions.

Says Bennett, “Recognizing sexism [in the workplace] is harder than it once was.” Is a particular behavior friendly … or creepy? Was an overt transgression committed, or was it accidental? Are male officemates being clueless, or are they inadvertently reverting to “thousands of years of being treated as the dominant sex …”? And why do women still make less than a man for the same work?

1009-rh-bookreviewfightclubThe answers to those questions won’t come easy, but being prepared for every encounter will help. Know what kind of “behavior to watch out for,” says Bennett. Fighting back against “manterruption” is possible (women are interrupted at meetings twice as often as men); so is taking control back from a “bropriator.” Know how to stop the “mansplainer” in his tracks, and the “himitator,” well, dealing with him is a breeze.

Then again, your male counterparts may not be completely to blame for your work problems. Know how to avoid sabotaging yourself by not becoming “the office Mom” or the woman who can’t take a compliment. Eliminate vocal fry, fill-words, upspeak and constant apologies. Stand up, physically and behaviorally; learn to brag correctly; know the difference between truth and myth; find the perfect hack for the “Smile!” command you hate; give your sisters some love; and ask for that raise you so deserve.

The first thing you may notice when you flip through “Feminist Fight Club” is that it’s sassy. It pulls no punches in its advice, and practically demands that you stop whining about your job and do something.

There were times, however, when I feared that author Jessica Bennett may have limited her audience in her righteous, head-high stance: the information is good, but the delivery may turn away older women. They need the guidance just as much as do their younger counterparts, but they may not quite appreciate the bawdiness that accompanies the advice. Yes, there’s good instruction here, but some of it’s rather unprofessional. Yes, readers will laugh and learn, but they may also cringe at minor crudeness and references to men as “the enemy.”

Overall, I don’t believe this book is for a general audience. A by-the-book, button-down type or a return-to-work retiree may not enjoy its cheekiness much, but a Millennial may devour its words. For the latter, “Feminist Fight Club” could be a hit.

The reviewer is Terri Schlichenmeyer, owner of The Bookworm Sez. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 14,000 books.

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