You’d think, fifty years* after the Equal Rights Amendment was killed by Phyllis Schlafly and her ilk, women would be on a level par with men in the workplace. Surprise.
Millennial women are dealing with a new reality: a more passive-aggressive, or even unconscious, sexism. Used to be, when a male coworker wanted to act like a sexist pig he’d ask you to go make copies for him and pat you on the butt as you went by. These days, it’s way more subtle, and so baked-in that both victim and perpetrator may be oblivious. But that makes it even more corrosive and dangerous.
The Feminist Fight Club is a human-behavior manual for surviving the workplace, and life generally. It’s funny and useful, with lots of tips for dealing with certain scenarios where men (and often, women) react to female coworkers out of what we’ll politely call unconscious bias. Although sometimes it seems pretty darn conscious. In so doing they happily impede or destroy your plans for having a nice little job or dazzling career.
The idea for the book came about because Jessica Bennett and her “Fight Club” – a group of women friends – would gather regularly to discuss work. They’re all in sophisticated New Yorky jobs so that added flavor to the anecdotes. Anyway, they’d bitch about such obnoxious male behavior as:
- How do you get the guy who always interrupts you in meetings to shut up without seeming defensive or overly sensitive?
- What do you do when a male presents your idea without giving you credit?
- What do you say when a guy in the meeting casually asks if “you’d mind taking notes?”
So Bennett put it all together in a funny, snarky, painlessly educational book. She offers dozens of such situations as the above, and for each, suggests four or five defensive strategies. Right there you can imagine how much guidance is packed into Feminist Fight Club.
One of the strategies that’s getting a lot of air time right now is amplification, which first came to my attention in this article about how the women at the White House are conducting a quiet revolution in intergender communication.
As a sixty-something woman who cursed and threw things when the Equal Rights Amendment went down in flames, I appreciated Bennett’s numerous shout-outs to us old chicks who helped get things moving towards equality.
Also, I admit that today’s workplace looks pretty scary. Discrimination has gone underground. When it’s above-ground, it’s very polished and slippery. The woman who IDs it and objects is ridiculed as hypersensitive. Wow, what an effective way to keep her in her place. Bennett has done us all a favor by writing this book. I want to give it to my 16-year-old granddaughter but it might be too soon, and I’m afraid of looking wild-eyed. (See? Even me.)
The book is so full of examples of sexism both on the job and in our culture generally that it’s enough to make you sick, but it’ll raise your awareness and your defensive stance. It may help change the workplace – yes, I’m optimistic, because if younger women are on to this, they can finally fight back. Five stars and a big thank you to Jessica Bennett.
If you didn’t see it earlier, here’s the video that started it all. It’s hysterical. Enjoy!
*Alert reader Holly La Pat questioned the 1982 date. She’s right that that’s the date the ERA was buried for good, after a couple of extensions. My reference was to the 1972 date. I remember it because I was 18, a bad age to feel so completely disillusioned. For more specifics, check this article.