BOOK REVIEW: How to Win at Feminism the Definitive Guide to having it all – and Then Some! by Reductress, Elizabeth Newell, Sarah Pappalardo, Anna Drezen

BOOK REVIEW: How to Win at Feminism the Definitive Guide to having it all – and Then Some! by Reductress, Elizabeth Newell, Sarah Pappalardo, Anna Drezen

Harlequin UK
November 2016
Paperback, $34.99
Reviewed by Natalie Salvo

Non-Fiction/Society & Culture

5/10

Comedy is something that looks easy but is really difficult. It’s also something that can be quite derisive and what appeals to one person can be an anathema to somebody else. How to Win at Feminism is a book from the team behind Reductress, a website that takes pride in being like The Onion but for feminists. Their book is a confusing one because it is meant to be a satirical look at feminism or what you’d get if a women’s magazine had discovered feminism for the first time. So the tone is meant to be tongue in cheek and humorous but it’s actually set out in such a way that some readers could believe it’s the truth or a self-help manual. If readers fail to understand the jokes or the true intent behind the book or are unfamiliar with Reductress, then this book could actually be quite damaging in some respects.

There is no question that the team at Reductress are taking a fresh approach to feminism. Their website regularly features articles that are fun and filled with their unique brand of sarcasm and wit. But these articles do not purport to be informational or truth-based texts. This book is like an extended version of their website (one that receives over 2.5 million hits per month) and it also contains lots of colourful illustrations, graphics, and photographs.

Perhaps feminism is one of those sacred cows that should not be joked about, as it’s actually a rather serious topic with some bleak implications for over half of the world. The gender pay gap continues to exist and is unlikely to be closed in our lifetimes, men like Donald Trump try to erode women’s reproductive rights, and the rates of domestic violence towards women remain high. Present-day feminists have enough trouble selling the cause and getting men and women to take things seriously, so do we really need material that actually feels misogynistic when it goes so far as to brand women like Roxane Gay, Malala Yousafzai, and Hillary Clinton as “bad” feminists.

The biggest problem this book has is that it’s not always easy to know where a joke ends and where the facts begin. A section like “How to love your body even though hers is better” screams sarcasm. There is also a funny part where the Kardashian family are named and assigned complex job titles like Kim “Seeker of opportunities” Kardashian West, Kris “Founder of an empire” Jenner, and Khloe “Brand Strategist” Kardashian and here the joke is pretty clear. But where you have a quote like: “Feminism is multifaceted, with women of many different backgrounds and privileges working together for equality. Although there are several types of feminists, most feminists fall into one of two camps: Beyoncé and Taylor Swift” the water becomes a little muddier because here the first sentence is actually true before things diverge towards general silliness.

How to Win at Feminism is a book that needs to be taken along with a large grain of salt as it is supposed to be a funny and subversive – if misguided – look at feminism for millennials. The writers even include acknowledge this, with, “At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of cute klutzes who wrote an effing book” but is this admission at the end of the book one that is too little too late? If How to Win at Feminism achieves anything it is to prove that for some people feminism isn’t and will never be a laughing matter.

BOOK REVIEW: How to Win at Feminism the Definitive Guide to having it all - and Then Some! by Reductress, Elizabeth Newell, Sarah Pappalardo, Anna Drezen

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