Synopses & Reviews
In the female psyche nowadays, "contradictions speckle the landscape, like ingrown hairs after a bad bikini wax." So writes Laura Kipnis, author of the widely acclaimed polemic Against Love
. With "the gleeful viperish wit of Dorothy Parker" (Slate
), Kipnis now offers a fresh and provocative assessment of the female condition in the post-post-feminist world of the twenty-first century. For every advance toward sexual equality on the part of women in recent years, she argues, some new impediment just "seems" to appear. Ironically, feminism ran up against an unanticipated opponent: the inner woman.
An ambitious and original reassessment of feminism and women's ambivalence about it, The Female Thing brims with bracing and funny social observations informed by psychological acuity. For all the upbeat "You go, girl" slogans, women remain caught between feminism and femininity, between self-affirmation and an endless quest for self-improvement, between playing the injured party and claiming independence. Feminism is bedeviled by the same impasses and contradictions it seeks to rectify. But rather than blaming the usual suspects men, the media Kipnis takes a hard look at culprits closer to home, namely women themselves and their complicity in upholding male privilege, even as they resent men deeply for it. Which makes relations between the sexes rather thorny at the moment, and Kipnis serves up the gory details of the mutual displeasure between men and women in painfully hilarious detail.
In the tradition of The Feminine Mystique and The Female Eunuch, this is a pathbreaking work. As audacious as it is historically and socially grounded, The Female Thing explores age-old quandaries: the war between the sexes, what women "really" want, and to what extent anatomy is destiny after all.
"Three years after her controversial proadultery polemic, Against Love, Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern University, offers a wide-ranging and equally unorthodox investigation of 'the female condition.' She examines why women want both power and push-up bras, have fewer orgasms than men, why spouses have a harder time staying connected to each other after the wife quits work to stay home with the kids and why feminists keep focusing on rape, even though rates of female rapes are down while the rape of imprisoned men has escalated. Underlying the failure of feminism to achieve full equality for women, Kipnis says, is women's own ambivalence: they want feminism as well as femininity. Some of Kipnis's avenues of inquiry are well trod Katha Pollitt, for example, has deconstructed the 'opt-out revolution,' whose foot soldiers are Ivy League credentialed moms who trade high-powered careers for full-time motherhood, and Naomi Wolf long ago tackled the cosmetics industry. Countless critics have wondered why feminism was so easily co-opted by a market economy in which everyone works longer hours than they used to. Though not totally fresh, this fluid, sassy volume is guaranteed to electrify media and cocktail party circuits." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A clever, sarcastic, slender jeremiad....Kipnis offers some sound fodder for talking heads. A reasoned, intelligent, even elegant study, when its author isn't smartly smirking." Kirkus Reviews
"Incisive, engrossing, controversial, and circumspect, Kipnis offers a trenchant examination of the political and personal state of contemporary feminism." Booklist
"You've encountered most of the ideas in The Female Thing before, but Kipnis has a way of distilling them down to a well-turned sentence or two that's very pleasing. Hers isn't a gift to be taken lightly, since in the process she makes it clear how untenable many of those ideas are." Laura Miller, Salon.com
A study of the state of the female psyche looks at four key issues of feminism and femininity to reveal women's own complicity in their subjection as she explores the female condition in relation to the ideas of envy, dirt, sex, and vulnerability. By the author of Against Love. 40,000 first printing.
About the Author
Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern University. She has received fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of many essays and articles on sexual politics and contemporary culture, and of the book Against Love: A Polemic.