New reviews: The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism
Jess McCabe // 2 August 2009
Ed: This month we’ve got two reviews of a book which has stirred up a lot of debate among feminists in the last few weeks.
Although Ellie Levenson’s feminist primer makes some sensible points, this is undermined by a raft of offensive statements, a defence of rape jokes and a desire to speak only to the young, white, able-bodied, straight, educated and middle-class, argues Amity Reed
When I read the press release that accompanied my review copy of The Noughtie Girl’s Guide to Feminism the first paragraph caught my attention. It read: “If you support equal rights, but are less enthusiastic about the man-bashing and bra-burning side of feminism, Ellie Levenson has the answer in this fresh and witty new look at the F-word.”
Really? A book supposedly championing feminism that would proudly trot out two tired stereotypes right off the bat? There’s not much witty or new about that, I’m afraid. I’m not sure if the author truly believes that a man-bashing and bra-burning side of feminism really is prevalent, or if Levenson and her publisher decided that accepting and perpetuating those stereotypes would score them some much-needed points amongst more dubious readers who may pick it up thinking they’ve come across the latest offering from the ‘chick-lit’ genre. Whatever the case, I wasn’t impressed.
As it is, those who do mistake it for ‘chick lit’ wouldn’t be blamed for their mistake – the cover isn’t entirely dissimilar to those within the shopping/romance/sex/friendship genré aimed at women aged 18-30. Featuring a silhouetted pair of legs in a skirt and heels, a smattering of stars and curly fonts, and use of the word ‘girl’ instead of woman in the title, there’s not much that sets it apart as a feminist text. Again, this seemed a conscious decision by the marketing team in an attempt to reach a wider audience. I suppose it’s a smart move if you’re trying to sell books and get ‘ordinary’ women to learn about gender issues, which I think is important, but it still promotes the notion that we can be drawn in by pretty covers alone and that feminism is something that needs softening up and toning down to be appealing.