Workplace sexism harder to ID, can be fought

Friday, October 14, 2016, Vol. 40, No. 42

Nobody just handed you your job. No, you had to strike fast and scratch up a decent resume 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, 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?

The 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 much 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.

Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual

by Jessica Bennett

c.2016, Harper


295 pages

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, knowing 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 the author might 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.

Terri Schlichenmeyer’s reviews of business books are read in more than 260 publications in the U.S. and Canada.