I first heard about Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club on the GirlBoss Radio podcast and I was so excited about the book that I had ordered myself a copy before the podcast had even finished. Inspired by her meet ups with other women struggling in the work place, Jessica has written an amazing book that looks at sexism in the workplace in the 21st century and what we can do about it. The book has a light-hearted feel to it, it is covered in these fabulous illustrations by Saskia Wariner, but the content is serious, practical and rooted in studies as well as personal experience.
This book really resonated with me. Whilst I live in a time and place where, in theory, there are no barriers to women achieving success in the workplace, women are still massively underrepresented at the top. Reading it helped to shed a light on why that might be and at the same time providing hope that changing the status quo is now in the hands of women more than it ever has been.
The book recognises that sexism today isn’t as overt as it was in the 1960s and 1970s when my mother’s generation were making their way in the world. As the book states
And whilst the sexism women experience is a large part of the book it doesn’t shy away from challenging women’s own behaviour and looking at how the ways we have been brought up and the beliefs we hold about how to behave at work don’t serve us well and may even be holding is back. Each one of these truths I recognised, whether it was the Herfectionist (placing so much pressure on yourself to be perfect in all you do) or the Impost-her (The overwhelming self-doubt many women feel when they are actually very talented). I either saw things that I have been guilty of doing (and still do) or I’ve seen in other women. What I love though, is that for every behaviour there is a corresponding “fight move” with practical suggestions about how to change your approach. And these suggestions are so obvious in some cases but it’s very easy to lose sight of what to do when you are getting stuck in to your work and the way to behave goes against everything you have been taught or absorbed from society growing up.
My favourite part of the book was “Rebel Girls: Feminist Fight Clubs through history” which offers a snapshot of over 40 groups of women from around the world who have or are figuring out how to negotiate the world as a woman. It is really inspiring to read about women around the world finding their voice and standing up for what they believe in.
This book offers a great insight into the challenges facing women in work today and some great tips to try if you are finding yourself stuck or not achieving what you want at work. But what it really brought home to me was that whilst I can change my own behaviour in the workplace to get ahead, we need to be doing more to equip young women with the skills they need to get on in their careers. We need to be teaching young girls the skills that will help them to get noticed and promoted, and encourage them in behaviours that are rewarded and not ones which are overlooked.
The book is a fantastic read (seriously, go get yourself a copy) and I love to imagine what the world would be like if every office (and school) had a feminist fight club in it.