"Contradictions Speckle The Landscape, Like Ingrown Hairs After A Bad Bikini Wax"

I had been meaning to read 'The Female Thing' ever since it got enthusiastic but skeptical lady-peer reviews. Recentlyish, it came out in paperback and I bought it and put it into my carry-on! I don't know about you, but I read books like this as a sort of booster shot, a quick medicinal jolt that reactivates my feminist—um—consciousness. So when they're not actually painful to wade through I find myself recommending them overenthusiastically, the way you would a good doctor with a short waiting-room line. Read it, it's good for you!

'The Female Thing' is mostly about how we women are our own worst enemies, which is obvious, of course, but nice to be reminded of so cleverly and in many interesting ways. "Your self-loathing and neurosis are someone else's target quarterly profits," Laura Kipnis gently reminds us in the first of the book's four sections, 'Envy,' and goes on to parody the sinister helpful-girlfriend undermining of women's magazines and advice books with deadpan accuracy. "What about an edible thong? But remember that hotness comes from within. It comes from confidence and liking yourself.Consider whether you may be doing something that's putting potential dates off..."

The whole book is like this post's headline: epigrammatic and funny, conversational and easy to zip through and absorb. If there's a problem with the book at all, it might be that it's too unremittingly wry: "Still, how useful to have all those upbeat catchphrases about female empowerment floating around the culture just when the job market needed that influx of female labor," writes Kipnis just before devoting a quick paragraph to the "tough question: Did empowerment feminism end up playing the unwitting shill for the scorched-earth labor practices of the new global economy?" (A: Yes!) Being flip about weighty things is fine, unless the reader is craving something remotely prescriptive.

So, yes, here is 'The Female Thing' in a nutshell: 'This is how ridiculous things are, and if someone told you things were improving, here are the specific ways in which they lied, and all we can do at this point is be aware of the lies, sit back, and laugh at them.' Which I would SO rather do than go to a rally or something.