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The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability Hardcover – October 17, 2006
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From Publishers Weekly
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. (Oct. 17)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
At its core, the female psyche vis-a-vis its male counterpart fixates on four things: dirt, sex, envy, and vulnerability. No matter what else goes on in the time-honored battle of the sexes, the essential conflict can eventually find its way back to one of these areas. Distilling such gender issues into a tight discourse on the paradoxical stalemate of tradition versus progress in male-female relations, Kipnis offers a measured declamation on where the women's movement is headed--and where it has veered off course. Equal pay, equal pleasure, equal cleanliness, equal confidence: where gender parity is concerned, incongruities arise "like ingrown hairs after a bad bikini wax," claims Kipnis. Ambivalence abounds while activism idles, and who's to blame? Droll one minute, deadly serious the next, Kipnis is just as apt to point a well-manicured finger at women for social inertia as she is at men. Incisive, engrossing, controversial, and circumspect, Kipnis offers a trenchant examination of the political and personal state of contemporary feminism. Carol Haggas
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
Top customer reviews
Where else can you get a sense of the history and current situation for the opposite sex in less than 200 pages without a lot of personal opinions and with good references. I have been doing a lot of reading on this subject, at least trying to. The history is just as import and the current situation, because it helps in understanding what is going on now.
From my past reading it is clear that she has done some reading and research.
The fact that she is able to tell all that she tells in the number of pages is just incredible.
While I have read the other reviews and they seem more like expert technocrats completely fixated with truth and validity as opposed to content and understanding. Maybe for them the purpose is to further their own feelings about their microscopic disection of the female condition for that matter the human condition because we can't have one without the other.
She is not saying that if men just did more house work the problem would be solved, she is not saying that if men just talked more and expressed their feelings the problem would be solved. As one reviewer pointed out the dissapointment of no conclusion, but for me me that was the best part. If one wants conclusions than go to the talk shows or other quick fix sites.
So now I have a book that I can give to another male to read, not too long, and actually very interesting that he can read instead of how to improve his golf game. A book that he will probably read (not too long in pages or in opinions). A book that when done one can then discuss. A book that I can even give to my wife to read.
By the way, she knows I read and I have read to her some of the parts of course selected parts. We all know how that works. She said at one point that she does not want me to say, see your V is dirty that is why you like to clean. Not the point of the book.
So guys out there this is a must read, women too. I think that every human should read. This book needs to be on everyone's list to read. Does she miss some things, yes but the book is less than 200 pages what do you expect.
The two important things that I wish she addressed was the male "O" intensity issue and the aspect pre-birth control. In some societies women wanted men to go find short term pleasure some place else because the result for them were no such a healthfull thing long term. Then on the intensity of the "O" not all the same. So saying that men always can fall short in helping understand. Then significance of this being that birth control in our human existence is a relatively new thing and we forget about this.
So if you looking for answers... well look somewhere else.
But please read anyway... Must....
It may surprise conservatives that a book written by a leftist-feminist could possibly appeal to them, and undoubtedly some will disagree with this reviewer's assessment. Although, The Female Thing's central theme is key to my reasoning. Kipnis believes that it is their own "inner woman," as opposed to men or a global conspiracy, that acts as the biggest barrier to women realizing the progressive utopia they deserve--a utopia for which, the author concedes, many women are not even interested. Females have certain refractory predispositions and fascinations which cannot be propagandized away. This is revealed in the female longing for men, the way in which feminine personality types persist despite their sometimes being cloaked in feminist garb, and the world's assigning to women a higher worth based on their bodies. By identifying Woman as a free-thinking agent, Kipnis infuses the opposite sex with responsibility, and this immediately places her on a plane far above her peers. Hopefully, more non-equity feminists will agree that, socially and psychologically, our "respective anatomies produce different situations." That's not to imply that she is a biological determinist, however. What she does state is that, "what kind of anatomy you've been assigned invariably structures the female experience here on earth." These views are a major advancement for feminism as they eschew the lie that only social construction makes us who we are.
The book's greatest strength are the arguments produced by the author's iconoclastic and insightful mind. Many novel ideas are on display. She clarified that women's empowerment came with a cost because much was lost in the process. Furthermore, has not femininity been on its own, from its earliest beginnings, an incredibly effective strategy for the acquisition of resources? From there, we turn to a major dilemma for the modern woman: one can't really be feminine and a feminist at the same time for they are mutually exclusive conditions. The former denies weakness and frailty while the latter promotes it. We find that the root of women's ever-increasing resentment of men--a resentment which is largely not reciprocated--is their own disavowal and self-deception. Their over expectations can be attributed more to a lack of personal fulfillment than to the inadequacies of men.
While The Female Thing may not be a precise fit for conservatives, it undeniably marks an advancement in our relations with feminists. Its pages are steeped in argumentation and debate as opposed to calls for castration and lesbianism. Laura Kipnis is her own woman and not a slave to dogma which is all we can ask for. When leftist-feminists desire truth over propaganda they become allies or worthy opponents instead of buffoons walking around blaming "the other" for their own poor decision making. If her peers follow her example, political correctness will join the gargoyle that sired it, Marxism, upon the list of intellectual viruses which only history will remember.
Sometimes she criticises in a new, vivid way. Her particular take on how "working women" may have not really helped matters all that much, despite the proclamations of equality and independence, I found especially interesting reading. The woman's husband's income has been depressed by employers as a result of more women working, so less family income in fact at the end. And she is now doing the "double shift" at home.
Sometimes, though, the delightful, wry humour and insight did seem to occasionally lack a bit of a heart: but maybe that's necessary sometimes. A couple of things I thought weren't quite true. For example, she may well be right that the 'maternal instinct' in general may not exist and in fact be socially constructed - but I suspect the biological act of procreation, giving birth and lacation and looking after a baby, that instinct does mostly kick-in. And the final paragraph /sentence of the book was a bit of a let-down, especially after the erudite wit and insight before.
As for the subject matter, ironically, a mystery remains at the end of it all.