The Female Thing by Laura Kipnis
Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability

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In the female psyche nowadays, “contradictions speckle the landscape, like ingrown hairs after a bad bikini wax.” So writes Laura Kipnis, author of the widely acclaimed polemic Against Love. With “the gleeful viperish wit of Dorothy Parker” (Slate), Kipnis now offers a fresh and provocative assessment of the female condition in the post-post-feminist world of the twenty-first century. For every advance toward sexual equality on the part of women in recent years, she argues, some new impediment just “seems” to appear. Ironically, feminism ran up against an unanticipated opponent: the inner woman.

An ambitious and original reassessment of feminism and women’s ambivalence about it, The Female Thing brims with bracing and funny social observations informed by psychological acuity. For all the upbeat “You go, girl” slogans, women remain caught between feminism and femininity, between self-affirmation and an endless quest for self-improvement, between playing the injured party and claiming independence. Feminism is bedeviled by the same impasses and contradictions it seeks to rectify. But rather than blaming the usual suspects–men, the media–Kipnis takes a hard look at culprits closer to home, namely women themselves and their complicity in upholding male privilege, even as they resent men deeply for it. Which makes relations between the sexes rather thorny at the moment, and Kipnis serves up the gory details of the mutual displeasure between men and women in painfully hilarious detail.

In the tradition of The Feminine Mystique and The Female Eunuch, this is a pathbreaking work. As audacious as it is historically and socially grounded, The Female Thing explores age-old quandaries: the war between the sexes, what women “really” want, and to what extent anatomy is destiny after all.

About Laura Kipnis

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Laura Kipnis is a professor of media studies at Northwestern University. She has received fellowships and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts. She is the author of many essays and articles on sexual politics and contemporary culture, and of the book Against Love: A Polemic.
Published March 10, 2009 by Vintage. 194 pages
Genres: . Non-fiction

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Kirkus Reviews

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A clever, sarcastic, slender jeremiad on the self-defeating forces that still ail women in the aftermath of second-wave feminism.

May 20 2010 | Read Full Review of The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, ...

Publishers Weekly

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Three years after her controversial proadultery polemic, Against Love , Kipnis, a professor of media studies at Northwestern University, offers a wide-ranging and

Sep 04 2006 | Read Full Review of The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, ...

The Guardian

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"The main reason that feminism and femininity are incompatible is that femininity has a nasty little secret, which is this: femininity, at least in its current incarnation, hinges on sustaining an underlying sense of female inadequacy.

Oct 19 2007 | Read Full Review of The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, ...


Flip to almost any page, and you'll get some eye-roll inducing ridiculous anti-woman myth repackaged as 'just telling it like it is.' Penis envy, women being obsessed with cleanliness (and men as incompetent oafs), women as constant naggers, women only interested in sex to control men, women as c...

Sep 11 2009 | Read Full Review of The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, ...

New York Magazine

Her centerpiece is a nuanced analysis of Naomi Wolf and Andrea Dworkin, a sympathetic yet unsparing exposé of how these writers have blurred the line between testimony and sexual fantasy, reconstituting notions of female masochism and delicacy and erasing the very notion of female power.

Nov 13 2006 | Read Full Review of The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, ...

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