The Female Persuasion
This is one of those books where I read, enjoyed, and kinda pushed out of my mind until I read a scathing review. Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion was a tour-de-force of a novel, and a great story, but nothing more. It's being hailed as this book that takes on "feminism" and our current political climate... but it's really just takes on one specific type of feminism. As Megan Reynolds writes at Jezebel in "Not Persuaded," "The marketing drive for Wolitzer’s novel has cast it as the latest Great American novel, prescient for the current political and cultural climate. “People say, write what you know, but it’s really, write about what obsesses you,” Wolitzer told the New York Times. “Write about what you’re thinking about all the time.” In that rubric, The Female Persuasion is a perfect microcosm of the concerns of a very specific set of women—white, middle-aged or older, middle-class—who are grappling with the ways the conversation they began is changing"
Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed reading this. I loved the way the different perspectives shifted and we got to enter different characters' lives. But: if Wolitzer is trying to position this book as a take on feminism – she falls short. It's very "White Feminist" ("a form of feminism that focuses on the struggles of white women while failing to address distinct forms of oppression faced by women of color and women lacking other privileges").
Constance Grady at Vox writes, "For the two women at the center of the novel, feminism offers not just political purpose but, more crucially, a chance to find the attention and approval they so deeply crave. It is the messy, painful emotions of this book, rendered by Wolitzer with exacting specificity, that make it so stunning, while its zeitgeisty politics are rather beside the point." I agree: it's the relationship between Greer (the young, idealistic feminist) and Faith Frank (the older, more established one) that is so fascinating. The feminism of the book falls way short — the one woman of color is shoehorned to support Greer's best friend. And as Grady continues in her review, the book "is vaguely aware that second-wave feminism is considered out of date now, but it reacts with wide-eyed astonishment to the idea that feminism should be led by anyone besides well-educated middle-class white women." Sometimes you can't Lean In, or Speak Out. And it fails to take that into account.
If you want to know what everyone is talking about, read this. If you don't care about the "zeitgeist" or one woman's idea of feminism, maybe skip.