Reductress’ New Book Teaches You How To Win At Feminism
Many women have attempted to parse the finer details of feminism in ambitious books. Think Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex, bell hooks in Feminism Is For Everybody, or Kate Millet in Sexual Politics. Beth Newell, Sarah Pappalardo, and Anna Drezen are set to enter this publishing sphere next with How to Win at Feminism: The Definitive Guide to Having It All — and Then Some!, the blisteringly funny book which promises to help you “battle the patriarchy better than everybody else.”
The book is presented by Reductress, the parody site often called “The Feminist Onion”; they publish blisteringly funny satire including “The Most Soothing Essential Oils That Can’t Fix What Mark Did” and “I Love Pizza, Which Is Adorable Because I’m Hot.”
Newell and Pappalardo founded Reductress in 2013 to, as the site proclaims, “take on the outdated perspectives and condescending tone of popular women’s media, through the eyes of the funniest women in comedy today.” Since its launch, Reductress has garnered a devoted audience of more than 2.5 million people a month; readers were clamoring for a publication that would “go there,” and take aim at the ubiquitous condescension — not to mention the sexist, infantile, overly sexualized garbage — that is so often the media interfacing with women.
Today, Reductress expands its darkly delightful empire even further. The way Pappalardo tells it, How to Win at Feminism was born out of an opportune moment.
“I think around May 2013, we were noticing that pop culture and media had kinda latched onto feminism in a way that they hadn’t before,” she says. “And as it was getting kind of socially acceptable, it was also getting a little watered down with a lot of the messaging.”
“We did a piece on the site called ‘The Prettiest Feminists of 2014,’ which people freaked out about because of course they thought it was real. But it just reflected the kind of messaging we were seeing around the internet. So we worked up a proposal in 2015 and wrote the book over the summer. That was kind of the inspiration.”
How to Win at Feminism is divided into sections covering the basics principles of feminism (“How to Feminist”), beauty (“Feminism: Get the Look!”), career (“Women at Work!”), relationships (“How to Love and Sex”), and lifestyle (“How to Savor Being a Savior”). Readers are guided through each chapter by Plinky, a loony, second-wave feminist cartoon fairy who imparts rhyming nonsense along with vaguely disturbing hints at her past.
“It was kind of a silly joke that evolved into both nodding at second-wave ideas and the way that we kind of laugh them off,” Pappalardo says. “A lot of mainstream feminism doesn’t really acknowledge what happened in second-wave feminism and laughs it off.”
The book covers a lot of ground through a host of mixed mediums, reminding us of the length and breadth of media’s saturation with dubious advice and corrosive imagery for women. On one page, stock images of immaculate women might counsel you on how to avoid getting “too opiniony.” On another, the authors might help you craft opening lines to Tinder suitors using mocked-up phone screenshots.
How to Win at Feminism anoints several famous women as saints complete with illustrated iconography — i.e. Beyonce, “Our Lady of Feminism” — and even advertises fake products for weary women. While some might wish they could purchase the Mamala Walk-and-Talk Boss Bitch breast pump — which discreetly squeezes milk throughout the work day into a “colostomy-like bag” — the authors are most proud of inventing Vagilante. This anti-rape tool boasts a wide range of weapons as well as some unrelated, but helpful amenities, like a pair of sensible flats.
“I think I could build a small home with that thing as well as avoid getting raped,” Pappalardo says. “So it’s a unique tool.”
“Just having a flashlight and a sensible pair of flats, I think, would be nice,” Newell adds.
How to Win at Feminism even found a way to preemptively cover the 2016 presidential election madness with a guest column supposedly authored by Megyn Kelly, who touts the magical powers of “Republican feminism,” which mostly just allows you to wear pants.
“I’ve always found it a little interesting the way conservatives like Fox News co-op certain very basic aspects of feminism that are convenient to them,” Pappalardo says. “Particularly things that, like, we were fighting for 40 years ago. Civil rights era stuff. It’s utterly fascinating the way that Fox is now painting Megyn Kelly as this feminist revolutionary, at least in relation to everyone else that’s on that network. She’s basically being celebrated for being semi-moderate and having respect for herself as a woman in the world.”
But all joking aside — alas! — the women behind this book understand the real failure of many people to understand what feminism means in any permutation. Pappalardo laments the “reductive nature of the media,” which she believes lumps all types of feminism under one unwieldy umbrella. “There’s this question of who are you talking to, and why?” she says. “Is it to progress a genuine intersectional agenda? Or are you just selling make-up?”
Meanwhile, Newell sees the problem as much more fundamental. “Even on a much more basic level, people just don’t understand what feminism is at all. If you asked me 15 years ago what I thought a feminist was, I probably would’ve told you it was women who get mad about a lot of stuff. That’s the message I was given.”
Here’s hoping with Reductress’ scathing social satire, inquisitive minds will finally learn what feminism is — and what it isn’t! — along with the responsibilities that come with that understanding. It might mean acknowledging some depressing-as-hell facts, but, as the first chapter of How to Win at Feminism explains, you also get a bunch of cool new friends with glasses.
Snatch up your copy and learn to be a feminist right here.