Authors Jennifer Keishin Armstrong and Heather Wood Rudúlph wanted to “dispel negative ideas about feminism” and give ladies “the tools to bring feminist ideals into their daily lives.” The result, part feminist primer and part self-help book, is certainly accessible: the chapters are loosely-organized riffs from a friendly and well-read perspective. The first half gets into ethical aspects of typical women’s magazine fodder: bikini waxing, plastic surgery, dieting, and fashion. The more interesting second half deals with relationships and social issues. The book offers thought-provoking quotes, lots of pop culture references, profiles of contemporary female role models from Lady Gaga to Michelle Obama, and a recommended reading list at the back. Also included are short, fun-to-read personal narratives that relate to the chapter topics.
Less successful are the media-fed generalizations, like “women are hardly ever seen in public sans makeup” and “we feel guilty for eating our own birthday cakes,” that have snuck into the book. Then there are the glossy lips on the cover, the oft-repeated enthusiasm for bikini waxing, and the title itself—as if feminism on its own isn’t enough. Sexy Feminism would make a worthy gift for that coworker in six-inch heels who thinks Rihanna’s devotion to Chris Brown is romantic, but those who guiltlessly feed cake into their unmade faces might want to give it a pass.
By Meredith Counts