Funny ladies write funny books

By Amanda Marcotte
Friday, June 6, 2008 23:06 EDT
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A couple of book reviews tonight for some short, funny books. First of all, Jen Sorensen’s cartoon collection Slowpoke: One Nation, Oh My God!. I met Jen at the WAM! conference, and I have to say that the arch humor she showcases in her comics is exactly how she acts in person. There’s usually some minor disconnect between what you read on the page and how someone comes across in person, but for some reason, Jen has the perfect fit going on.

This book made me snort with laughter. Seriously, it’s like the funniest comic ever. (Sorry, “Get Fuzzy“.) I made Marc look at every other comic until it became clear that it would be more efficient if he just read the entire book himself.

I enjoyed that Jen’s take on politics tends to veer towards, “Am I the only person who sees how fucked up and stupid all this is? Please tell me I’m not.” I appreciated that, for the simple reason that I often think I’m crazy, and this book reassured me that I’m not. The added bonus to the book is that with every cartoon, she has a little paragraph of thoughts, inspiration, or background, and it’s all almost as funny as the cartoons. Almost, because it’s hard to be funnier than these cartoons.

The other book I’ve dashed through and want to review is Jessica Valenti’s He’s a Stud, She’s a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know. Where Jen is full of arch humor, Jessica is crass, but in a good way. Seriously, coming from another person who thinks crass is funny, that’s a high compliment.

The book covers territory that we all know from reading the feminist blogs, especially Feministing, but this is no reason to skip purchasing and reading it. Or, more importantly, putting it in your purse to carry around so whenever someone says something ignorant and sexist, you can immediately look up what double standard they’re using and get handy facts and figures to refute it. Its compact size is basically made for this task. And let’s face it; no matter how searchable Feministing is, it’s never going to be as efficient or portable to look stuff up on their website as to quickly scan the 50 chapters in this book and turn to the right one.

I mean, don’t look to this book for deep analysis. Each chapter is 2-3 pages. But that’s just it, isn’t it? In our sound bite-driven culture, feminism, with its hefty academic presence, heavy tomes, manifestos, meetings, and other time-consuming weightiness seems very retrograde, even as it’s still imagining the most progressive of worlds. This isn’t just about snagging the young ones, either, though it’s clear from this book, and Jessica’s previous one and her website that a big part of her mission is making feminism appealing to young women who might be intimidated by being dumped headfirst into Jargon Land without getting a warm-up lap.

But as an advanced patriarchy-blamer (phrase stolen from Twisty), I can say that I didn’t feel this book was beneath me, because it’s clearly a reference guide. Even with my giant brain, I cannot be expected to know all sorts of facts and figures about pay equity or other such things. I need those brain cells to remember the line-ups of entire bands that no one but myself cares about. This is the modern era (post-printing press) and we can outsource some of our knowledge to the written word. And this book, which is like the chapbook version of the MLA Patriarchy-Blaming Guide, is perfect for my quick fact checking needs. Will I carry it around in my purse? Probably not every day. But if I suspect that I’ll be having verbal debates with sexists? Absolutely. I will also keep it on my desk to swat the cat on the butt* and quickly look up important facts when arguing with internet Neanderthals.

*She likes it.

Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte
Amanda Marcotte is a freelance journalist born and bred in Texas, but now living in the writer reserve of Brooklyn. She focuses on feminism, national politics, and pop culture, with the order shifting depending on her mood and the state of the nation.
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