Being a woman in 2017 is not the easiest job. Jessica Bennett, author of Feminist Fight Club knows this all too well – and she’s here to help. “Recognizing sexism is harder than it once was. Like the micro-aggressions that people of color endure daily—racism masked as subtle insults or dismissals—today’s sexism is insidious, casual, politically correct, even friendly.” The novel discusses the everyday challenges women face in the working world. While her tips to combat misogyny are geared toward the workingwoman, us college-aged females can start to take notes and even employ some of Bennett’s vital advice.
We’ve all encountered mansplaining and hepeating, but those two instances are just barely brushing the surface of our society’s deeply ingrained sexist attitudes toward women. When women are the minority in the room, whether it is a classroom or a workplace, they tend to shrink. They make themselves smaller, not out of choice, but because the men take up most of the intellectual space. When they do decide to speak up, share opinions or suggest ideas, they are met by mansplaining – “Well, actually, it’s not that simple,” – or hepeating, the repetition of an idea and consequently receive all the praise.
Bennett calls this “Imposter Syndrome,” she further explains, “[It] wasn’t coined as a term until the 1970s, but it’s safe to assume women have always felt it: that nagging feeling that, even after you’ve just done something great, maybe you actually don’t deserve the praise.” Hepeating and mansplaining take turns in pushing the negative feedback loop in a woman’s mind: she fears failure in front of “the man”, becomes less likely to speak up, and thus she shrinks more.
With the rise of feminism, it’s easy to see the correlation between more women being empowered and more women pursuing higher education. Women are verbally and subconsciously told by society that they shouldn’t be in male-dominated fields, like STEM or sports broadcasting, (I’m looking at you, Cam Newton). If anything, more women should be in those fields. When women fight back against these views, it only empowers those who look up to them to pursue a life with the same kind of passion and confidence.
More women are pursuing education in whatever the hell they want, despite harsh male critics that hold claims of certain industries being “theirs.” If this were even ten or twenty years ago, we would see significantly less women pursuing a career in a male-dominated field. Now, according to the Boston Globe, women are gradually filling more seats in the classroom to pursue their careers, sometimes even accounting for more than 50 percent of the student body population. More women are getting degrees now than in any point in history. So, if women are gaining footing in the classroom, then why is that success not translating to the workplace?
Elisa Kreisinger, an expert feminist from Refinery29 who not only researched outside sources, but also interviewed Bennett on her podcast series “Strong Opinions Loosely Held” wrote about how studies showed that “male undergraduate biology students not only overestimated their own performance, but they also overestimated the performance of their male peers. Not surprisingly, the male students underestimated the academic performance of their female peers as well.” Kreisinger continues on to say, “Focusing on the obstacles that hold competent women back rewards men for being mediocre at their jobs and punishes women for excelling at their jobs. If anyone should have a glass ceiling it’s under-qualified and underprepared men.” According to the article, men are more likely to be promoted and get jobs because they are overconfident in their abilities that are mediocre at best, while women who are actually good at their jobs fall short in the boss’ eyes because it’s “confidence over competence.”
You may be wondering how to fight such a large problem. The answer is quite simple though. You stand together.
Start by speaking up when you have something to share. Be confident in your answers in class – don’t let the ~mansplainers~ correct you when you know you’re right, and cut off the hepeaters when you see them stealing yours or another girl’s ideas. Standing up for other women in a group setting creates power in numbers; the more of you there are banding together, the less likely it is that men will try to treat you as inferior.
We can’t be timid any longer; we have to be assertive. A confident woman naturally gives off a powerful aura. Not to mention, have you ever noticed that men are more intimated by an outspoken and intelligent woman. This is especially true if you and your gang in the classroom all work together to act like a badass squad of brilliant women. Bennett calls this a “Feminist Fight Club,” which is “Your crew, your posse, your girl gang; your unconditionally helpful professional support system; your ride-or-die homies.” So, grab your gal pals and be empowered to empower others.