A lively compendium of what Gloria Steinem didn’t tell you about feminist ideas and why they matter.



How—and why—do young feminists’ goals differ from those of their mothers and grandmothers? A philosophy professor has answers.

Despite its title, this energetic overview of several centuries of feminist thought offers few self-help tips until, late in the book, Hay suggests ways to deal with annoyances like “manspreading” and “mansplaining.” Instead, with a winning mix of scholarship and irreverence, the author lays out the philosophical underpinnings of feminism and how they have evolved through three waves: the first focused on female suffrage, the second on political and legal goals, and the third on the intersection of sexism and injustices such as “racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, or transphobia.” Hay traces women’s oppression partly to the unequal results of Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden: Adam simply “gets kicked out of his parents’ basement and told he has to grow up and get a job” while Eve and her descendants were thrown “under a bus.” The author also shows the clashing responses that women’s predicaments have inspired in fervent theorists and activists—e.g., Aristotle and John Stuart Mill, “Angry Feminists” and “Girl Power Feminists,” “trans-inclusive feminists” and “trans-exclusionary radical feminists.” Hay doesn’t mention Gloria Steinem but sums up the impact of many other signal figures, including Mary Wollstonecraft, Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Audre Lorde, Susan Brownmiller, Shulamith Firestone, and Kimberlé Crenshaw. Hay’s approach has its limits: Focused on theories born in capitalist economies, she takes too little note of the ideas of feminists outside North America whose support for socialist programs has helped their democracies race past the U.S. and Canada in achieving widely shared goals such as paid parental leave. Still, this book speaks to second- and third-wavers alike and could build worthy intergenerational bridges.

A lively compendium of what Gloria Steinem didn’t tell you about feminist ideas and why they matter.

Pub Date: Sept. 15, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-324-00309-0

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Norton

Review Posted Online: May 16, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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