Feisty, unapologetic forays into the messiness of gender relations.
In these essays, most previously published, outspoken feminist Kipnis (Radio/TV/Film/Northwestern Univ.; How to Become a Scandal: Adventures in Bad Behavior, 2010, etc.) fashions a fitting companion to her previous, self-described “conflicted” work on femininity, The Female Thing (2006). Male types—e.g., “the Con Man,” “the Manly Man”—fascinate the author and offer a way inside the male psyche in order to find out what men really think of women—and why we should care. Refreshingly, Kipnis operates by plunging into her subject, getting her hands dirty, her critics be damned—for example, reading back issues of Hustler magazine before interviewing publisher Larry Flynt—“the Scumbag”—which director Milos Foreman would not do when he made his film The People vs. Larry Flynt. Declaring the contents of the porn rag downright “Rabelaisian,” however gross, Kipnis offers some admiration that Flynt built his empire from the idea of fighting sexual repression. The author provides lively examples for each of her “types”: “Humiliation Artists,” like recently disgraced politician Anthony Weiner, are really all variations of the eponymous shame-seeking hero of Philip Roth’s Portnoy’s Complaint. “Cheaters,” like Tiger Woods, can only operate successfully due to the phalanx of women who possess “willing self-abnegation.” “The Trespasser” of Jackie Onassis’ privacy, photographer Ron Galella, is now elevated as an “artist,” and his aggressive stalking of his muse has been airbrushed. Kipnis reserves the final section for “Haters,” namely critics like Dale Peck, right-wing biographers of Hillary Clinton and even radical feminist icon Andrea Dworkin. Unafraid of offending the cause of political correctness, Kipnis is the kind of unfettered, freethinking observer who even questioned the nature of “unwanted sexual advances” at her school’s harassment workshop: “But how do you know they’re unwanted until you try?”
Dynamite examples rendered in funny, spirited writing.