Okay, jeez, this book means well but honestly, it’s like someone took a distillation of current events from the last ten or fifteen years and fictionalized it to make it easily understandable for and palatable to the average white woman. Here is modern feminism (with a bit of background on the movement in America) and, briefly, the problems its detractors correctly point out, with a love story and personal histories to make it all feel more relatable. It’s a perfectly pleasant, perfectly readable, perfectly vanilla book.
I actually picked it up in a bit of a huff (or rather, placed a hold on it at the public library in a huff) as a friend had sent me a copy of Naomi Alderman’s The Power, claiming it had life-changing properties. When I told her, quite gently or so I thought, that I was hesitant to read it because of its exclusionary idea of feminism, I was mansplained to regarding inclusivity. I wasn’t blind to the irony, but I was still deeply annoyed, enough so to care when one of the women’s magazines I read touted The Female Persuasion as a modern feminist novel. “Well,” I thought to myself, “let’s go see what all the moderns think of feminism.” But really, how much could I expect of a society that elected 45 into office?
Which isn’t to say that Meg Wolitzer doesn’t try, or that she doesn’t try enough. I mean, she clearly knows her audience, and knows as well enough of the criticism of mainstream political feminism to include it, however tangentially, in TFP. But I honestly thought Faith and Greer were both kind of awful, and I liked Cory for the most part except for breaking up with Greer for no discernible reason (and then also Lauren’s proclamation about his actions, like it was revelatory for Greer, which only proves that Greer is a total halfwit.) I liked Zee a lot and would have happily read an entire book about her, and that’s a lot of my problem with this book: I had to read about the mostly dull and marginally awful straight white ladies instead of the truly interesting queer woman because that’s how modern (American) feminism is. I’d like to think that Ms Wolitzer was just as aware of this irony as I am but I’m afraid that most of her target audience/market won’t be. Plus also there was a vague undercurrent of “critics are so tiresome” personified in Emelia’s sitter, who even I thought was obnoxious but well-meaning, thereby fitting right in with the rest of the novel.