One of the most fun things about owning a Sharing Library (which is the un-trademarked name of the more ubiquitous Little Free Libraries) is finding treasures like these generously popped in by an anonymous donor. I’m so glad I decided to peek in to mine when I did, so I could snag this before anyone else carried it away!
Men To Avoid In Art And Life by Nicole Tersigni is a gift book, similar in design to art/coffee table books but significantly smaller in size, consisting primarily of illustrations with pithy captions. The largest chunk of text comes from the foreword by comedian Jen Kirkman, which is of a tone with the rest of the book.
Based on Ms Tersigni’s popular Twitter thread, this tome collects details of classic art (with a very helpful index in the back! I can’t believe I didn’t know Charles van Beveren before this,) often depicting a woman whose expression can be easily interpreted as her being bored or bothered by the man next to her. Each illustration is captured with the kind of misogynistic statements that are all too easy to find appended as supposedly clever comments to innocuous tweets on Twitter. The juxtaposition is often witty, almost always hilarious, and 100% accurate of the experience of most women in the 21st century.
And that’s really why these tweets became popular enough to be collected into a pretty volume you can hold in your hand and flip through at your leisure: the sense of kinship with women throughout history who had to endure the same kind of nonsense we did, with even more limited recourse to fight back. It’s both comforting and vindicating to know that listening to men being shitty isn’t new, that our foremothers didn’t necessarily put up with it lightly, and that we can and almost indeed owe it to them to proclaim misogyny unacceptable, whether boldly through direct political action or more subversively through humor like this.
The only drawback of MtAiAaL is that this book, like much classical art in the Western canon (though I do use the term “classical” loosely, as more modern pieces by Toulouse-Lautrec and Degas are also included here,) is overwhelmingly white. But what can you do when such material is your primary source to work with? The point of the volume stands for all people regularly condescended to by men who sail through the world pretending to be smugly superior to everyone else. Perhaps future books like these will feature more diversity, given the better artistic representation people of color have had in recent decades.
I’m planning on loaning this book to my lovely friend Karin before popping it back into my Sharing Library for someone else to grab and chuckle over. I’m just glad I had a chance to savor it before I can pass on the love.
Men To Avoid In Art And Life by Nicole Tersigni was published August 11 2020 by Chronicle Books and is available from all good booksellers, including