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Cocky Feminism

Laughing, or interviewing, our way out of patriarchy

Amanda Marcotte, best known for her blogging, has a new book that proves she can play tough in multiple media. It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments (Seal, $13.95) showcases Marcotte’s acerbic yet casual feminist tips for less-than-perfect situations (whether you’re in an “abstinence-only” classroom or maneuvering the “wedding-industrial complex”). Although the subtitle is true — the book is indeed a guide — Marcotte goes the extra mile: this book serves as a primer for current feminist issues and does so in an ironic, sarcastic, cocky-but-well- informed tone that will be instantly familiar to younger readers. The advice itself ranges from the highly practical (when buying a sex toy in a state which bans them, remember to refer to the merchandise as “educational models”) to the more-for-laughs (the best way to avoid the bouquet-toss at a wedding is to be the DJ, so start practicing now). But the exposure she provides to the issues on the minds of today’s feminists feels vital, and Marcotte makes it seem that, if nothing else, we can laugh our way out of patriarchy.

In Our Own Voices: A Guide to Conducting Life History Interviews with American Jewish Women (Jewish Women’s Archive, $25) is another new guide. This comprehensive volume is accessible to the genealogically inclined layperson, but the tone is serious and the writing is thorough. The guide includes a general overview for conducting interviews, short essays by academics about trends in Jewish women’s lives, and suggested questions and forms. The JWA lists principles about the professionalism needed for a good interview, and the questions included here are probing and diverse, which makes this guide useful for both professional and amateur interviewers. Rarely is the art of recording life histories treated as the valuable skill it is. While not light armchair reading, this volume is certainly a useful tool for anyone looking to learn about the lives of Jewish American women.