This book (the full title is It’s a Jungle Out There: The Feminist Survival Guide to Politically Inhospitable Environments) belongs in a category I think of as ‘bus books’ - it will pass the time when you are on the bus, on the treadmill at the gym, or waiting for an appointment, and you can read it in small chunks and/or forget about it for awhile and not really lose anything.
Marcotte’s book is essentially a series of glib 2-4 page sections on various topics. Marcotte is a prominent blogger at Pandagon, and the book reads like a series of blog entries - short, pithy, more snark than substance. It’s the kind of book that assumes a basic knowledge of, and agreement with, modern feminism; if you already have that basic knowledge, there is not much reason to read the book (except to pass the time on the bus), as it doesn’t add anything to that knowledge or apply it to new areas. Yeah, purity balls and chastity rings are creepy - but there’s nothing here that would convince someone who doesn’t already agree, and no new analysis for those who are already convinced. Likewise for the creepiness of guys who see women who aren’t interested in them as a ‘challenge’ instead of as someone they should leave the hell alone.
The book is made to look like an advice book, but there’s not much advice here. The advice for young girls who are being pressured to attend a purity ball is that it may be grounds for legal emancipation - as if many 16-year-olds have the money or skills to do so. But that’s not really the point, for it to be real advice, it’s just supposed to be amusing. The advice for someone who is being pressured into having a big formal wedding is to tell the people putting the pressure on that you are going to have a true ‘formal’ wedding with ballgowns, evening gloves, and a string quartet; according to Marcotte, the minute that the relative or friend hears that there won’t be a DJ, they will relent.
The big problem I have with this book is that actual advice for how feminists and progressives might talk to relatives and friends with different beliefs is actually needed. How do you explain to someone close to you that you don’t want to have a big wedding, why you’re a vegetarian, and how it connects to your values? Those girls who are being forced to go to purity balls and pledge their virginity to their fathers (super creepy!) - isn’t there any real advice to them as to how they can talk to their parents and convince them that it’s a bad idea, without separating from them permanently? I think there is, but there’s not enough nuance or depth here to really start any of those conversations. There’s not really room here for much but smug satisfaction at what you already know to be true. But, like I said, it’s a good bus read.