How can women thrive in a workplace built on a sexist foundation? Join a Feminist Fight Club.
Jessica Bennett has built her career on exploring and exposing the ways that gender affects your everyday life. After college, Bennett spent seven years at Newsweek where she worked on a story about that magazine’s history of internal sexism called “Are We There Yet?” It was a landmark piece of soul-searching, using a 1976 gender discrimination case to look at how Newsweek had adapted since then, and it set the tone for her future work.
After leaving the magazine, she did stints at Tumblr and with Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Foundation, where she met with women across hundreds of industries, learning about how sexism has made their professional life more difficult.
The 2016 publication of Feminist Fight Club combined all of Bennett’s causes into one concise, powerful manual for professional survival. Backed by research, she provides tactics for negotiating salaries, dealing with toxic behavior, and seizing power. She told the Washington Post, “I wanted something that you could flip through, that you could stuff in your purse, that you could hide underneath your cubicle if you had to, that you could read in the bathroom right before you went out for your raise. That you could read like a weapon.”
The book was clear-headed and uncompromising, laying blame both on external sexism as well as internal self-sabotaging behaviors. It was a critical and commercial success.
But more importantly, Bennett wanted people to use it to organize. After reading the book, women were encouraged to form local groups to share information and help each other succeed. These local Feminist Fight Clubs have been spotted all over the world.
That kind of ground-level connectivity is what makes a niche brand thrive. Being able to support other women in their own workplaces as they do the same for you is an incredibly powerful thing, and Bennett’s book gave them a path to do so without jeopardizing their careers.
In 2017, the New York Times announced that Bennett would become the venerable paper’s first Gender Editor, overseeing an effort to “deepen the engagement of female readers around the world.” In doing so, she helps other section heads look at their work from new viewpoints. She also continues to travel and speak on gender issues at workplaces around the globe.
Dismantling the institutional framework of sexism isn’t a one-woman job. So Jessica Bennett wisely wrote a manual for a whole army to do it together.