The Sweetest Debut: Jessica Bennett on Taking Down the Man and Writing in the Middle of the Night


Welcome to the Sweetest Debut, a new and regular installment in which we reach out to debut (or near-debut, we’re flexible!) fiction, poetry and nonfiction authors working with presses of all sizes and find out about their pop culture diets, their writing habits, and their fan-fiction fantasies.

Next week marks the release of Jessica Bennett’s Feminist Fight Club: An Office Survival Manual for a Sexist Workplace. Using the collective wisdom of her own feminist crew, she turns office sexism into something funny and combat-worthy, giving tips with how to deal with such common hurdles as Menstru-haters, Manterruptors, and (my personal bête noire) Bropropriators. She told Flavorwire about the real-life inspiration for the book’s title and her late-night writing habits.

What is your elevator pitch to folks in the industry describing your book?

You mean the bane of my existence? I have like 12 versions. The simplest: Part manual, part womanifesto, FEMINIST FIGHT CLUB is a humorous yet incisive guide to battling sexism at work. It is 21 percent more expensive for men.

What you tell your relatives it’s about?

TAKING DOWN THE MAN, muahahahaha.

How long was this project marinating in a draft or in your head before it became a book deal?

I suppose since I began my career — though I didn’t realize it. The book was inspired by my real-life feminist fight club, a group of women I’ve been meeting with since I began my career at Newsweek almost a decade ago. We’d meet monthly, and we still do, to share advice, support, and tricks of the trade from our respective miserable sexist jobs. (OK they weren’t always miserable, but they were sexist.)

Name a book or other piece of art that influenced your writing for this particular project

I spent a lot of time digging through old 1960s manifestos from the women’s liberation movement, and became a bit obsessed. The groups had names like Redstockings, W.I.T.C.H. (the Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell), the Lesbian Avengers, the Third World Alliance and S.C.U.M. — the Society for Cutting Up Men — and they put out brilliant declarations like the Black Woman’s Manifesto, and often absurd ones like S.C.U.M. I think SCUM scared the bejeezus out of a lot of people, but to read it today I can’t see how it could be viewed as anything but parody — and it’s actually quite hilarious. It parodied man as an “incomplete female” who was deficient due to his Y chromosome, causing him to be emotionally stunted, egocentric, and lacking empathy. It was distributed throughout the Village, charging women one dollar and men two dollars.

Your favorite show to binge watch when you’re not writing?

Broad City

What’s the last movie you saw in theaters?


Do you listen to music while you’re writing? If so, what kind?

I have always envied those who can write and listen at once. I can’t, sadly.

Do you prefer working in a buzzing coffee shop or silent library?

Buzzing coffee shop when it’s been days since I’ve spoken to another human; silent library when I’m actually trying to write.

Do you write at a desk, bed or couch?

An here I thought my bed was my desk…

Are you a morning writing or late-night writing person?

Middle of the night.

Do you tend towards writing it all out in one big messy draft and then editing, or perfecting as you go (or something in between)?

Perfecting as I go, often to my detriment!

How do you pay the bills, if not solely by your pen and your wit?

I am really hoping to turn my dog into an internet influencer. Just kidding (kind of) — I write articles as a journalist, mostly for the New York Times, and they (usually) pay my bills. I sure hope I can sell this book!