Called “The Onion for women,” Reductress is a much-needed antithesis to the faux-feminist women’s magazines and their ilk that purport to empower women while really reinforcing the many ways women are taught to feel inadequate. Subversive, satirical, and monstrously clever, the writers at Reductress know how to skewer the “how-to” magazine article as well as the click bait-y listicles centered on self-improvement and products. It’s funny content that’s also furious with the gendered status quo, especially noticeable when Reductress goes beyond workplace sexism and double standards, as it did in August when the entire landing page was dedicated to rape stories.
And that’s both the good and the bad of Reductress’ book, How To Win At Feminism. It’s high quality and exceptionally well done, but there’s so much information packed into what feels at times like an overlong article. Such wryly self-aware satire is perfect in small, regular internet doses. And indeed, it does feel like much of the content here was written with an internet audience in mind. But spreading it out over the course of an entire book both dilutes the power of Reductress’ sharp critique and makes true the old adage of “too much of a good thing.”
But taken in discrete parts, How To Win At Feminism is as deviously funny as some of the best Reductress has put out. The passage “Feeling beautiful is the new looking beautiful” is one of the many parts in the book dedicated to feminism’s commodification (“more and more corporations are noticing precisely when and why we don’t like ourselves and are finally starting to help us fix it”). “How to femsplain feminism to your friends” articulates the weird way bloggy output talks down to women under the guise of teaching them about feminism:
Feminism is all about us women having each other’s backs. But more than that, it’s about setting an example for those who may not be as enlightened as yourself. After all, you’re not really a feminist unless you’re sharing a slice of feminism with all your gal pals and raising them up to your level… Femsplaining allows us to empower ourselves and other women at the same time, while throwing just a teensy bit of shade their way for being so basic.
It’s fantastic, at times cathartic, at times exhaustingly spot-on. How To Win At Feminism assumes a high level of feminist knowledge—it doesn’t teach feminism so much as it relentlessly, ruthlessly critiques the specifically 2016 ways that sexism wears the mask of feminism, online and in commercials, in pop songs and at work. This isn’t Feminism 101, but it’s not trying to be. For women tired of seeing the same old beauty standards reinforced in Dove commercials that pretend to be empowering, Reductress is a godsend. Like the fight of feminism itself, How To Win At Feminism is an exhausting, infuriating read that never seems to end. Good thing the writers of Reductress make it so funny.