I’m writing this review exactly one year after Samantha Bee boldly called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt” on her late-night television show Full Frontal. The reaction was swift. Within certain circles, her words stoked outrage and some called it a lazy critique. But for many others Bee’s words became permissive accelerant to the feminist fury already smoldering in the wake of the Donald Trump presidency.
Luckily, author Susan Rukeyser took note.
Rukeyser seized the opportunity to create a platform for writers fueled by this camaraderie and united fuck you toward the administration, and issued a call for submissions with an extremely short deadline. She wanted “lean, furious, feminist responses to this moment in the resistance.” It was “an invitation to declare independence from the petty, patriarchal bullshit.” The “collective scream” that soon filled her inbox ultimately became the powerful and inspiring Feckless Cunt: A Feminist Anthology, featuring more than fifty pieces of short prose and poetry written by thirty-five different contributors.
Every single piece in this collection delivers on Rukeyser’s call. All clearly using cunt as their muse, these writers offer more than their unapologetic anger and vulnerability; they give us hope that there is still enough energy among us to keep fighting back. These are compelling anthems against misogyny, and as a collection they are equal parts pain and protest.
It is impossible to single out just a few of the writers or pieces here; the writing and emotional resonance is too consistently strong for me to do that equitably. How could I possibly decide which, among themes of sexual assault, domestic violence, masturbation, body positivity, aging, consumer culture, sexual freedom, objectification of women, and the myriad ways society continues to oppress women on individual and collective levels, are the “best” ones? How could I narrow down the list when every single piece is truly unflinching with fists pounding against bare chests? These accounts are all relevant, whether they touch us firsthand or not. These words grow from the very same stories we hear all too often from our friends, mothers, sisters, daughters, and colleagues. It is precisely this familiarity that makes this collection worth reading because it reminds us that we are not alone. As I read this collection over the course of a week, I found myself rejuvenated by the end and not wanting to fall victim to complacency or worse yet: defeat. It is a collection I will return to when things seem particularly bleak so that I can remind myself, this is why we have to keep fighting.
I could very well end this review here knowing it might encourage other women to read the book. But doing so would be a huge disservice to the writers—and to all women—because it creates a gaping hole of necessary readership: men.
Let me blunt: if you are a man, you need to read this. There is no excuse for you to ignore what these women are saying because the pieces Rukeyser has curated are potent yet bite-sized. You can read one piece a week for a year and still only understand a fraction of what women go through their entire lives. It is not enough for you to listen only when it suits you or enters your personal sphere, whether it be your sister telling you she was raped or your daughter wanting to engage in a healthy sex life of her own choosing or watching a colleague get unfair and unequal treatment in the workplace just because she’s a woman. That is far too convenient and, ultimately, it makes you part of the very big problem. Although she wasn’t addressing men in her poem, Keri Withington sums it up perfectly for you too: “if you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” Fortunately, the fix is easy: the words gathered in Feckless Cunt will undoubtedly force you to start paying attention.—Kristen M. Ploetz