Not long ago, a group of prominent British journalists, all female, went out for an evening to get drunk on gin. Very drunk on gin. One of them walked headlong into a door. Another confessed to having been caught in flagrante delicto at a funeral. Eventually, they settled into one of their favorite pastimes: bemoaning—increasingly loudly—the sorry state of contemporary feminism. How had a movement that had once been so incendiary, so vibrant, and so effective become so … tedious? How had it been hijacked not only by stodgy academics but by Sex and the City divas: women who, as Caitlin Moran, a columnist at the London Times (and, as it happens, the woman who banged into the door), said, would have us believe that “if we have fabulous underwear we’ll be somehow above the terrifying statistic that only one percent of the world’s wealth is owned by women.”
Was it any wonder recent polls had found that 52 percent of British women and 71 percent of American women didn’t identify as feminists? The assembled ladies banged their fists on the table. They tossed back more gin. Finally, someone—it’s unclear who—said that one of them needed to write a book: something raucous and real about why feminism still mattered. A taking-stock of womanhood in an age of unprecedented freedoms and nagging contradictions.
And Caitlin Moran responded: “OK, I’ll race you!”