Undecided and Outdated: book reviews

Undecided: How to Ditch the Endless Quest for Perfect and Find the Career—and Life—That’s Right for You by Barbara Kelley and Shannon Kelley. Publisher: Seal Press (2011). Self-help/career. Paperback. 287 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58005-341-9.

Outdated: Why Dating is Ruining Your Love Life by Samhita Mukhopadhyay. Publisher: Seal Press (2011). Dating/relationships. Paperback. 238 pages. ISBN: 978-1-58005-332-7.

Often examining various career and relationship advice for any innovative input to assist in my life, I thought these feminist authors might at the least provide a refreshing new approach to my job search or for the next date. Instead both retread a lot of what I already knew. Sure there are plenty of fascinating facts about women in the workforce in Undecided and about women vs. men and single women in Outdated. Both books fall flat and read too much like long blog posts. Neither provides concrete solutions. There’s hardly any career advice in Undecided. It’s just a depressing mess about how bad it still is for women in the workforce and that women have too many decisions to make and too many choices. Why are too many choices so bad for women? The authors never answered that question.

The last chapter of Outdated called “The Art of Feminist” is the best. Mukhopadhyay includes gems such as “feminism helps you figure out exactly what you want” and “feminism gives you the courage to walk away when a situation is not meeting your needs.” If only she’d structured the entire book around this chapter, I’d have been much more interested and felt more enlightened.

Here are some compelling quotes from both:

Which makes you think: In the same way that feeling we are somehow out of the mainstream—that we are the ‘strange exception’—can affect how we choose to define ourselves, it can also mess with the decisions we make . . . and often, the really important ones. The ones that take our lives in one direction or another.

And what about the fact that not every woman wants children? They at least should be safe from such bias. Er, right? ‘Fraid not. Call it the nonmaternal wall: Lancaster University profession Dr. Caroline Gatrell told the Daily Mail about her findings, which suggest some employers see their female employees who don’t want children as lacking in some ‘essential humanity’ and view them as ‘cold, odd, and somehow emotionally deficient in an almost dangerous way that leads to them being excluded from promotions that would place them in charge of others.’”

The four most common female professions today are: secretary; nurse; teacher; and cashier—low-paying, ‘pink collar’ jobs that employ 43 percent of all women. Swap ‘domestic help’ for nurse, and you’d be looking at the top female jobs from 1960, back when want ads were segregated by gender.

The endless obsession with how women are going to die alone because they have brains, careers, and casual sex has been the new ‘trend’ for a while.

There are other conditions that facilitate passionate/ dysfunctional relationships, too. As strong, independent women, we ourselves are often afraid of committing to relationships.
Other reasons women—self-identified feminists or not—find themselves in these situations include internalized feelings that we don’t deserve better, or a history of neglectful relationships.

Feminism’s association with lesbianism, anger, and man-hating is a result of effective antifeminist messaging that originated to tell young women that if they identified they wouldn’t get laid.

Feminism helps you separate out the fantasy of what women should want and what women should be from the actual reality of what we want and who we are. Being confident in who you are, regardless of what the mainstream media tells you, helps you decipher exactly what you want, not only out of your romantic relationships, but also in your overall life.

Longevity is not the only litmus test for a successful relationship, after all. Figuring out what you want and getting those needs met is a much better indicator of a successful relationship, regardless of whether it lasts one year or fifty years. Learning to relax and roll with the punches is something feminism can help you do, because as long as you are happy with yourself, you are never alone.

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