cover image Problematic: How Toxic Callout Culture is Destroying Feminism

Problematic: How Toxic Callout Culture is Destroying Feminism

Dianna E. Anderson. Potomac, $24.95 (200p) ISBN 978-1-61234-961-9

Anderson (Damaged Goods) delivers an astute and accessible analysis of feminist popular culture debates, arguing that the “hunt for perfect, ideological, purity” leads many feminists to “make the perfect the enemy of the good,” and the label “problematic” in particular encourages feminists to boycott, rather than engage with, imperfect art and entertainers. In chapters that cover a wide range of media—film, music, newspapers and magazines, sports, video games, and social media—Anderson advocates for engaging “in good faith” with “problematic” cultural products. To dismiss, for example, One Direction as purveyors of the male gaze means ignoring the agency—the active returned gaze—of teenage girls. In “Selfie Game Strong,” Anderson casts Kim Kardashian as a one-woman “femme rebellion” and suggests Kardashian should be a role model for children because she exhibits “a healthy love of self” and “a resistance to being shamed.” Anderson’s position isn’t a knee-jerk disagreement with all condemnations: she says she still watches Chinatown despite Roman Polanski’s abuse of a teenage girl, but can no longer tolerate Woody Allen’s films; she asserts that bell hooks’s critique of Beyoncé’s Lemonade as compromised by its participation in capitalism and its commodification of black female pain asks too much of the performer but is also legitimate. This is an in-depth, insightful, and novel contribution to feminist debates about popular culture. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Associates. (Sept.)