REVIEWS: Equality of the Sexes

An infographic that presents the cover of Meg Wolitzer’s “The Female Persuasion,” along with a quote from the novel. (Ashley Hern)

An exploration of Meg Wolitzer’s theme of feminism in her newest novel “The Female Persuasion”

Novelist Meg Wolitzer’s “The Female Persuasion: A Novel,” finds itself ranked within Amazon’s Best Book of April 2018 shortly after its publication date on April 3. Centered around multiple dynamic characters like Greer Kadetsky, Faith Frank, Zee Eisenstat, Cory Pinto, and Emmett Shrader, Wolitzer’s vision for “The Female Persuasion,” can be interpreted as a commentary on intergenerational feminism within the United States’ east coast, along with female relationships and mentorship.

Readers possess the ability to swoon over the likability, personification and descriptions of each individual character within this women’s fiction story; however, Wolitzer’s failure to provide inclusive protagonists of color or of unfavorable socioeconomic backgrounds limits her theme of feminism to only incorporate middle-class white feminism concepts.

Wolitzer is a New York based writer who graduated from Brown University in 1981. Her debut novel was titled “Sleepwalking,” which was produced during her undergraduate study. Since then, she has produced several works including “The Interestings,” “The Uncoupling,” and “The Ten-Year Nap,” to name a few.

The contents of the novel contain 15 chapters separated into four parts titled, “The Strong Ones,” “Twin Rocket Ships,” “I Get To Decide,” and “Outside Voices,” resulting in the composition of a lengthy 464 paged hardcover work. The charming exposition of the novel heavily relies on Wolitzer’s development of enchanting protagonists Greer, Zee, and Cory. Ultimately, by the end of “The Strong Ones,” readers are able to view and relate to the different aspects and personalities of each character, which keeps them motivated to find out what happens next to each individual person.



Faith Frank, a famous political and popular figure within the novel, exudes charisma and magnetism to other characters and readers alike. As one of Bloomer magazine’s founders, her position provides insight towards the past and present of feminist politics, creating a generational bridge between older and younger feminists. Wolitzer displays the impact of mentorship and support through Greer’s personified growth as one of Frank’s employees.

“I know she represents this kind of outdated idea of feminism that focuses on issues that mostly affect privileged women,” Zee’s dialogue within the novel explains. “I totally see that. But you know what? She’s done a lot of good, and I think she’s amazing.”

It is no coincidence that Frank’s fictional manifesto written in 1984 was titled “The Female Persuasion,” as well. Parallels could be drawn between Frank’s message of female power, integrity, and dignity, to Wolitzer’s encompassing broad theme of feminism throughout her work.



Greer, the main protagonist, is introduced as a shy yet intelligent and motivated college freshman. Her struggle is illuminated quickly within the first chapter where she encounters misogyny at a fraternity house’s party. Greer’s experience with Darren Tinzler becomes a seed and moves the novel’s plot towards her development of an “outside voice,” with the help of Faith Frank and her foundation.

Zee, being the complete antithesis of Greer to an extent, is exceptionally political, confident, yet open-minded enough to hear other people’s opinions and views. Wolitzer’s uses Zee and her experience as a white queer woman to provide a perspective of the LGBTQIA+ community and their experience of feminism. Zee’s personal conflict concerns her lack of trust for other women, due to past emotionally charged betrayals.

However, Wolitzer’s dynamic characters are limited during such a political time and atmosphere, with examples such as the #MeToo movement, a record number of women running for office in political spheres, a backlash against prominent men for sexual harassment and assault, to name a few. Each of her characters exert the privilege of being white, middle-class, and pursuing and succeeding in higher education. None of her characters are given socioeconomic backgrounds that display the plights of all women in the United States.

“Historically, women have been more likely to be poor than men,” the U.S. Department of Labor Women’s Bureau reports. “Poverty rates for unmarried female householders with children are particularly high, and have the consistently been two or three times higher than the poverty rates for men and women overall for four decades.”



Furthermore, according to the Statistics Portal around 34.6 percent of American women graduated college or obtained a higher educational degree in 2017. Whereas, 33.7 percent of American men graduated college or obtained a higher educational degree in 2017. The study concludes that the rate of women pursuing higher education has increased by eight-fold considering the 3.8 percent of women that graduated or obtained a higher educational degree in 1940.

Yes, women are statistically becoming a powerful force in higher education. However, Wolitzer’s novel could have been more inclusive by portraying a character within the 65.4 percent of American women that did not graduate college or obtain a higher educational degree in 2017.

Overall, Wolitzer is able to tackle a novel about multigenerational feminism with several enchanting, dynamic and relatable characters. Each individual protagonist’s personal story, journey and battle is followed by the reader with emotional attention and excitement. However, her protagonist’s stories fail to provide the stories of marginalized women and men in the United States, developing concepts and themes about feminism that are not as easily accessible to everyone.