American Catfight: Political Wisdom for Women and Other Thoughts Towards Feminine Statecraft in the 21st Century
The biggest obstacle to women, according to Maryann Breschard, is other women. In American Catfight, Breschard posits that even the best-intentioned feminists have, along the way, exploited and undermined other women in their mad dash to power.
Breschard identifies several types of women who prevent other women from succeeding: haters (those who disempower and disenfranchise women they believe are “wrong” or “bad”), perfectionists (women who write off anyone who does not fit their narrowly-defined model of the “right” woman), and femamentalists (women who believe feminism is a “big tent” theory that should advocate for a wide range of issues, including LGBT rights, the environment, and more). Breschard primarily uses anecdotal evidence to support her definitions and observations, bouncing from a rant about Martha Stewart on one page to a critique of the Human Rights Campaign the next.
She then pivots to another modern-day catfight among women in her critique of the wedding-industrial complex. Commenting that, “many women today are similarly fraught about their identity and their dreams when entering marriage,” she suggests that women put away issues of identity and concern for feminist politics upon getting married. This change in priorities—which she dubs femipause—creates divisions and downright hostility between married women and single women. This is a point where in-depth research or quantitative data would have helped flesh out Breschard’s writing and lend a sense of credibility to her work. Instead, Breschard’s anecdotal stories of friends who have gotten married and become disengaged from her social circle do little to build out the concept of femipause or position herself as an authority in her writing.
The book concludes by stating that women are “poised to govern” in the twenty-first century, and Breschard provides several recommendations for feminists looking to do so. Some—like her recommendation that feminists simplify and focus upon certain core elements of feminism—are littered throughout her book and should come as no surprise to the reader. Others—such as putting more women in governorships across the country—are legitimately insightful, but come out of left field.
Ultimately, American Catfight is marred by its inability to synthesize the various political theories, pop culture musings, and personal ramblings of the author into a piece of writing that informs and engages the reader.