The Female Persuasion


Meg Wolitzer

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The Female Persuasion Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Meg Wolitzer's The Female Persuasion. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Meg Wolitzer

Meg Wolitzer was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Hilma Wolitzer, was a novelist, and her father, Morton Wolitzer, was a psychologist. Remaining on the East Coast, Meg attended Smith College and Brown University, where she studied creative writing. She wrote her first novel, Sleepwalking, while still a college undergraduate. Published in 1982, Sleepwalking launched Wolitzer’s literary career, which has since been dedicated to exploring and excavating the depths of women’s minds and lives. In 1992, her mentor and friend, the acclaimed writer-director Nora Ephron, adapted Wolitzer’s 1988 novel, This is Your Life, into a feature film. Wolitzer’s hit 2003 novel, The Wife, was also adapted for the screen as a 2017 film starring Glenn Close. Wolitzer currently lives in New York City and teaches in the MFA program in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton, a branch of the State University of New York. She has previously taught creative writing at conferences, workshops, and universities, including the University of Iowa and Skidmore College.  
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Historical Context of The Female Persuasion

The 2016 presidential election, the 2017 wildfire of the #MeToo movement, and the deep rifts and shifts in contemporary feminism provided much of the basis for the themes, motifs, and issues throughout The Female Persuasion. The book’s opening chapter details a series of campus assaults, as well as the female victims’ attempts at retaliation against their male harasser and the administration’s willingness to turn a blind eye to his actions. These events seem directly tied to the tidal wave of allegations of sexual assault, verbal abuse, and misogyny that began piling up in October of 2017, as upwards of fifty women came forward to accuse movie producer Harvey Weinstein of rape, assault, and harassment over the course of his decades-long career as a powerful Hollywood executive. Just over a year earlier, similar allegations of rape and harassment from upwards of fifteen women surfaced against then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Trump’s election despite his racist, misogynist, and ableist remarks throughout his campaign created a sense of despair in many women throughout America and across the globe. At the end of the novel, set in the present day, many characters reflect on how “the big terribleness”—ostensibly a reference to Trump’s election—has impacted them and those around them. Contemporary feminism has been placed under a microscope by feminists and detractors of the movement alike as the political moment, especially in the States, has grown more and more fraught. Today, social commentators, politicians, actors, writers, and artists around the globe are questioning what it means to be a good feminist, a good activist, and a good ally for disenfranchised women, disabled people, people of color, and LGBT+ individuals around the world.

Other Books Related to The Female Persuasion

Meg Wolitzer is the author of over ten works of fiction, many of which engage with the themes found in The Female Persuasion, including feminism and femininity, power structures and misogyny, and families and communities. Her novels The Wife, This is Your Life, and The Interestings, all chart the lives of women dealing with the pressures of friendship, romance, and finding empowerment in a world which often seeks to keep women down. Gloria Steinem—the feminist icon who, it’s largely speculated, served as a major inspiration for the character of Faith Frank—is the author of numerous books of criticism and social commentary, including Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions, a book of essays whose topics range from an examination of the practice of female genital mutilation to an ode to Steinem’s mother. Other seminal feminist texts that may have provided the inspiration for both Faith and Greer’s books include Simon de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex and Betty Friedan’s second-wave feminist tome The Feminine Mystique.
Key Facts about The Female Persuasion
  • Full Title: The Female Persuasion
  • When Written: 2015-2017
  • Where Written: New York, New York
  • When Published: 2018
  • Literary Period: Contemporary
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Setting: Western Massachusetts; Connecticut; Manila; Brooklyn; Chicago
  • Climax: When Greer Kadetsky learns that Loci’s highly-lauded mentorship program for disenfranchised Ecuadorian women does not exist
  • Antagonist: Faith Frank
  • Point of View: Third-person omniscient

Extra Credit for The Female Persuasion

Have Faith. Faith Frank’s character has been compared to many real life feminist icons, including Gloria Steinem and Wolitzer herself. Like Steinem, Faith is a second-wave feminist who, after decades of on-the-ground activism, has found herself on the lecture circuit and working as a spokeswoman for women’s rights. Like Wolitzer, Faith was born in Brooklyn, and is a writer of feminist texts which have been read and praised the world over.