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It's a Man's World
by Polly Courtney

Release Date: 15th Sep 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
ISBN: 978 1 8475 6148 0
RRP: £6.99

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The provocative byline is enough to make you grab this off the shelf...

“Lad’s mag”, Banter, is heading for the chop unless female Consultant, Alexa, can turn things around. The irony of her position is not lost on her and despite misgivings about taking the starring role of saving such an insalubrious title, the desire to excel in a man’s world proves to be too tempting a challenge. Thrust unceremoniously into the testosterone-fuelled atmosphere of Banter’s office however, with its misogynistic politics, herd mentality and an overwhelming distrust of the unwanted female Managing Director that has been dumped in their midst; Alexa quickly grasps the size of the mountain she has to climb – but at what cost?

Long-time friend, Leonie, is understated in her disappointment of Alexa taking the job. But feisty, go-getter, Kate, is less judgemental. The see-saw of her friends’ perceptions of what she’s trying to achieve, however, is nothing compared to the inner conflicts that steadily mount in Alexa’s own mind. Faced with sleazy, chauvinist deputy editor, Derek and his grubby underlings who seem determined to make her nine-month stint at the magazine as difficult and miserable as possible; Alexa knuckles down and becomes consumed by her need to make the magazine a viable business proposition. When Alexa’s lucrative idea of producing an app that enables users to upload and share explicit videos of their girlfriends goes live; she brings down the wrath of feminist group REACT and particularly, the persistent Georgie, down on her head – but that irritant dissolves into nothing when the app, her app, is cited in a gang-rape case.

Courtney clearly struggled with her stance on “lad’s mags” and their impact on modern society, as did her main character, Alexa, and the narrative is laden down with the heavy strain of their mutual conflict. Careful to voice both sides of the argument, interestingly, Courtney failed to consider the role female magazines have on the female perception of self-worth. With their message a convoluted blend of airbrushed images peddling the latest cosmetics to make you irresistible to the opposite sex, to the indoctrination of what is beautiful, or the promise of a handsome and attentive boyfriend if you learn sexual tricks – this aspect of the media would have perhaps been a more controversial subject to tackle. Dealing subtle hammer-blows to the belief in the harmlessness of lad’s mags content; in the end, it is Courtney’s unflinching and brutal honesty that ruptures any comforting rationalisation for their existence.

Part theatre, part social commentary: It’s a Man’s World nonetheless illustrates perfectly that the 21st century woman has more than the stresses and strains of elbowing her way in a man’s world; she also has to manage a conscience.

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