The H-Spot

The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness


By Jill Filipovic

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What do women want? The same thing men were promised in the Declaration of Independence: happiness, or at least the freedom to pursue it.

For women, though, pursuing happiness is a complicated endeavor, and if you head out into America and talk to women one-on-one, as Jill Filipovic has done, you’ll see that happiness is indelibly shaped by the constraints of gender, the expectations of feminine sacrifice, and the myriad ways that womanhood itself differs along lines of race, class, location, and identity.

In The H-Spot, Filipovic argues that the main obstacle standing in-between women and happiness is a rigged system. In this world of unfinished feminism, men have long been able to “have it all” because of free female labor, while the bar of achievement for women has only gotten higher. Never before have women at every economic level had to work so much (whether it’s to be an accomplished white-collar employee or just make ends meet). Never before have the standards of feminine perfection been so high. And never before have the requirements for being a “good mother” been so extreme. If our laws and policies made women’s happiness and fulfillment a goal in and of itself, Filipovic contends, many of our country’s most contentious political issues — from reproductive rights to equal pay to welfare spending — would swiftly be resolved.

Filipovic argues that it is more important than ever to prioritize women’s happiness-and that doing so will make men’s lives better, too. Here, she provides an outline for a feminist movement we all need and a blueprint for how policy, laws, and society can deliver on the promise of the pursuit of happiness for all.



Ultimately the greatest service a woman can do to her community is to be happy; the degree of revolt and irresponsibility which she must manifest to acquire happiness is the only sure indication of the way things must change if there is to be any point in continuing to be a woman at all.

—Germaine Greer

FOR THREE YEARS of my midtwenties, the happiest I felt was in the backseat of a car, late at night, driving down the FDR on the east side of Manhattan. I would look out the window across the river at the lit-up Pepsi-Cola sign in Queens, then the Domino Sugar factory in Williamsburg, and finally the three bridges—Williamsburg, Manhattan, Brooklyn—the last of which would take me home. I took that drive probably a hundred times. It was usually dark, maybe 11 p.m., maybe 3 a.m.; maybe the sun was already peeking up. I would slump back, gaze out, and silently calculate how long I had to sleep before I had to be back in midtown Manhattan. But in those nighttime hours speeding down the East Side, I would look at the outer borough lights and the imposing bridges and this impossibly bright city and remind myself to grasp at the one thing that made me happy: at least you're here.

Up until that point, I had spent most of my life doing things right. I was a good student in high school, went to college, and then chose a path to an upper-middle-class life that is well worn by risk-averse overachievers: law school. All around me in New York City it seemed people were doing dynamic, fascinating things, but I had no idea how to be one of them, no knowledge of how to balance my desire for an interesting life with the need for stability. And growing up with parents who were the first in their families to elbow their way into the middle class, I understood instinctively that stability mattered most. So, more than $200,000 in debt from law school, I took a job at a Manhattan law firm, clicking like a Clydesdale in cushion-soled heels through the front doors of a big Midtown building every morning, feeling very grown up.

It's one of the least sympathetic and most clichéd stories of modern American life: Young corporate lawyer is overworked and trapped (in the romantic comedy version of this story, she's also undersexed and wears her hair in a very severe bun). She makes six figures, but her tasteful apartment and designer clothes don't bring her happiness (in the real-life version of this story, most of that money goes to her law school loans and she lives with a roommate in Brooklyn).

The story doesn't end with me leaning in harder and opening my own firm, or leaning all the way out and moving to Bali to do yoga, or meeting someone handsome who works with his hands and moving to a farmhouse where I find purpose making artisanal jams. It doesn't end at all, and definitely not with a self-help book or some sort of manifesto about how to find personal happiness. The book in your hands is, thankfully, not about another young lawyer who quit her job and found herself.

It is instead about all of the ways in which Americans carry, and our institutions reflect, a profound and abiding antipathy toward women's day-to-day enjoyment and our broader fulfillment. At twenty-seven, physically ill and emotionally depleted, I made the decision to seek happiness elsewhere—I left practicing law and began writing full time, and I remain lucky (and extraordinarily happy) to have a job that doesn't feel like one. Still, when people ask me what I write about, I often joke, darkly, that I'm on "the rape and abortion beat." That's what I find myself writing about again and again: stigma, trauma, pain, the moments in women's lives that are often some of the hardest, that are routinely made more difficult by American law, culture, and pervasive inequality.

In writing about the same topics from different angles—the social and often sexual punishment of women who are perceived to have misbehaved, the lashing out at powerful women, the uneasiness with which the general public interacts with women who have power or money or influence or some combination of all three, the political opposition to women having sex for fun—it became clear, quickly, that a lot of the problems feminists continue to take on are rooted in a deep hostility toward and suspicion of unfettered female pleasure, happiness, and independence.

As I rounded the corner into my thirties as a member of one of the most privileged groups of people in human history—college-educated white professionals living in a major First World metropolis—I was looking out from a bubble where feminism and progressivism were fairly standard but where, still, so many of the women I knew were butting up against barriers we assumed had been largely dismantled. We were trying to figure out which parts of the old model of femininity to keep and which ones were worth discarding—and what social costs we would bear for both.

I watched the men I know reckon with exactly none of this.

As a journalist, I talked to a lot of women outside this bubble of New York City privilege, around the United States and outside of it. What I heard is that, although the details are all different and the struggles often more pronounced, their overarching questions were similar to mine: What does it mean to be a woman when there are more ways to be female than ever before but when the choices in front of us feel at once overwhelmingly wide and impossibly restrictive? How do I reconcile what I want with the options I have—and how do I even know what I want or what my options are when so many paths seem to lead to closed doors? I've done the things I was supposed to do; why do I feel so cheated?

The challenges, too, may differ in the specifics, but there are through lines: too much work and not enough time; pressure to be a perfect wife or mother or daughter or girlfriend; anxiety at having bad sex or not enough sex or the wrong kind of sex; not enough money and not enough resources. Across the board, women are on a gerbil wheel, running to catch up—to their own expectations, to outside ideals, to men—and never quite making it.

Well before I began this book, it was clear to me that we have a problem with female pleasure and that it is holding women back. Our political and cultural priorities aren't about making life more enjoyable but about getting ahead, attaining bigger and better things, "having it all." But the system is rigged: Men have long been able to "have it all" because of free female labor. As women have achieved more highly in the workplace and gained greater social, political, and economic freedoms, the bar of success has gotten higher—never before have we had to work so much at every level, whether it's to be an accomplished white-collar professional or just to make ends meet; never before have the requirements for being a good mother been so extreme.

At the same time, political debates rage around the very policies that would make it easier for women to succeed. Women today live in a world of unfinished feminism, where we're told we're equal but see our basic rights up for grabs, where we're told to just push harder at work, or recognize we can't have it all, or marry Mr. Good Enough.

The feminist movement's answer to pervasive inequality has been simple: make women equal to men. That's a laudable goal, especially in the early stages of any movement for social equality: Get laws on the books that put two disparate groups on equal footing and enforce them. Get members of the disempowered group into positions of power, roughly proportional to their share of the population. Shift policy priorities to reflect the needs of the disempowered group so that that group may become more equal to the powerful one.

In the second wave of the feminist movement, roughly in the 1960s and '70s, there was a sometimes complementary and sometimes competing vision for the movement's priorities: appreciate women's work more, rather than pushing women to work like men. Proposals included everything from valuing more highly pink-collar care work (that is, low-skilled work dominated by women, like nursing and child care) to paying women for their at-home labor (compensating women for cleaning the house and caring for their own kids). There have been a handful of successes: unionizing domestic workers, requiring minimum wage and basic labor protections for some workers whose job sites are in private homes. But traditional "women's work" remains undervalued and underpaid. The idea that women should get paid for being stay-at-home moms is laughable, and isn't much discussed within feminist circles today, at least outside of academic settings.

Instead, we talk more about "balance" and sharing at-home work with a presumably heterosexual partner. As feminist discourse becomes increasingly mainstream, feminists continue to debate how best to achieve gender equality (some feminists debate whether gender equality is even the ultimate goal); we debate what equality looks like, what it means, and who is making themselves equal to whom. Does gender equality start with making individual adjustments to better our professional prospects—each of us climbing the corporate ladder, and giving the women below a hand up, until we break the glass ceiling? Or is the feminist project about undoing entire systems, challenging capitalist norms, and trying to improve conditions for the masses—recognizing, as feminist writer Audre Lorde put it, that the master's tools can never dismantle the master's house? Can it be both?

The more I interviewed women and wrote about reproduction and sex and work and family, the more I became convinced we were getting inadequate results because we were asking the wrong questions. No amount of trying to catch up or insisting women's work had value was going to fix the fundamental problem: we're operating in a system created by men, for men, according to their whims and desires. Of course women can't flourish in a system that needs us as support pillars for someone else's building. We're here to prop it up, not to live in it. This is not a place that was built for us to thrive.

The answer isn't then to simply value more highly what women actually do—lots of women do what they do because it makes men's lives easier. The answer isn't to simply try to be better at the limited tasks set before us. The answer is to ask, What would we make if we had all the tools? What do we want?

That's a more complicated proposition than it sounds, mostly because people are terrible at predicting what will make them happy and what they actually desire, and there are all kinds of social benefits for women who say that what they want is, conveniently, the same thing men want for them. Figuring out what works for women means talking to women and observing our lives, while also folding in the increasingly large body of social science on what makes us happy, what keeps us healthy, and what helps us to prosper. Increased gender equality is one of those things, and feminism has undoubtedly improved conditions for both women and men across the United States. What could topple the most stubborn roadblocks is a feminism and a politics that reorient themselves away from simple equality and toward happiness and pleasure.

There is no question that the women's rights movement in the United States has been a success, if one that came in fits and starts. Less than one hundred years after women gained the right to vote, we're now graduating from college at higher rates than men; we're getting married later, having fewer children, living longer. The rights to abortion and contraception have allowed many American women to delay childbearing until we're ready, opening up new opportunities and improving the health of women and our children. Women are making inroads into traditionally male careers, from law and medicine to sports and blue-collar labor. Millennial women are some of the most feminist in history. Little girls grow up hearing that they can be whatever they want.

But that promise remains unfulfilled because, still, we haven't caught up. Men make more money for the same work in nearly every profession and across age ranges. That wage gap is exacerbated when you compare white men to women of color, and it gets worse with age, especially when women have kids. Poverty remains feminized, and many of the women living in poverty are single moms who are unsupported and socially stigmatized. Women hitting retirement are finding that a lifelong wage gap coupled with social security programs that don't consider at-home work to be real work means less to live on as they age, which translates into greater financial instability and, often, reliance on their children (and caretakers for elderly parents are more likely to be daughters than sons, often pulling those younger women out of the paid workforce and perpetuating a cycle of financial vulnerability).

The problems aren't just economic. Decades after the advent of hormonal birth control, women in the United States still struggle for the right to make basic reproductive decisions without political interference. The "sexual revolution" made sex more present in the public sphere than ever before, but sexual pleasure—which is different from using visual representations of sex to sell stuff—is remarkably absent. Women's sexuality remains understood primarily in relation to men's, and women's bodies still serve as physical stand-ins for sex itself, with sexy women selling everything from hamburgers to car parts to Internet service. At the same time, we punish women who are actually sexual or who cross some always-shifting external boundary of sexual propriety. Our identities are too often defined by our relationships to other people—wife, mother, daughter—and prominent politicians defend women's rights by describing us relationally to men. Even many "egalitarian" heterosexual relationships still involve the female partner putting her career second and doing the majority of the care work, whether that's for her husband, their children, or an aging parent.

Often, you'll see this billed as "choice" or as women pursuing personal happiness because the language of feminism has been neatly co-opted by a strain of peculiarly American individualism. If you're an American woman today, you have almost certainly come across outlets promising paths to happiness and to its distorted sibling, "empowerment." Mostly, those paths involve buying something: a chain restaurant meal, a SoulCycle class, a chocolate bar, a self-help book that tells you to have more collections or own less stuff or quit your job. Happiness is now a concept you find in magazines selling women regressive ideas repackaged for an Instagram photo.

The American pursuit of happiness has morphed from a political promise made in the very declaration of our independent nation into a thoroughly capitalist endeavor, packaged and sold to individuals with the promise that if you just get this thing—if you just choose to pay for this thing—you'll be fulfilled. We are aspirational and pleasure saturated, yet still happiness deficient.

We're learning more and more about what actually benefits women and how that fits with what women say we want for our lives—and how what women say shifts as our opportunities do. The idea that women are entitled not just to equality but to pleasure—to that term specifically, with its connotations of sex and hedonism and selfishness—remains taboo in political discourse. We're programmed to assume the best women can do is to just get by—or if we are remarkably privileged, embark on expensive quests of personal self-betterment.

What if, instead, the goal were happiness? Not at an individual level, with more yoga or self-care or Pinterest-perfect hobbies, but a political one: What would the world look like if our laws and policies prioritized feeling good?

When it comes to pleasure, our political forces run the gamut from indifference to outright hostility, either ignoring any interest in feeling good or writing off pleasure as immoral, hedonistic, even lazy. That American law and policy should keep citizens healthy and safe is controversial enough; that it should strive to make us happy seems laughable.

Even in the absence of institutional and structural forces promoting female happiness, most women still try, however imperfectly and with mixed results, to maximize theirs. Which is how I found myself pinging between writing jobs before picking up and moving to Kenya: after ending my career as a lawyer, I freelanced for a bit, then took a job as a political writer for, and a year later left that job, too, jumping back in the financially precarious life of a freelancer, this time halfway around the world. I was moving mostly in pursuit of happiness, a career change, and love, but also because it sounded like an adventure, the kind of life I had long wanted but had been too scared to grab hold of. Still, I found myself struggling to explain why a writer who primarily covered American politics was heading to Nairobi. At a party in New York celebrating a friend's new book, I found myself in a conversation with Glynnis MacNicol, a writer I knew only passingly, and she asked me the question I couldn't quite answer: "Why Kenya?" As I stumbled out an explanation about liking East Africa and wanting a change and hoping to do more international reporting and also my boyfriend was moving there—a part of the story that felt particularly unfeminist—she gently interrupted and said, "So you're moving to Kenya because you can."

"Because I can." It was true, but I was still taken aback, and long after that conversation I found myself unable to say those words out loud. In writing this book, I wavered on writing about my own life at all—especially this part of it. I hesitated because a series of unearned racial and social-class privileges makes my experience of American womanhood an overrepresented outlier, but also because I worried any woman who says she does things just because it feels good sounds entitled and not appropriately—and femininely—deferential and self-effacing. Still, Glynnis's words stuck in my mind as a thoroughly modern justification for women's choices, largely unimaginable even a few generations ago. What a reflection of the huge gains women have made, victories for which movements for women's rights get most of the credit.

And yet, for all of the good work feminism has done, equality means very little when you're making yourself equal to men who are struggling too, or when you're seeking equality in a system that simply wasn't designed for you. In this context of such unequal feminist gains, writing about pleasure seems almost flippant; in the context of a culture hostile to female pleasure, a woman who actively pursues pleasure is spoiled, suspect, threatening. "Because I can" is spectacularly freeing. But that kind of freedom, that expanded ability to dictate the course of one's life, is not on offer for most women. For all of the gains women have made, most American women live in a world of "I can't," their opportunities and choices restricted.

That doesn't mean that happiness and pleasure are only available to a privileged few, or that women in challenging circumstances don't have ideas about how happiness and pleasure (or lack thereof) could and should function in their lives. On the contrary, I found that women for whom "I can't" is a daily reality had some of the most incisive ideas for what a society designed by and for women might look like—even if they often reacted with skepticism to my initial premise.

That was certainly true of Janet Rowland, who knit her eyebrows together at the suggestion that there is perhaps a collective social obligation to help women not only survive but thrive. I showed up at Janet's Raleigh, North Carolina, home on a hot August Wednesday, and as we talked, Janet was tired—she was still hurting from a car accident a few months back, and she spent the previous day at the hospital with her daughter, who was having kidney tests and an MRI done (she had just been diagnosed with scoliosis on top of a rare skin disorder doctors found three years prior). All three of Janet's kids were home, along with her niece, who often stays at Janet's place.

"I just don't want to get to the point that I get hospitalized," Janet told me, as the kids chattered in the kitchen, the bigger ones helping the little ones with their ABCs. "My body has broken down from stress, depression. I didn't know that that area was a big impact in my health, and I was hospitalized for a week with health issues. And that is when I learned that stress could kill you."

Janet, it is an understatement to say, is not happy. And as we talked, she explained how much of her life has been ordered around survival, on chasing after a mirage of what she's supposed to have—a job, a house, a partner, children—but which the complexities of poverty, racism, and sexism keep yanking away, just out of her reach. There hasn't been time to sit with herself and ask, "What do I want?" What she wants today is enough gas to drive to the grocery store.

In the course of writing this book, I spoke with dozens of women—some, like Janet, whose challenges stemmed in part from their socioeconomic background, and others whose privilege should have opened up a world of opportunity but were somehow still confined. I spoke with women who were already reordering their own lives in ways that better suited their needs and desires and others who believed that if they just followed the rules and tamed their unconventional or simply human impulses, they would be happy, only to wind up disappointed and resentful at all the promises that went unfulfilled. I stayed with one mother raising her children in an "intentional community" of coliving adults in Seattle and another in Maryland whose husband leaned in at home. I interviewed an OB/GYN in Mormon-heavy Utah and a young woman who regretted "saving herself" for marriage, an urban farmer in the Bronx and a sixtysomething adoptive mother. These are not women whose paths are likely to cross or who on paper seem to share many of the same experiences. And yet many of their challenges stem from the same root: impossible expectations countered by constrained opportunities.

I also immersed myself in a trove of happiness research, pop-science treatises on how to be happy, literature on women and work, studies on female sexuality, and surveys that attempt to paint a picture of contemporary American life. These, too, don't offer simple solutions, but together they begin to form a portrait of female satisfaction, experience, and desire that can inform both the individual choices women make to improve their lives and the broader political conversation about how a pleasure-centered policy landscape could more substantially address the stubborn issues and inequalities women continue to face.

Is pleasure-centered policy the magic bullet for American women's happiness and success? Of course not. But at a political moment when even the most basic rights of women are under threat—when Americans have elected a president who brags about sexual violence and who pledges to appoint Supreme Court justices who will dismantle abortion rights—it is crucial to stay on offense and advocate for what we really want instead of cowering in a defense crouch, accepting crumbs. That means countering regressive political forces with our own moral vision of a great society—one that is structured around women and what brings us satisfaction. For several centuries, women have carried disproportionate burdens to underwrite men's pleasure, success, and happiness. Now, it's time we decided that female pleasure isn't an indulgence or a privilege but a social good—and that women deserve more than just equality.


Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions:The History of Women's Unhappiness

Our histories cling to us. We are shaped by where we come from.

—Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

NOTHING CHANGED MY understanding of happiness more than moving to New York City. As a child growing up in the Seattle suburbs, I assumed my path would look a lot like my parents', or even like the white-collar professionals I saw on TV sitcoms: I would earn a degree, get a good job, marry a nice guy, live in a cute house, and have kids. That was happiness.

New York City, where I moved for college and remained for more than a decade and a half, challenged that definition. The city was a particular kind of wonderland, all energy and novelty, a town that fed my own frenetic drive and creative metabolism. It was teeming with striving, ambitious women like me and with endlessly fascinating women who were like no one I had ever met. It was also bursting with little pleasures: the first day of summer when all the pretty girls wear flimsy new dresses, food sojourns to Chinatown or out to Flushing, the magic (and treachery) of new snow on brownstone steps. And, of course, it was full of particular New York trials: the profound loneliness of being left by a lover, magnified by looking out the window at a city so full of people; the one-upmanship in a place of such ambition, where there's always someone smarter, better, thinner, more successful, or more interesting than you.

New York was the first place I felt completely lost and alone, but also the first place where I felt like I made sense. When I initially moved there, I figured I would eventually head back to Seattle, my hometown, where things were easier, and I would settle into an adult life. The longer I was in New York, though, the less I felt the pull of the life my very young self assumed I would want: a house, a husband, babies, the kind of suburb I grew up in. A happy life, I knew, wouldn't look like that for me; "happy" and "easy" were no longer synonymous. Less clear was what other shape my life could possibly take.

For centuries, scholars and philosophers have debated what makes for a happy life, what "happiness" even means, and where pleasure fits in. For such pervasive concepts, both happiness and pleasure remain ill defined, less easily explained ideas than pornography-style "I know it when I see it" feelings.

Out of centuries-long debates and discussions on happiness, two major philosophical traditions have emerged. One is the hedonic tradition, which in oversimplified terms is about feelings and one's mental state and the balance of positive feelings with negative ones. The other is the eudaimonic tradition, which focuses more on one's capacity to flourish, skills and accomplishments, and personal development.

Pleasure can be understood as a component of happiness in either tradition, but it is the hedonic one that assigns it more weight. Pleasure, quite simply, involves stimulating the senses in a way that feels good: indulging, enjoying. This can be tactile and sensory, as well as social and intellectual. Sensual pleasures involve the good aspects of the five senses: taste, touch, smell, hearing, and sight. Nonsensory pleasures are the things that bring good feelings and often involve physiological arousal: achievement, taking enjoyment in the beauty of a person or an object, gratification that comes from socializing, finding pleasure in a process and not just the end result.

When researchers study happiness today, what they typically look at is "subjective well-being." That is, how happy a person says they feel, either at a given time or about their life generally. Subjective well-being encompasses elements of happiness as spelled out in both the hedonic and eudaimonic traditions, but it is skewed in favor of the hedonic one, because it's about how one rates one's own state of mind, not one's aspirations or achievements. Even so, researchers have mostly treated pleasure as a secondary component of happiness, in part because it's hard to determine, exactly, how pleasure measurably impacts well-being and whether that impact is fleeting or carries on after the positive sensual experience ends.

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  • "There's a subtle radicalism to Filipovic's vision of politicized pleasure...She's proposing a thorough remodeling of the house that white men built."
    Megan Garber, The Atlantic
  • "Filipovic creates an accurate and complex portrait of the struggles facing working women-and the collective effort necessary to remedy them."
  • "Filipovic dives deep into the machinery of American culture and politics to uncover the underlying causes of continuing inequality, demonstrating the necessity of reframing our deeply held cultural beliefs."—Bust
  • "A wonderfully intersectional work."—Bustle
  • "The H-Spot is the feminist book we've all been waiting for. Filipovic is a brilliant and engaging writer, and offers a necessary new way to think about gender, politics, and happiness. In the current political moment, The H-Spot couldn't be better timed."
    Jessica Valenti, author of Sex Object
  • "Jill Fillipovic consistently captures the modern zeitgeist and I rely on her fresh perspective. Read her book; she will give us hope for the future like no one else can."
    Sally Kohn
  • "Part feminist history, part memoir, and part call to action, this engaging volume presents a sound argument for shifting both policy and cultural attitudes toward a prioritization of female happiness. Filipovic gives a comprehensive look into what makes American women happy-and why so many aren't-in a system that seems set up to limit them. Using detailed research and thoughtful analysis, as well as numerous interviews with women of varied backgrounds, Filipovic discusses some of the most significant points of female happiness (or lack thereof)-from female friendship to motherhood to equal pay, and more-in all their complexity and through an intersectional feminist lens. Filipovic, who writes for the New York Times,, among other publications, is unflinchingly honest in her analysis of what it means to be female in America, both in 2017 and throughout history. VERDICT Thought provoking and sure to spark discussion, this title will appeal to fans of Roxane Gay and other feminist writers, as well as readers seeking well-researched works that speak to today's political climate."—Library Journal
  • "A sound analysis of what really makes women happy. . . . An assertive, eye-opening investigation of women's happiness. [Filipovic's] research and analysis are spot-on, and she provides readers with plenty of useful information to drive deep and necessary discussions for years to come. A timely, enlightening exploration of what American women truly want and need to live purposeful, fulfilling, happy lives."—Kirkus Reviews
  • "Women have come a long way, but the idea that women deserve to feel pleasure is still a third rail in American society. Jill Filipovic asks, instead, what if we stopped talking about women solely as wives, mothers, and workers, and started to think of women as people who have a right to pursue happiness-for themselves. The idea makes many people squirm, but the result would be a better society, for everyone."—Amanda Marcotte, author of It's a Jungle Out There
  • "By politicizing the question 'What makes women happy?' Jill Filipovic turns us away from the world of self-help and self-improvement to focus on the systems that deny women the right to fulfillment. The H-Spot is a deeply researched and cogently argued book that demands a radical reimagining of policy to ensure not only an end to gender oppression, but the establishment of new systems where women's happiness is not sidelined or ignored, and is instead central to our understanding of freedom."—Mychal Denzel Smith, author of Invisible Man, Got the Whole World Watching
  • "Jill's book is a much-needed examination of the intersection of two issues we rarely see discussed together: feminism and happiness. For too long, critics of feminism have used the happiness argument to belittle the importance of the cause and argue that female emancipation somehow makes women unhappy. It couldn't be further from the truth. Empowered women are happier women. We should all have a right to happiness and for far too long, women have been excluded from that pursuit. In her book, Jill makes an eloquent case for women's right to be truly happy. It's about damn time someone said it, women deserve and have earned their happiness, and they are going to take it!"
    Liz Plank, senior correspondent, Vox
  • "Sexism and misogyny may be humankind's primary flaws, and Jill Filipovic offers a searing and sanguine look at how they block the happiness of women and men alike. Her debut is a guide to better living through an emancipatory mindset. If you thought feminism's goal was gender equality alone, The H-Spot demands that we expect more."
    Jamil Smith, journalist and cultural critic
  • "This is a damn good book that is filling in blank spots I didn't know I had about sex, about women, about history, and about how much better our lives, relationships, and societies could be if we opened up our imaginations as Jill has so courageously, generously, and effectively done. Men, women, and everyone on the spectrum in between should read and talk about this book."
    Baratunde Thurston, author of How to Be Black
  • "What if, instead of relying on women to self-sacrifice and man-please, society valued women's happiness? What would have to change-in our social and political arrangements, at work, at home, in bed? Widely known for her shrewd and searching journalism on contemporary feminist issues, Jill Filipovic is the perfect writer to raise these provocative questions-and point the way to some answers."
    Katha Pollitt, author of Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights
  • "Filipovic frames happiness as a political question-one that goes back to the Declaration of Independence itself...She shows her subject is crucial, and the political changes needed to close the 'happiness gap' between American men and women would be revolutionary. If, as the old adage has it, no one is free until we are all free, Filipovic shows the same may be true of being happy."—New York Times Book Review
  • "A practical, carefully researched modern-life primer for everywoman. Through chapters about motherhood, friendship, sex, work and relationships, she uses her own experience and that of others to navigate the structural problems facing women in a patriarchal society - and to explain how they can be happier."—Financial Times

On Sale
May 2, 2017
Page Count
336 pages
Bold Type Books

Jill Filipovic

About the Author

Jill Filipovic is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and a regular columnist for, where she was previously a senior political writer. A former columnist for the Guardian, she is also an attorney. Her work on law, politics, gender and foreign affairs has appeared in the Washington Post, Time, Nation, Foreign Policy and others.

Learn more about this author