I don’t know why I can’t seem to get enough of books that make me kind of angry at the world, but… I’m definitely on a binge through. It’s certainly important, in my opinion, to think about these issues and challenge our own ways of thinking about the world. This week’s pick, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of Unruly Women definitely gave me a lot to think about.
This book takes one unruly woman as the focus of each chapter, with each chapter named for that woman’s primary “offense” in terms of being too much of something. Of course, each woman is accused of unruliness across many sectors, because sexism is complicated and widespread.
Chapters such as “Too Fat: Melissa McCarthy” or “Too Loud: Jennifer Weiner” shed light not only on their title public figures, but on the offenses lobbied against them and what those actually represent in society. To be too fat is to refuse to exercise the demanded control over your body, curtailing it to behave. To be too loud is to have opinions as publicly as men do–especially if those opinions go against the status quo.
One thing that I liked best about this book was that it really, really challenged me and my own perceptions of the world. Figures like Hillary Clinton, Caitlyn Jenner, and Lena Dunham are complicated in the public eye, and seeing their stories through the lens of why we label women as unruly helped me re-examine my opinions of these women an how they’re portrayed in the media. This book made me sit and think about things I hadn’t thought about before, like what it means for Serena and Venus Williams to take center stage in the world of tennis, or whether Lena Dunham should be shamed for saying she doesn’t like “airport chick lit.”
I recommend the hell out of this book. It made me uncomfortable and a little bit angry in the best of ways. I think I’ll be diving back in to this one time and time again as I continue to think about how I think about other women.
Happy Tuesday, internet people! This week, I’ve hopped back on the nonfiction train by listening to Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck on audio (see what I did there?). The book’s full title is Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why? so naturally I knew I was getting into some heavy stuff with this one. Choosing to read it simultaneously with Roxane Gay’s Hunger was a decision I do not recommend outside the cheer-making sunshine of summertime.
So, this book. It’s been on my TBR for a while, and a friend mentioned it to me again, so I decided to put it on hold pronto. It examines the phenomenon of the female trainwreck, the most famous example of which is, of course, Britney Spears.
What I didn’t expect was to learn how far back the practice of scrutinizing, mocking, and throwing hate at women in the public eye really goes. Did you know Mary Wollstonecraft (of “Vindication of the Rights of Women” fame) was once regarded as a scandal? Or that Charlotte Bronte wrote embarrassingly desperate letters to a lover who old-timey ghosted her? I sure didn’t!
This book was full of fascinating stories of the trainwrecks that have been redeemed in our modern eyes, as well as the trainwrecks we’re still glued to watching. For some reason, I thought that the practice of treating women this way was a new phenomenon as the media became more widespread and easily distributed, but in some ways women who defy our expectations have always been regarded with hatred, mockery, and, yes, even fear. I mean, it makes sense–just look at the Salem Witch Trials.
As a woman, it feels a bit weird to say I loved this book, but I did. It breaks my heart the way we treat women in the public eye differently from how we treat men (whose scandals so rarely break their careers–can I say Johnny Depp?). But the book is compellingly written and fascinating to read, in spite of how frustrating it is. It made me re-examine my own perception of women like Britney Spears and Amanda Bynes and re-consider my self-perceptions, as well.
I think this book is an essential read and that you should stop reading this blog post and go read this book.