For your feminist heart: Trainwreck

Every day I read Lainey Gossip. People roll their eyes at me a lot for admitting that, like I’m some sleazy ambulance chaser who likes to talk shit about strangers.

They’ve obviously never visited Lainey Gossip. The thing that I like about her site is that it’s an academic approach to the celebrity ecosystem. Her team talks about how the system works, how celebrities control their narrative, how race and gender play a factor in the content we see.

Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear…and Why is probably required reading on Lainey’s syllabus.


Trainwreck looks at how we tear women down, how we destroy their integrity, forget them, punish them for success and what that says about us.

I. Loved. This. Book.

Doyle doesn’t play nice. She doesn’t frame things in a way that’s easy to swallow. Doyle isn’t here for the rules of the patriarchy and it was a joy to read her words.

She looks at 21st century “trainwrecks” like Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton. But she also looks at examples from history, of women who didn’t play by the rules of comportment assigned to them by the sex of their birth and how men reacted by destroying them. Women like Mary Wollstonecraft, who after she wrote about how women should be allowed formal education and to vote, was called a whore and worse for the circumstances of her personal life; Charlotte Bronte who wrote some of the most feminist literature of her time and was obsessed with her teacher who finally had to ask her to stop writing; and Billie Holiday, ravaged by addiction, who’s genius flew in the face of ideas about race and ability in her time ,forced to sell her pain, rather than get paid for her talent.

This book’s organization is genius as well. First, the Trainwreck’s crimes are examined: sex, need, madness, and death. Then her options: shut up or speak up. And then, her role: scapegoat or revolutionary? Each chapter looks at the anatomy of a trainwreck which is where we get up close and personal with the women who fit into the category.

I learned so much from this book. This book made me rage. I felt sorrow for these women that were torn down because they wanted to live beyond their time. And for modern day “trainwrecks” like Miley and Britney, created by a system that values them for their bodies and then are told to cover up and not be so sexual.

I want to read this book again. I want to highlight pages and write notes in the margin. I want to force this book into the hands of so many women that I know. Mostly, I want there to stop being case studies of women that we’ve torn down for being ahead of their time.


10 thoughts on “For your feminist heart: Trainwreck

  1. Normally, I don’t pay much attention to celebrities. But, really, when I think about it all, it is interesting to think about why we love them or hate them and how media plays into it all and how it affects their lives.
    And this book ties in a little to the tiny rant about “housewives” I just had over on my blog – why can’t we just let everyone be?!
    On the list! (But do I really want to get all riled up again?) 🙂

    • This one didn’t rile me up – it made me think about how I react to those stories and gauge if there was something I could do differently. I mean, I’m not unaware that this is happening! There’s something about all those instances being talked about in one place though, you know? You’re confronted with a whole host of examples.
      I think it would be an interesting read for you.

  2. I’m so excited to hear this from you! Sady Doyle has written some of my favorite pieces on Hillary Clinton this election cycle, so I’ve been really looking forward to this book. I LOVE a good mix of pop culture/smart criticism.

    • It’s exactly that. She writes with rage but also so much compassion for these women. Not pity. And she told stories about women that I didn’t know about. It was funny and smart and angry and just great. I also love when authors throw f-bombs around – it’s tough to do well but Doyle does.

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