I used to get really stressed out reading about characters that did all the bad things. I always considered myself a rule follower and experiencing second-hand rule breaking was HARD.
But the older I get, the more I realize that actually, I’m not a rule follower. F*ck the rules.
And because I’m a rule-breaker now, I love to read about other women who are miles ahead of me in this department.
Anne Helen Petersen’s Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman was so very much exactly the kind of book I’ve been waiting for. In it Petersen,a BuzzFeed staff writer, looks at ten women who she classifies are being “unruly” for some reason. Serena Williams is too strong, Lena Dunham too naked, Melissa McCarthy is too fat while Hillary Clinton is too shrill. Each chapter is an essay dedicated to these women and why they are considered unruly, eschewing the more traditional aspects of femininity.
Look, anytime a book looks at women who break the rules AND pop culture, I am here for it. But more than that, this book is source material for any woman who steps “out of line” from time to time. It’s a way to look at these women, all of them beautiful, brilliant, strong and capable and go “I’m in great company, f*ck the rules!”
One of my favourite essays in the collection looks at Kim Kardashian. And before you roll your eyes at that, take a few minutes and read the essay! It’s pretty great right? Who knew that Kim Kardashian was so radical?
I was especially pleased to see that Petersen didn’t shy away from intersectionality when she was choosing the women for her book. Her essays on Serena Williams and Nicki Minaj (Too Slutty) were among my favourites for her willingness to actually dig in to the issues around Black womanhood. Arguably less successful, but important nonetheless is the chapter on Caitlyn Jenner (Too Queer). The trouble with that chapter is less about Petersen and more about the problematic nature of holding up Jenner as the pinnacle of Trans personhood.
Still, I loved reading each and every one of these essays. It’s the kind of non-fiction that anyone can read, that’s so accessible you will recognize your own life in it. I found myself nodding along as I read, muttering “YES!” to myself each time Petersen vocalized something I’d already felt.
My gossip guru, Lainey Gossip, also loved this book (obviously). She wrote an incredible piece about it in her gossip intro the day it came out. She says everything I want to say so much better!
If you come across Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud I hope that you pick up a copy. This book needs to be read far and wide so that more of us become confidently unruly.
12 thoughts on “Unruly Women”
Sounds brilliant. That title alone is fantastic!
Right?? I’ve taken to calling myself an unruly woman at every opportunity.
I loved the part of the Kardashian essay about the Virgin Mary:
“The pregnant body was also profoundly contradictory: as scholar Jane Ussher explains, pregnancy is, at its most essential, the most vivid proof of women’s sexuality — which is precisely why representations of mothers took on the opposite characteristics. The most significant mother of Christianity, for example, is the Virgin Mary: asexual, idealized, immaculate. Mary is rarely represented while actually pregnant, only afterwards, when the child is safely born, both mother and child clean and content. This beatific mother is contained, pure — the antidote to the abjectly pregnant mother.”
In my 30+ years of being steeped in Catholic lore, this has never occurred to me. What a fantastic observation. Such a small thing, but its consequences are spread across an entire patriarchal ideology. Wow.
This was great. Thanks, Eva!
I hear you on the Catholic thing! I probably came up against it sooner than you did, as a woman. I remember challenging my teachers at my Catholic highschool with their ideas of femininity and womanhood, fairly early on. But nothing else pointed it out so starkly.
I really do recommend the whole collection but I’m glad you enjoyed the one!
Yay!! I am dying for my library hold to come in for this!!
This sounds really interesting – I’m glad to see that it is intersectional, because that was my one qualm about it. Thanks for the review!
Lack of intersectionality is a big frustration for me too, when I read these kinds of books. I was so happy to see that this book addressed it!
I heard Rebecca Schinsky talk about this on All the Books podcast and I think it sounds up my audiobook alley. Hopefully will get to it at some point this year!
I have not read this one but wondering if you might enjoy this collection of essays too: https://ayearofbooksblog.com/2017/04/16/29-one-day-well-all-be-dead-and-none-of-this-will-matter-scaachi-koul/
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