too fat, too slutty, too loud
... The Rise And Reign Of The Unruly Woman. Anne Helen Petersen delves into how we view and vilify some of the world's most famous women because they push boundaries.
Non-fiction doesn't always attract me. But this analytical look at the way we view powerful women in the spotlight was something that caught my eye. Just as ideals of shape and ethnicity are ostracising, so too are sexual preferences, being old, or having physical strength. Essentially anything of a woman that doesn't fit the mould is looked down upon.
Broken up into chapters, each has a disapproving label attached to a figure. Serena Williams is Too Strong. Melissa McCarthy is Too Fat. Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer (the pair behind the must-watch series Broad City) are Too Gross. There's also Minaj (slutty), Madonna (old), KKW (pregnant), Hilary Clinton (shrill), Caitlyn Jenner (queer), Jennifer Weiner (loud), and Dunham (naked).
You can imagine someone (a friend, a colleague, maybe yourself) saying "she's too..." with a sour taste spread across their face when speaking about many of the women in the book. Because they have challenged what we know, and it's made us uncomfortable at times. But the point is to be more conscious of women that don't fit those outdated norms and values. It's a reminder to never judge another woman for being different, for their choices, for their individuality, because therein lies the root of the problem.
Within each essay, Petersen describes how they've been perceived (like above) and yet stuck to their guns. Being that Petersen is the Culture Writer at Buzzfeed, it's no surprise that her words have weight. She quotes and references public perceptions in the media along with the women themselves. Surrounded by celebrity content, she commentates so acutely how we should be in reaction to someone that steps outside what we know.
Whether you're someone who can't stand Kim, or think Serena's aggressive, this book sheds light on how their achievements have played a specific role in shifting the narrative. I even have to admit to not paying attention to the bigger picture; to what they've brought to the table, that before them it wasn't even on any menu. I have a whole new admiration for every single one mentioned. Not because they've made a career (and a sh** tonne of money) out of what it is they offer, but because they've challenged expectations, images, and constraints.
In this era, where the feminist thread is very loud, this is a poignant read. I think all women should read it for perspective, but also men (although I'm not sure how many I could persuade). It's not one that you'd probably consumer cover to cover (I didn't). I let the weight of each one rest for a while before the next.
I can't say enough to even begin to cover the rhetoric. Just read it. Or read this excerpt first.