Best for: People who maybe enjoy the schadenfreud of the seeming downfall of famous women but who are also interested in maybe stopping that.
In a nutshell: Author Sady Doyle examines all the ways we push women and judge them for their imperfections.
Line that sticks with me: “We spend so much time pathologizing “overemotional” women that we scarcely ever ask what those women are emotional about.”
Why I chose it: I’m on a bit of a roll, reading about women who fight the system, who get taken down and fight back. This seemed to fit in nicely.
Review: I’ve laughed at Lindsay Lohan (and not just when she’s being weirdly supportive of Harvey Weinstein – when she’s getting pulled over and drugs are found on her). I’ve scoffed at Britney Spears before her very public meltdown, then did a 180 and for some reason only really saw her humanity when she was being put into conservatorship. I’ve prefaced statements of support for Hillary Clinton with “I know she isn’t perfect, but,” as though there is some politician who is.
I’m also a feminist, and I get real angry when women are dismissed as overly emotional, or irrational, or crazy. And while I sort of know how these two seemingly diametrically opposed philosophies can coexist in my mind, this book brought it to light.
Ms. Doyle provides a look not just at how we seemingly root for women to fail (but then laud them after they’ve died), but the history of how this has been going on for literally centuries. This isn’t an examination of Britney Spears (although her story features prominently in some chapters); it’s an examination of western society and how we treat women. Mostly, how we treat famous women, but Ms. Doyle uses that to point out that this translates to how we treat women in general. How we silence them, how we judge them, how we don’t allow them to be whole, complex people.
Parts are rough to read (although the writing itself is great), but nothing made me madder than the afterward that Ms. Doyle chose to include, discussing in about 20 pages the 2016 election outcome. She has a chapter where she discusses both Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinski, but this afterward looks specifically at Secretary Clinton in light of what we gave up, how we as a country decided we’d rather have an admitted sexual assaulting liar with no government experience than an extraordinarily qualified person who also is a woman. It hurts (and it’s why “What Happened” has been on my nightstand since it was released but I haven’t been able to open it), and it’s hard to find a lot of hope in it. But we’ll see, right?