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Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why

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She’s everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck.

She’s Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, “crack is whack,” and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself.

From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to “behave.”

Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle’s book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.

297 pages, Hardcover

First published September 20, 2016

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Sady Doyle

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 522 reviews
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,457 reviews8,561 followers
November 26, 2016
A fantastic feminist book about how society loves to label women as "crazy" and as "trainwrecks" just for expressing their humanity. I decided to pick it up after reading this intelligent interview with the author, Sady Doyle. In her interview and in her book, she points out a pervasive double standard: men who are alcoholics, abuse their loved ones, etc. are still most well-known for their art and their achievements (e.g., Ernest Hemingway, Vincent Van Gogh), whereas women who experience personal struggles are torn apart and ridiculed, even when they have immense talent (e.g., Amy Winehouse, Miley Cyrus). Throughout Trainwreck, Doyle crafts a compelling argument that society spends so much time mocking women, in ways that men rarely experience. I highlighted so many quotes as I read this book, so I want to share a few throughout this review. This one focuses on how we deride women for their desires and emotions:

"If sex is one of the easiest ways for a woman to invite hatred and mockery in our culture - to be labeled a slut, a deviant, or any one of the many unprintable slurs that we use to mean 'transgender woman' - then ceasing to have sex with someone should be a reliable solution to the problem. And yet, it is not so. Breakups, you see, lead to sadness, and also to anger. And, instead of admitting that women feel unpleasant emotions when they're in unpleasant situations, we have a tendency to label any public display as bitter, vindictive, obsessive, pathetic, desperate, or yes, 'crazy.'"

Doyle weaves her incisive commentary with allusions and references to many of the most well-known women in the public sphere. Ranging from Whitney Houston to Sylvia Plath to Charlotte Bronte, she discusses how society's sexist shaming of women has run its course throughout history. Through her analysis, we learn why we should stop making fun of women for their very human mistakes and flaws, in particular because we demonize women while forgiving men for everything (for further reading, check out this article in defense of my ultimate role model, Ariana Grande.) After the horrendous results of this most recent US presidential election, in which a completely clueless, sexual assault-loving man beat a kind, experienced woman for the highest office in our country, we need to work together to empower women more than ever. This quote touches on how we so often refuse to believe women, because of the misogyny within our world:

"Simply because we've been taught to value men's voices over and above women's, our natural response to a woman's claims of violence is to see her as delusional (she can't perceive the real story) or unstable (she can't handle the real story) or just plain frightening (she knows the real story, but she's out to get him). Which means that a tremendous number of female stories - perhaps the most urgent and enlightening ones, the stories we need most to hear - have been shut down or silenced. Or it means that women have silenced themselves, believing that if they ever truly admitted what they were going through, they would sound crazy."

I only take off one star because I feel like Doyle does not really transcend the "trainwreck" description of women int his book. Yes, we should honor and validate women's pain without castigating them, and also, we should strive to write about women's successes and talents and strengths. Leslie Jamison explains my thoughts well in her mind-blowing essay "The Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain." For example, Doyle mentions Ariana Grande only once in this book, in relation to her donut scandal (which the article I hyperlinked in the second paragraph I wrote addresses). However, she does not touch on how Grande has won several awards for her immense talent and compassion, how she advocates for feminism, and how she has shut down sexist interviewers at point blank. Overall, though, I would still highly recommend Trainwreck to anyone who wants to learn more about feminism, gender studies, or pop culture. I want to end this review with one of the many quotes I love from this book, about how we should stop defining women based on their relationships with men:

"In an ideal patriarchal world, men pursue relationships, create relationships, and end relationships; women simply sit there and get related to, answering male desire and affection rather than feeling their own. 'Crazy' women, again, are women who operate as subjects rather than objects, women who want things rather than passively accept the fact of being wanted; they're seen as unnatural and grotesque because their desire exists on its own terms, rather than in answer to male needs.

So the ultimate clarifier is to ask, not what constitutes 'crazy,' but how surreal and artificial a perfect rendition of 'sane' heterosexual romance would look on these terms, and what a woman would be if she were genuinely only activated by male desire rather than her own: A woman who imitates a man's affection levels seamlessly, instantly, like a reflection moving in a mirror. She reaches out when he reaches out; leans in when he leans in; declares love when he declares love, wants sex when he wants sex, backs away when he backs away. When he leaves, she disappears.

It's when she doesn't leave the frame, when she moves in ways men don't prompt or expect, that a woman unsettles us. She stops being a reflection, and becomes a presence: A person, suddenly standing in the room."

Now, let us all work harder to uplift women - women of color, queer women, all women - so they can become their own persons, standing, in their rooms.
Profile Image for Book Riot Community.
953 reviews125k followers
November 15, 2017
It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Brontë, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. That’s the premise here. But we also get so much more. The things we learn about famous women are just the big things they did for art or literature, or how they killed themselves. Trainwreck gives the full stories, the good and the bad, the glorious and the messy, of these women. It’s spectacular. A must-read for all feminists.

— Ashley Holstrom

from The Best Books We Read In June 2017: https://bookriot.com/2017/07/03/riot-...

I will never think about Britney Spears or Miley Cyrus the same way again. Sady Doyle’s Trainwreck is a fascinating exploration of why our society loves to watch women—famous or not—crash and burn. Well-researched and completely captivating, Doyle delves into the rise and fall of famous women like Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Paris Hilton, Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, and Hillary Clinton. I want everyone to read this book; we need to understand how and why our society—men and women alike—punishes women who do not behave “appropriately” if we ever expect to truly smash the patriarchy.

–Emma Nichols

from The Best Books We Read In December 2016: http://bookriot.com/2017/01/03/riot-r...
September 27, 2022

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When I picked up the feminist book, FEMALE CHAUVINIST PIGS, I was expecting something more in line with TRAINWRECK. In this book, Doyle takes a close look at how we, as a society, talk about famous women-- specifically, their rise, decline, and fall. Why do we feel so comfortable branding women as failures of human beings for a single mistake that would barely cause a blip in a man's career? Why do men get to be tortured, whereas women are called trainwrecks? Writing about women from Mary Wallstonecraft to Amy Winehouse, Doyle discusses the standards that women are given to live up to, and the cruelty we mete out in judgement when they fail to perform to our standards and expectations, especially with regard to morality.

I LOVED this book. I was expecting discussions of Amanda Bynes, Lindsey Lohan, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Amy Winehouse, but it was also kind of exciting to see the author dig out older case studies as well, like Charlotte Bronte (who apparently may have had a crush on her married Belgian professor, and Jane Eyre might have been lusty fanfiction about him), or Mary Wallstonecraft (who had quite the scandalous life, which was all accidentally unearthed when her husband made the decision to posthumously publish all of her letters), or Monica Lewinsky and Hillary Clinton, both representing two poles on the "I Hate Women" yardstick: the harlot and the shrew.

In TRAINWRECK, Doyle gives nuanced portraits of these maligned women, talking about how they were built up and then crucified, and how the expectations for women are impossible to meet even if you play by the rules (she cites Taylor Swift for this specifically). She also includes women of color (such as Billie Holiday, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna), and how when they fail or are made to fail, their condemnations are often racist and sexist, with some people criticizing them simply for being in the spotlight at all. But most importantly, I feel like TRAINWRECK gives these women accolades for the weight of their achievements and what they accomplished because of-- or despite-- everything. It is a nuanced, sympathetic portrayal of society's famously difficult women, and as someone who deliberately seeks out books with heroines who do have flaws or are unlikable, I have to say that it's really refreshing to see a book like this, that so unequivocally condemns these toxic double-standards.

I don't often reread nonfiction, but TRAINWRECK is a book I think I might like to keep on hand to reference again and again.

4.5 stars
Profile Image for David.
659 reviews314 followers
May 13, 2019
Examines our culture's need to keep women in "their place". A tightly constrained little box where we can police their voices, sexuality, clothing choices, and general behaviour. Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, Sylvia Plath, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears are all examined and understood in their time to be difficult, unhinged, irrational, too emotional or just downright crazy.

"By zeroing in on the messiest and most badly behaved women, and rejecting them, we make a statement about what makes a woman good. The trainwreck is the girl who breaks the rules of the game and gets punished, which means that she’s actually the best indication of which game we’re playing and what the rules are.”

Why is Jennifer Aniston understood as a sad, childless, lovelorn woman? Why do we love to hate on the Kardashians. Why is Janet Jackson reviled for her NippleGate halftime antics but Justin Timberlake is hardly mentioned? What is the standard we hold Hillary Clinton to that Donald Trump manages to avoid. Where does Christine Blasey Ford stand in relation to Brett Kavanaugh?

It's a readjusting of focus, an altered view of our voyeurism fuelled by TMZ and the message it sends into the world. How we, whether we realize it or not, police women everyday. We snigger at Taylor Swift for singing about her breakups while conveniently forgetting that Steven Tyler of Aerosmith adopted an underage girl and impregnated her or applauding the bad behaviour of male rock stars in movies like The Dirt.

It's no screed but a smart, engaging book that reads like your smartest friend dropping some serious knowledge on your ass over beers.
Profile Image for Andrew.
556 reviews160 followers
June 20, 2016
Now, those who know me know I'm the LAST person to compare Miley Cyrus and Vincent Van Gogh. But as models for a larger argument.....

Van Gogh struggled with his demons and the struggle turned him into a tortured genius. Without an ear.

Cyrus struggled, that's for sure. 'Cause she's just crazy.

Surprising that one's a man and one's a woman? This is a hugely entertaining callout of some more unusual double-standards. And all modelled around the idea of a trainwreck woman. Funny how men aren't trainwrecks...they have a redemption story. Using historical women and modern examples, this is the true heir to Kate Bolick's Spinster .
Profile Image for Robin.
210 reviews15 followers
July 26, 2016
Too bad there's only 5 stars for this review because I'd give it a 6! Trainwreck is a powerhouse of a book! It's smart, it's funny at times, it's heartbreaking, gut-wrenching and will make you angry as hell (or it should)! Sady Doyle - you may not think you are a "strong feminist woman" at times I don't think I am either, but that isn't really the point. How we identify ourselves and be women in this misogynist society making great art, writing books, running businesses, raising families, in the midst of it all, or in spite of it all - being our-selves. This book is filled with "a-ha" moments. I found myself underlying passages and reading some of them out loud to my daughter. This is a much needed manifesto. Doyle is a force of nature and a voice of reason! Loved it!
Profile Image for leah.
283 reviews1,886 followers
August 23, 2021
in ‘trainwreck’, sady doyle analyses the lives of the many women who have become characterised as ‘trainwrecks’ in popular culture, and the reasons why we, as consumers of pop/celebrity culture, get so much enjoyment from watching their downfalls. she discusses a range of different women that you’d probably not expect to see grouped together - from women like britney spears, amy winehouse, lindsay lohan, whitney houston, to women further back in history such as sylvia plath, charlotte brontë, mary wollstonecraft, and harriet jacobs.

through these examples, doyle provides a feminist anatomy of the ‘female trainwreck’. she examines how women throughout history have been routinely shamed whenever they’re deemed to have ‘stepped out of line’ or when their behaviour is seen as too ‘out of control’. doyle poses a number of questions as to why we enjoy tearing women in the public eye apart - is it validation? jealously? following the crowd? - or is it simply because they’re women?

although the book was a little repetitive at times, it was very interesting to read about the lives of these different women and how our views on them have changed over time. i would’ve liked to read more about doyle’s theories around WHY we enjoy tearing these women apart. i’ve lived long enough/read enough feminist theory to figure out that it basically all simmers down to the long-standing fear of women and their sexuality (i literally use this argument in most of my uni essays lol) but i don’t think doyle ever specifically made that conclusion. but if you’re just getting into feminist non-fiction and you enjoy reading about celebrity culture, then i think this would be a good one to pick up.
Profile Image for Anmiryam.
774 reviews132 followers
July 17, 2016
Everyone needs to read this book when it comes out in September.

Yes, you too.
Profile Image for Punk.
1,502 reviews243 followers
February 7, 2017
The trainwreck. If you've spent any time exposed to western culture, you can probably name one or two, a woman who had it all, and lost it, and the media frenzy dedicated to documenting her every move. We build these women up and then we tear them down for our own entertainment. If they die young enough, they're redeemed, again perfect in our eyes. If they live long enough—age past the point women are considered relevant—they're forgotten.

The trainwreck is part circus sideshow and part cautionary tale, a narrative necessary to keep women in line, to show what happens when we as a society disregard what it means to be "feminine," when women step out of place and speak too loudly, want too much, feel too much, demand too much. In men, this behavior is considered strong and brave; in women it's a sign of insanity.

This is Doyle's theory of the trainwreck, and she takes us through all the things the title promises. Her argument is well structured, never forgets its purpose, and comes together to build a cohesive whole. The book's profiles include women of color, as well as queer women, and go all the way back to Mary Wollstonecraft—not someone I would have named as a trainwreck, but she definitely got the trainwreck treatment after her death when her husband released her papers, all of her papers. Sylvia Plath's profile, on the other hand, reminds us what happens when your ex-husband has control of your work, and edits and censors it according to his own agenda. The profiles are, in fact, probably none of the trainwrecks you would have listed if asked—Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Jacobs, Valerie Solanas—but they prove that TMZ didn't invent the trainwreck treatment; it's been around a long time, and the things Billie Holiday had to put up with are very similar to the things Amy Winehouse, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana, and Whitney Houston had to deal with. There's a definite pattern.

And it's a pattern Doyle points out again and again. But even as you're collapsing under the weight of centuries of oppression, her prose is easy to read, light and casual, and casually profane, and her points are clear. The book has the research to back it up, too, and though that work is almost invisible in the text, it's detailed thoroughly in the copious endnotes. I didn't relate to some of her more personal conclusions, which is understandable as they're clearly informed by her own experiences, and she skips over some details, assuming we know exactly what she means when she talks about Britney Spears and an umbrella, but none of that takes away from her message. That these women were, in many ways, ahead of their time, doing and saying things that were frightening because they went against current social mores. But they were also just living, wanting things, having feelings, and not holding them back—something that's been pathologized in women even before there was a word for it—and as Doyle writes, "The trainwreck is alive. And for a women to be fully alive is revolutionary."

I'll admit, this is a frustrating and upsetting topic to read about, especially now, in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential election and the rise of public figures who are openly encouraging misogyny and sexism, but following the coverage of the Women's March, today, January 21, 2017, a day after Trump was inaugurated, gives me hope that we can pull together, stop lashing out in fear, and step out and be revolutionary.
Profile Image for Kara Babcock.
1,920 reviews1,255 followers
December 8, 2020
Trainwreck was published on my birthday, so it was kind of like Sady Doyle was giving me a birthday gift. Not really, at all, in any way. But still, a great coincidence. I’ve enjoyed reading their writing on various sites for years now, so when I heard they had an honest-to-goodness actual book coming out, I was elated. Fortunately, Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear … and Why does not disappoint. It appoints. It appoints very much. Doyle’s criticism of media and the consumer habits that support the way media recycle the same narratives about women over and over is nuanced, fascinating, well-researched, and on point (can I still say “on fleek”? It’s too late to say “on fleek”, right?)

This is a big subject for Doyle to tackle in an organized fashion. I wouldn’t even know where to start. Doyle starts with sex, linking the packaging of sex for consumption with the pressure women in the spotlight face to sexualize themselves. The irony (spoiler alert) is that it turns out women who volunteer their sexuality are seen as sluts, while chaste-appearing women whose sexuality is displayed without their consent are shamed even as they are ogled:

A victim turns into a perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed consensually. Sexually pure or sexual predator, uncorrupted virgin or corrupting whore, godly or Godzilla: These are the options. Thus are trainwrecks made.

Doyle presents us with examples of trainwrecks from as far back as the French Revolution. They emphasize that, indeed, these historical trainwrecks are not all that different from the celebrity trainwrecks of today, despite the differences in technology. In all these cases, it boils down to the patriarchal need to control women’s sexuality, and to punish women who deviate or resist that control by labelling them immoral, mad, and then continuing to punish them until they die, at which point they can possibly earn redemption (or not).

Wow, when I put it that way, it sounds really depressing. Indeed, this feeling predominates throughout the book, and I had to keep reminding myself that it isn’t Doyle who is depressing me so much as the society they describe. There’s just so much wrong with the way our society treats women, and in particular the way our media vilify some women while putting others on a pedestal—and then the next day, or week, those women’s positions get switched.

We have to be careful, though. We can’t fall into the trap of just saying “the media” like it’s a single monster (if it were, it would be a hydra, I’m sure). There is no oligarchy pulling the strings of this puppet to make it dance to a sexist tune. We pull the strings. Media platforms respond to us and what we choose to consume. We are part of the problem, we who come to gawk and rubberneck at the trainwrecks.

This is the theme Doyle advances in the latter third of the book. After covering the ways in which we shame trainwrecks, and the ways in which trainwrecks can respond (silence or embrace, essentially), Doyle looks at why we have trainwrecks at all (emphasis original):

Somehow, in the midst of the French Revolution, we, as humans, managaed to stumble onto one more crucial insight. The media could advance any political agenda it wanted, and whip up people’s emotions in any direction they felt necessary, and they didn’t even have to tell the truth to do it, as long as the other side was projected onto the body of an unlikable woman. There and then, in Theroigne and Marie, in war and blood and turmoil, the contemporary trainwreck was forged.

Oooohhh. That line, like so many others in this book, makes me shudder. It’s a powerful, albeit tragic, description of how we use and abuse women to keep certain people and groups in power. Doyle grounds the issue firmly in a systemic perspective, which I like, but they do not excuse individuals from the way they act in that system. (Incidentally, this last chapter about the French Revolution has a typo on page 224 that jumped out at me—Doyle mentions “the incompetent King Louis XIV” whereas Louis XVI was king at the time of the revolution. Fast fingers make for good enemies sometimes.)

Although reading about the tragedies perpetrated upon so many women can be saddening, I like Doyle’s conclusion and call to action. Their point is that we cannot fix the current system. There is no way to be a “good girl”, to become immune to being a trainwreck. The only solution is to opt-out. To flip the script. To be revolutionary. And for those who are male or otherwise insulated from this phenomenon courtesy of our privilege, we need to step up and help women be revolutionary, support them instead of tearing them down, and check that rather than participating in trainwreck narratives we are doing all we can to fight them.

Because it is, ultimately, all about the narrative. Trainwreck is a story about the stories we tell about women. And you all know how much I love books about storytelling. More broadly, storytelling is so crucial now that social media has become both a way we get news and a way we interact with each other. This was never demonstrated so clearly as during the recent American election, where the narrative you consumed thanks to your personal bubble influenced your opinions about whether or not to go and vote (if you are American) and who you thought was going to win. The stories we tell have power over our lives.

I came to this book as someone who has gone from an awareness of injustice and inequity towards a position of wanting to fight against it while acknowledging how I participate in systems of oppression. This is the gradual progression that many people make, and it is essential if one hopes to be an intersectional feminist. So for me, Trainwreck was largely a lot of head-nodding—nothing Doyle says seems really strange or new to me, though they often express it more eloquently, or illustrates it with an example from history or pop culture that had previously been unknown to me. I don’t have the perspective required to say for sure how someone newer to feminist thought would react to this book. But I’d like to think that it is thought-provoking and edifying: I think that if you’re open to learning more about misogyny in our culture, this book will work for you.

At the beginning of my review I remarked that this book came as kind of like a birthday gift to me. I’m actually giving it as a birthday gift to the friend who lent me Spinster , Decoded , and Men Explain Things to Me . I debated doing so, simply because it is a depressing book at times, and we’re both still kind of shattered over the way Clinton was treated during the election. But I value our conversations about feminism and our differing perspectives over pop culture, and I’m interested in the conversations we will have because of this book. It’s one thing to enjoy a book by oneself and another thing entirely to enjoy a book with others.

Originally posted on Kara.Reviews, where you can easily browse all my reviews and subscribe to my newsletter.

Creative Commons BY-NC License
Profile Image for Kaitlin.
259 reviews
October 26, 2016
"And the trainwreck is crazy because we're all crazy -- because, in a sexist culture, being female is an illness for which there is no cure."

Yup, that about sums it up, right?

This was an interesting book. It started off kind of meh for me. I'm not sure why. Perhaps I was waiting on how this book would differentiate itself from all the other feminist volumes currently on the scene in 2016. And it did! The tie-ins to history were fascinating and what made this book unique.

It was a great historical search of society's pretty much never-ending hate of women tied to mostly the pop culture icons we see today and why we hate them.

But I want to skip all that discussion -- lots of other people have it done it better than me, and have great stuff to say --, and just say give the book a read, to this pep talk near the end in the revolutionary section:

"That's all being strong is, apparently: being scared, or flawed, or weak, or capable (under the right circumstances) of astonishing acts of stupidity. And then going out and doing it all anyway. Trying ever morning, to be the woman you want to be, regardless of how often you manage to fall short of your own high expectations."

"But it is, perhaps, less painful to be punished for what you do than to punish yourself by never doing anything at all."

Shit. That last line though. Is that not the best rationale for "get up and do something" you have ever heard?
The author was talking about this more in the context of don't fear the public scorn, but it works on a lot of levels, really, and I'm going to take it that way :)

Oh and also, this book is just another solid entry into the "men are the worst" list I'm keeping ;)

ETA: also immediately after reading this book, I started watching the Lindsay documentary on OWN.
Profile Image for Francesca.
247 reviews289 followers
June 24, 2022
Davvero davvero bello.
Non leggo molti saggi solitamente, quindi non so bene come muovermi quando scrivo queste recensioni.
Quello che vi riesco a dire è che Spezzate mi è decisamente piaciuto. I media e il loro funzionamento mi affascinano tantissimo e leggere di come in particolare le donne, o almeno la loro immagine, viene manipolata e studiata è super interessante. Si, decisamente deprimente, ma ho trovato le scomposizioni e analisi di queste narrazioni davvero fatte bene. Inoltre, mi è piaciuto come vengano presentati diversi casi studio che non riguardano solo la contemporaneità, ma anche epoche passate. Ho adorato questa scelta, perché mostra quanti parallelismi ci siano tra come si parla di una Paris Hilton e come si parlava di Maria Antonietta trecento anni fa. L’unica cosa che mi è dispiaciuta è che questo libro è stato pubblicato nel 2016 e, a parte l’aggiunta di una introduzione e una postfazione, la mancanza degli ultimi 6 anni si sente.
Quindi, dal mio punto di vista di profana di saggi, vi consiglio molto questo libro. È stato sempre chiaro, non mi ha mai annoiata, e fa riflettere molto anche sul modo in cui noi donne viviamo, su come giudichiamo, come veniamo giudicate, cosa ci si aspetta da noi.
Profile Image for Fedezux.
169 reviews208 followers
August 24, 2022
"L'unico segreto che tutto quello scherno è in grado di rivelare - l'unica arma che chiunque può usare contro di te - è che sei un essere umano.
Forse un po' incasinato e imperfetto, ma condividi questa condizione con tutti i grandi essere umani della storia, uomini e donne.

Se sei una troia, non ti preoccupare, lo era anche Mary Wollstonecraft.
Se hai dei bisogni, non temere, quelli di Charlotte Brontë avrebbero mangiato viva una persona.
Se sei cattiva, autodistruttiva o pazza, ti ricordo che Billie Holiday incise Strange Fruit quando il suo istinto autodistruttivo aveva raggiunto livelli spettacolari, e che Sylvia Plath scrisse Ariel pur essendo pazza e molto molto cattiva.
Quelle opere continuano a rendere il mondo un posto migliore; l'umanità trae ancora beneficio dall'esistenza di quelle donne, perché, nonostante i loro enormi difetti e la loro rude schiettezza, si sono alzate in piedi per far sentire la loro voce.

L'ultima parola però lasciamola a Théroigne, che Dio solo sa quanto ha atteso questo momento:
" Se vogliamo conservare la nostra libertà" disse, "dobbiamo essere pronte a compiere le imprese più sublimi".
La prima e la più importante libertà che dobbiamo rivendicare - noi, trainwreck umanissime, incasinate e allo sbando - risiede nel convincerci di poter compiere il sublime."
Profile Image for Kelly.
Author 7 books1,211 followers
December 22, 2016
An excellent read about how women become entertainment for being "too much" or "not enough." An exploration of history and of popular culture and more, a scathing depiction of misogyny. A must-read for anyone who cares about women's stories, about dismantling the patriarchy, and/or those who love seeing the way history repeats itself again and again and again.

Another review mentioned the last example used in the book being unnecessary and if I had any complaint about this book, it would be that. It didn't draw me in or add much that the others had already done much better.

A LOT to chew on and think about. A lot to consider in terms of being an ordinary woman on the internet.
Profile Image for Ashley Holstrom.
Author 1 book122 followers
August 8, 2021
It may sound strange to compare Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday to Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Amy Winehouse, but then again, maybe it doesn’t. These women are deemed trainwrecks while the men who act similarly are beloved. We are fed tabloid madness about women, but the men are usually left out, unscathed. Sady Doyle digs into famous women throughout history and finds that many stories are similar, decade after decade. I absolutely loved this on audio.

From 13 Fabulous Feminist Audiobooks at Book Riot.
Profile Image for Dawn.
543 reviews54 followers
January 3, 2017
Holy feminism! This book is awesome! I want to sit our entire society down and force their eyeballs to deliver these words to their brains. Even as a self-declared and lifelong Angry Liberal Feminist Killjoy, this book made me take a hard look at the ways I let the patriarchy and their media control how I judge other women. I mean - this book even made me vow to stop judging the Kardashians. All of them. So that's pretty powerful stuff. Thank you Sady Doyle -thank you so much.
Profile Image for Rheama Heather.
228 reviews4 followers
March 28, 2021
Remember back in the early aughts when the paparazzi stalked young, not necessarily legal, female celebrities? Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, Britney Spears, and so on. And sometimes (so dedicated to career were these gentlemen!) they would lie on the ground waiting for these girls to step out of a car, and they would snap photos up their skirts. The resulting underwear pics soon made their way into tabloids at a supermarket near you. The nudes were beamed directly into your home via this shiny new thing called the internet.

And nobody punched these "journalists" in the face or even said, “Excuse me, sir, that can't possibly be permitted by law.” I was there like everyone else, not batting an eye. Such was the way of the world, it seemed. I didn’t think about it, really. We were all complicit.

Trainwreck is a brilliant book. From Charlotte Bronte to Amy Winehouse, from Sylvia Plath to Miley Cyrus, it forces us to look at how western culture treats women; all women, but especially women who break the rules.

It’s pop culture meets academia - smart, funny, and relevant. You can discuss it, study it, or stew on it in silence, but the one thing you can’t do is forget it. It can’t be unseen. Reading it feels like being gently shaken awake and then throwing open a window to let fresh air and sunshine flood the room.

I have to disclose the author and I aren’t in agreement on everything. (Well, I don’t HAVE to, but you know that urge to announce all the ways you disagree.) For example, Doyle has less than complimentary thoughts on Liz Lemon / Tina Fey. Tina Fey is literally my favorite celeb, and Liz Lemon makes me laugh. So there's that. Also, Doyle doesn’t get that South Park is actually mocking a society obsessed with Paris Hilton’s sex life, not Paris Hilton herself. So deep are the layers of South Park sarcasm, not everyone can follow, I know.

We’re at odds on more serious issues as well. I’m anti-abortion and not on board with the exhausting, awkward, nerve-wracking Great Changing of the Pronouns. (Unfriend me, if you must. I’ll live.)

Just sayin’ we aren’t intellectual soulmates. I’m not sure I even have one, anyway. But there’s still a world of truth here presented in an intelligent yet accessible way.

So read this book. For one thing, we all owe it to Britney Spears. (#FreeBritney) And to Monica Lewinsky and Billie Holiday and (insert infinity symbol here).

Most of all, read it because ... imagine if we all opened the window. Imagine if we just allowed women to be human; talented, needy, flawed, thoughtful, sexual, funny, emotional, beautiful, damaged, brilliant - human trainwrecks.
76 reviews5 followers
September 30, 2016
I loved this book. It was a thoughtful, well-researched, and compelling exploration of a topic we don't often treat with any sort of gravitas--celebrity women, those "trainwrecks" that so grip our gossip and collective imagination. I was expecting a light and entertaining read, and was instead pulled into Doyle's emotionally resonant analysis of both our modern understanding of the female trainwreck and her tracing of the concept through history. As a former English major I was interested in her discussion of Mary Wollstonecraft and the Brontes as well as lesser-known (to me) historical figures. I think that this book should be required reading for men and women, as it untangles our often conflicting and ambivalent treatment of women, fame, and the impossible to achieve "feminine ideal." This book is going to be my go-to gift for the holiday season.
Profile Image for vanessa.
981 reviews150 followers
June 8, 2017
I tabbed this more than 30 times.

There are so many great comments about gender in our society and how we treat and react to female behavior. Best of all it dealt with two topics I love: celebrities/pop culture (Britney forever) and history (by exploring historical women who might've fit the trainwreck narrative of today). I learned so much about women in history I have never heard of and of famous women/"trainwrecks" whose stories permeate the media.

It is so smart and I definitely want to pick it up again.
Profile Image for MsElisaB.
83 reviews9 followers
December 9, 2022
Se dovessi descrivere questo saggio in solo due parole, sceglierei: "appassionata invettiva". Che, per quanto mi riguarda, è un vero complimento.

Sicuramente molto parziale, prende in considerazione solo la sua posizione, facendo un discreto cherry picking per avvalorare la sua tesi. Questo toglie un po' di consistenza al valore del saggio, ma aumenta la potenza del messaggio. Non avere una controparte è necessariamente sbagliato? Se si vuole urlare un disagio ed un'ingiustizia, no. E riesce a farlo anche senza scadere nella retorica. Anche nella sezione "anatomia", approfondimento su una biografia al termine di ogni capitolo, è necessariamente riportato solo un ritratto parziale delle donne, di volta in volta, protagoniste, ma vengono messe in luce sfaccettature sempre molto interessanti e che (almeno io) non conoscevo: c'è, evidente, l'intenzione di dare rilevanza ad aspetti meno noti di grandi signore della Storia, che, però, si trovano chiuse nella narrazione nazional-popolare e stereotipata del loro "personaggio".
Forse si perde un po' nello stile, mantenendo un registro tipico del blogging, anche nel tono dall'ironia un po' aggressiva, ma, venendo l'autrice da quel mondo, nella sua opera prima è un difetto assolutamente perdonabile.

Ho due critiche, però.

- Avrebbe potuto estendere maggiormente la condizione di trainwreck: le parti meglio riuscite, a mio parere, sono quelle in cui non fa riferimento ai singoli fenomeni delle star, ma, per induzione, partendo da quelli nello specifico, arriva ad un atteggiamento sociale che condizioni tutte le donne/persone queer/persone affette da disturbi mentali, di volta in volta, in base ai casi.

- Si limita alla denuncia: non si spinge mai oltre a proporre una soluzione, o ad ipotizzare un diverso modo di vivere per le donne nella concretezza, nemmeno nella seconda parte del testo, che si sarebbe, secondo me, molto prestata a questo scopo.

Al netto di tutto, comunque, durante la lettura mi sono trovata spesso ad annuire da sola senza accorgermene: un male per la cervicale, un bene per lo spirito.

Disclaimer: parlo dell'autore usando il femminile, perché lui stesso lo specifica nella prefazione - questo libro è stato scritto anni prima del suo percorso di transizione e restituisce la visione di una persona appartenente al genere di identificazione femminile, nel quale è palese, durante tutto il testo, quanto in quel momento si muovesse, volente o nolente.
Profile Image for Siria.
1,791 reviews1,305 followers
February 10, 2017
A powerful and passionate look at the ways in which society likes to tear down women who buck the norms: women who are "too messy", "too emotional", "too crazy", or "too demanding" in public. Think Lindsay, Whitney, Britney—all of these women and more, Sady Doyle argues, are the pop culture version of the fallen woman. First they are held up as idols; then they are torn down. Doyle traces the evolution of the trainwreck archetype over a period of some two centuries, from Mary Wollstonecraft in the eighteenth century to Miley Cyrus in the twenty-first, and argues persuasively that the trainwreck is held up as a totemic cultural figure, a cautionary tale to dissuade women from being ambitious or demanding attention. Even women of genius and talent—perhaps even especially such women—like Billie Holiday and Charlotte Brontë can be and have been framed in such a way.

Now, Doyle's case studies don't always work. She calls Harriet Jacobs—abolitionist, former slave, and author of the harrowing autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl—a trainwreck, but this seems to awkwardly shoehorn the life of an unbowed badass into a mould that doesn't quite fit. I also don't agree with her framing of social and cultural mores in the West as trending consistently towards the left/progressivism in time. That's both a presentist view, and one that perhaps I'm perhaps too pessimistic right now to be able to enter into (oh 2017, you unremitting dumpster fire). Still, as a thought-provoking book—one that's written with vibrancy and a knowledge of when to deploy a well-timed F-bomb—this is well worth picking up.

(I listened to the audiobook version, which I thought was pretty well done but why do some audiobook readers seemingly refuse to invest the time in learning how to pronounce words in other languages? It doesn't take long and it would mean that I wouldn't have to cringe at "monsieur" becoming "mohn-syewer", or spend a long time figuring out that "TUHR-wine" was supposed to be "Théroigne.")
Profile Image for Nadine.
1,155 reviews222 followers
April 29, 2018
What do Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Nicki Minaj, Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and Billie Holiday have in common? They’re all trainwrecks!

Trainwreck is one of those novels you have to experience to understand how awesome it is. I used the word experience instead of read because reading this novel is a powerful experience in and of it self.

“A victim turns perpetrator; a naked body that people were willing to commit theft to see becomes unsightly and shameful the moment it’s exposed consensually. Sexually pure or sexual predator, uncorrupted virgin or corrupting whore, godly or Godzilla: these are the options. Thus are train wrecks made.

Doyle walks the reader through the making of a trainwreck, her options, and her role in our culture. Throughout each of these sections Doyle weaves a compelling narrative with ample evidence that will leave you stunned, stocked, and disgusted. I wouldn’t say that I’m an avid consumer of celebrity gossip, but that kind of information always finds its way into my repertoire of facts, so I was nauseated at how these women were exploited, in life and in death.

Each chapter of the novel is deeply entrenched in telling the reader, not convincing, that trainwrecks are engrained in our culture. Doyle demonstrates this by including analysis of some of the most well known women and how they were dragged through the mud for their thoughts and actions. Seeing Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus being compared to Mary Wollstonecraft and Billie Holiday is eye opening and effective.

“A live trainwreck is an affront. A dead one is confirmation: No one can be that beautiful, that sexual, that successful, that free. Something has to go wrong; she has to pay, with her life, for breaking the rules.”

I could sit here and throw around words like “powerful”, “groundbreaking”, “eyeopening”, “unabashedly feminist”, and “brilliant”, but these words still wouldn’t do Doyle’s work justice. So, just read it!
Profile Image for Cathy .
121 reviews32 followers
October 5, 2016
I almost didn't pick this one up because it's the kind of book I feel I've already read. Yes, we are all aware that we're living in a sexist, patriarchal society and that as women we are taught to hate ourselves from a young age. I think most of us get that, so why pick up a book about what we already know?

When I saw Trainwreck at the bookstore I was surprised at how quickly and hungrily I reached for it. In retrospect it makes sense. This has been a particularly tough year to get through as a woman, thanks in large part to all of the misogyny that has surfaced surrounding our current U.S. presidential election, from people on both ends of the political spectrum. And I've read Sady Doyle's essays before so I know she's someone who gets it and feels some of what I have been feeling too. So of course I would want to read her book right now!

It was great. So entertaining and so sharp. Doyle makes sometimes unexpected connections (between Britney Spears and Hillary Clinton, for instance), that shed light on our society's obsession with the ridicule and disproportionate judgment of women in the public eye. I was surprised at how much I learned, and fascinated to see century-old replicas of issues and stories that feel so specific to 2016. It was just an overall very rewarding read. I'm so glad I bought it instead of borrowing it from the library because I know I'll be rereading many passages in the future!
15 reviews2 followers
November 29, 2016
Years ago, late for a staff meeting at work, I hurriedly and accidentally barged into the wrong conference room. The room went silent and the people in the room whom I knew only slightly all gave me a what-are-you-doing-here-you-don't-belong-here look and I awkwardly backed out.
Reading this book gave me a similar feeling.
This is mainly a discussion of how pop culture and popular media treat famous women unfairly. Well, yeah. Pop culture and media alter everyone's story to fit whatever narrative they're pushing.
I did learn some interesting historical stuff about Charlotte Bronte and Mary Wollstonecraft (Mary Shelley's mother!), but the author lost me when she compared the challenges they faced with those of Miley Cyrus or Paris Hilton. Those latter two aren't victims of gawking media, they are, as is said, volunteers. I'm sure there are many who found this stuff greatly entertaining and informative, but I did not.
Profile Image for Lissa.
1,100 reviews113 followers
May 29, 2017
I will admit that I don't stay informed when it comes to celebrity culture; I don't really know who is considered a popular actress or actor nowadays. But the themes talked about in this book are recurring; they play out in every generation, it seems, even if they evolve a bit to keep up with the times. The author is around my age (mid-30s), so she discusses a lot of examples from the early 2000s, of which I am more aware (Britney Spears, Tara Reid, etc).

We all know the "trainwreck" - the actress who can't keep her shit together, who has sex when she wants to (the horror!!!), who delves into alcohol or drugs or some combination of both, whose life falls apart as the paparazzi circle her head like so many vultures waiting on their next meal. But WHY are these "trainwrecks" almost exclusively female?

Because even as a teenager, I realized that male and female celebrities were treated differently by the media. Britney Spears admits to having lost her virginity to her long-term boyfriend? What a slut and hypocrite! Meanwhile, an actor can be sleeping his way through half of Hollywood and it's all "oh, what a rake and a charmer! ;)" Paparazzi wait, crouched down to waist level, in the hopes of snapping an "up-skirt" picture for a rising teenaged starlet, and once that picture is splashed everywhere, it is somehow the actress who comes across as "bad" - not the photographers who are trying, literally, to look up a teenager's skirt. (And if she had been wearing underwear, I am sure someone would have blogged about her panty lines.)

Doyle tries to explain why this happens so routinely, and she does a pretty damned good job, too. She traces it all back to feminism - trying to keep the "errant" females quiet, the shaming that is so often involved to keep women "in line," often performed by women as a group - and links modern cases to historical "trainwrecks," such as Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte, and even Monica Lewinsky.

I found this book to be fascinating, and I had a hard time putting it down. I'd definitely recommend it.
Profile Image for Caroline.
592 reviews800 followers
August 17, 2021
An incredibly interesting look at 'trainwreck' women and the way society obsesses over them. It is filled with excellent commentary on the stories of many famous women- Mary Wollstonecraft, Sylvia Plath, Harriet Jacobs and Charlotte Bronte to Whitney Houston, Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears.

She discusses the shaming of women throughout history and the double standards in media coverage in an incredibly well researched book. Her points flow well into each other and, although some took maybe too long to make, were powerful.

It was interesting reading this with #FreeBritney going on. It added a new level (a much sadder one) to the accounts of the medias mistreatment of her.

This is a really interesting book, highly recommended to anyone who enjoys feminist reading or just wants to pick up an interesting non-fiction book.
Profile Image for La lettrice controcorrente.
481 reviews205 followers
July 8, 2022
i ho messo parecchio a leggere Spezzate di Jude Ellison Sady Doyle (Tlon) e non perché il libro non fosse interessante, anzi. Ci ho messo molto perché volevo capirlo, ho sentito l'esigenza di cercare ogni (o quasi) donna citata.  Mi conoscete, tutto il mondo della televisione, cinema e talvolta anche musica, mi è quasi sconosciuto e ammetto che non conoscevo tutte le persone citate o comunque non ero a conoscenza di dettagli precisi sulle loro storie e devo dire che sono rimasta... sbalordita. 

Doyle indaga sul perché ci piace così tanto vedere queste donne cadere, soffrire e in alcuni casi morire. Essendo un saggio, preferisco non fare una recensione canonica, ma voglio darvi invece cinque motivi per leggerlo.
RECENSIONE: www.lalettricecontrocorrente.it
Profile Image for dafne letturaincorso.
136 reviews25 followers
March 19, 2023
Il saggio è davvero molto interessante e ho apprezzato soprattutto le motivazioni che ci sono dietro la sua stesura.
Si concentra sulla figura delle trainwreck, donne 'spezzate', per lo più personaggi pubblici che a causa dei media sono crollate sotto il peso della fama.
La Wollstonecraft, la Solanas, Paris Hilton, Amy Winehouse e Britney Spears, ma anche Sylvia Plath e Hillary Clinton sono state tutte donne che hanno visto la loro vita privata sbandierata al mondo e per questo criticate e minacciate.
Sempre in poli opposti a quello che è l'ideale di una 'donna perfetta' per la società.

Un saggio per prendere consapevolezza che alle donne, soprattutto se famose non è concesso commettere errori e che quello che a un uomo viene perdonato, diventa una condanna per una donna.
Profile Image for Catherine Read.
265 reviews21 followers
January 17, 2017
This book is amazing. It gives context - historical context - to the "trainwrecks" from Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte & Sylvia Plath, to Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, right up to Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.

Here's the thing: What they have in common is they are remarkable, talented and accomplished women. We look at them and want to believe they must somehow be "flawed." It makes me think of how people believe that poverty is also a "character flaw" and not situational or circumstantial. We should just be able to fix what's wrong with us and then we would know success and acceptance!

Sady Doyle has done a great job in her historical research. I was fascinated to learn about some of these women whose life stories I had no idea about. She also draws a common thread from the 17th century to the 21st century to show the similarity in how women are viewed - by the media, in the context of the social norms of the day and always through the lens of impossible standards.

One of the most interesting chapters is about Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. This book is not an academic endeavor. I believe her research is credible and adds so much to the subject she's trying to illuminate. But at the end of the day, it's meant to be a contemporary work about where we are right now and the women and stories that are making headlines. This book is meant to shift our paradigm - to show us the commonplace hostility toward women through a different plane of the prism. Doyle does a good job with that.

I highly recommend the book. In fact, I recommended it to my daughter and she loved it! It is time well invested. We need to consider more thoughtfully the signals we are sending to every generation of girls who become women.
Profile Image for Sarah.
582 reviews24 followers
October 22, 2016
I loved this book and it's a quick read. She writes really well about how misogynist tabloid culture is, and made me think a lot about my own guilty tabloid habit....

BUT she does actually compare people like Paris Hilton to Mary Wollstonecraft. And while this has dramatic and narrative effect, by the time she's comparing former slave/abolitionist Harriet Jacobs, Sylvia Plath, or Marie Antoinette to Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, it's hard to make the analogy stick. I think it's also too easy to compare and contrast Monica Lewinsky to Hillary Clinton; they aren't just negative images of one another who have both been pilloried in popular press.

In some ways this reminded me of the Elizabeth Wurtzel book "Bitch" (I love Elizabeth Wurtzel); but Doyle delves more into the purposeful construction of the 'trainwreck' and digs deep into what she means culturally.
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