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Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power

4.40  ·  Rating details ·  468 ratings  ·  91 reviews
The Female Monster is alive and well in the pop-cultural imagination. What does she tell us about ourselves and how we live today?

Funny, smart and encyclopedic, nimbly addressing everyone from the biblical Lilith, to the movie Carrie, to Hae Min Lee (whose death was the focus of the first season of "Serial"), this book is dedicated to exploring the female dark side, as
Paperback, 330 pages
Published August 13th 2019 by Melville House
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Average rating 4.40  · 
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Start your review of Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
As someone who loves horror, has an interest in women's history, and has a darker sense of humour, I fell in love with this book before I was even finished reading its introduction.

The book covers everything from odd true crime cases (and often how they go on to influence pop culture), The Exorcist and several other horror gems (like Dracula, The Craft, Carrie, and even Godzilla and Twin Peaks), witchcraft, menstruation, motherhood, female sexuality, etc. It's super informative - though not
Jul 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you feel like women are reaching a boiling point; if you question why we think about daughters, mothers, and wives the way we do; if you've always wondered where it all came from and where it might be heading..... read this book.

In her compulsively readable, feminist manifesto, Sady Doyle takes a sharp look at mythology, pop culture, and real women through a lens to see how patriarchy was, is, and always has been how we see women.

Completely fascinating (the couple pages of Jurassic Park
Marcus Kaye
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Holy shit this book was so good. Love horror? Love women? THEN HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU! Don’t? Then why are we even friends?
Sep 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: feminism, non-fiction
Men have long believed that women—our desires, bodies, and demands for equality and autonomy—are monstrous. You see, if women are free to make their own decisions, it would destroy the patriarchy, and we can't have that. Here Sady Doyle takes a look at myth and horror through a feminist lens to discover what these stories can tell us, and how all those horror movie lessons are meant to oppress women by making their autonomy (from men, from pregnancy, from motherhood, from the patriarchy) into ...more
Aug 23, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As much as I loved Doyle's last book, this one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think her analysis of culture casting women as monstrous is both valid and important, but in condensing her examples, I feel that she sometimes leaves out crucial details that don't support her case. For instance, she contrasts Aileen Wuornos's six death sentences to Gary Ridgway's life imprisonment but fails to mention a) Ridgway has 48 life sentences plus 480 years and b) he was spared the death penalty in ...more
Neville Longbottom
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019, nonfiction
I love Sady Doyle’s writing. She’s able to weave together stories about actual historical and current figures, fictional characters, and women from myths into an entertaining book about the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women.

The book is broken down into three main sections: daughters, wives, and mothers. I definitely enjoyed the book as a whole, but I was more interested in the daughters and wives sections than the one about mothers. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for
Melinda Borie
Oct 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Reading this book was like discovering a favorite song, one that is perfectly in tune and on best with you.

I wish I could take back every five-star review I’ve given any other book and give them all to this one, as though love was a zero-sum game, a competition that demands to be won. I feel seen and recognized by the writing here in a way I truly did not expect, and which I think many other women will be also. Doyle is clearly brilliant and thoughtful and skilled, and she also works to be
Sam Cooke
Oct 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a good one! It sort of goes without saying that this book is chock full of spoilers. It’s a critical examination about women viewed as monsters and how we have allowed this notion to shape our nightmares. Doyle strings together real and fictional stories to tell this tale, and she does it very well.

This book mirrors many conversations I’ve had with women, about periods, being a mother, rape, and how scary it can be to walk home to name a few. It wraps these conversations into a nice
Nov 12, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I devoured this on the plane, one because the subject matter is interesting but also because this book is an easy read with large print. Very accessible, I really enjoyed Doyle's take on a lot of classic tropes of monstrous women in literature, movies and popular culture (bonus points if you are familiar with most of the stories she references, but it's unnecessary for you to have read them on your own). She covers a wide range of things, from Laci Peterson to demonic possession to "Rebecca" by ...more
Nov 21, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i really wish i could coherently convey how crazy good and truthful this book is but all i can hear is the opening to immigrant song playing in my mind at full volume
This book has everything—insightful cultural history, cutting insight, wonderful humour, and smooth, clear writing. Did you know that the majority of slasher pic fans are young women? Do you know why? You can find out here. Do you know that 40 years ago exorcism suddenly became popular in America? Then you probably know why. The answers are here. Do you know the source of Silence of the Lambs and Psycho are the same? Okay, maybe that was too easy. How about the source for Frankenstein? It was ...more
Emily Chandler
Aug 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites
I spent months eagerly anticipating this book after reading Sady Doyle's debut Trainwreck, but this blew all my expectations out of the water. I devoured the entire thing in less than 24 hours both because its case studies and arguments were so compelling, and because its prose was moving, maddening and hilarious. I absolutely adored it, would recommend it to anyone with an interest in women, history, horror, true crime, gender and/or feminism, and am raring to read anything Sady Doyle comes out ...more
Sep 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed Sady Doyle's last book so I knew I would enjoy this one. I'm not a fan of horror but have seen enough to know that healthy interrogation of them is necessary to fighting back against a misogynist patriarchy. This book really does name a lot of the problems of misogyny through our canonized literature and movies--always seeming to blame victims and erasing the rape culture embedded in the conciousness of the men who worship patriarchy. I liked her reexamination of Scream because it was ...more
Suz Jay
Sep 04, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“This is a dark book, but some things are clearer in the darkness. This is a violent book, but an unsparing confrontation with violence can bring us to what lies beneath and beyond it. Female monstrosity inspires fear because it really can in the world—or our current version of it, anyway. But our world is not the only one, or the best one, and in fact, the more time I spend with monsters, the more I think it’s destruction is overdue.”

The book is divided into three parts: Daughters, Wives, and
Oct 29, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
In this book of analysis of pop culture and horror culture, author Sady Doyle looks at the monstrous feminine and how the patriarchy creates the myth of the female monster, particularly as it relates to the mother. This is not an academic book, and she looks at horror movies, popular horror, tabloids, true crime, literature, and news. I enjoyed this book very much, but I didn't find it to be groundbreaking.

It's an interesting pop culture book, and now I much rewatch Francis Ford Coppola's
One thing that separates Sady Doyle from other modern feminist writers is that her writing, while detailing the history of oppression women experience under patriarchy, is somehow fun to read. She draws on mythology and pop culture to make her points, which I guess can be more enjoyable than reading about the real-life ways women suffer at the hands of men (though there is plenty of that in this book, too). That said, she also doesn't make light of the ways society turns on women in this way. I ...more
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really loved this book. She basically breaks down cultural norms of misogyny. She uses three categories of womanhood to do this: daughters, wives and mothers, and brings in all kinds of mythology, history, film and literature, news stories, to demonstrate how completely vilified and demonized womanhood is in western culture. It was awesome to see how she took such a huge ambitious amount of cultural artifact and distilled it to support her hypotheses.
She writes amazingly well. I dog eared a
Oct 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely loved Doyle's last book Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why and while this one might be a bit lesser in comparison, I still found it fantastic. It's conversational and funny while tackling gigantic issues and hit all the highlights for me--though it's to be familiar with certain movies in particular (The Craft, Gone Girl, etc.)
Eileen Anderson
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So glad to come across this book! It has a lot in common with "Second Wave" feminist books, and it was great to see some of the same topics tackled with a modern approach. Jurassic Park representing out of control female reproductive power; I never thought about it, but spot on!
Rachel Elizabeth
I adored Trainwreck, but was majorly disappointed with this piece of work. Despite the hype, it really struck me as a structure-less collection of pop culture references, which began to feel less developed the further into the book I read.
Rebecca Schweitzer
Oct 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Extremely interesting stuff which draws on pop culture and history and politics to paint a very detailed picture of how the world views and deals with female power.
Emily Wrayburn
Sep 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Somewhere around 3.5 - 4 stars.

I felt some of the analysis was reaching a bit, but overall an engaging read about the ways in which women are depicted as monstrous.
Sep 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To say I’m obsessed with this book is almost an understatement. Not since my 1st women’s studies class in college did something resonate with me as much as this book. Specifically, in the way that Sady summarizes and makes big connections between women’s bodies and men’s fear of them that makes perfect sense to me. The book is about how men make monsters out of women in every stage of our lives. I’m also a huge horror/scary stories/myths fan and Sady expertly ties these stories to the wider ...more
Meena Habibulla
Aug 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: my-books, feminism
Dead blondes and Bad Mothers informs us of the ways society paints women and femaleness in a disturbing, and horrific manner. This is explored through history, literature, and film, and is posed and processed into the "acceptable" tropes of female nature and femininity (daughters, wives, and mothers). When women in myth, fairytales, pop culture, and in real life fail to comply with the paragons of womanhood, they are revealed to be monstrous.

At best, it's insidious propaganda that's been
Lauren Olson
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. When I read something, I either want to be completely captivated and transported or I want the title to resonate with me and shine new a light on a topic I find personally important. Exceptional non-fiction, like this selection can accomplish both of those things. This will have something for fans of the Lore podcast, true crime, Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti. There are a lot of "badass ladies of history" style books on the shelves these days, but this one ...more
A tad hyperbolic at times, but overall a really enjoyable read. Dark, revealing, well-researched, and surprisingly hilarious. I’ll read anything Sady Doyle writes.
Like every modern feminist text, just read it. It is crucial. It can help save humankind.

"Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them."
— Margaret Atwood.

And men do kill women. All the time.

It's a well known fact that men have always feared women. And because fear, like nearly every emotion aside from anger, is not allowed in men by the patriarchy, lest they be mocked and labelled as un-masculine and a "pussy" (read: like a woman, a fate worse than
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The moment I finished this book, I told everyone I know to get it and read it ASAP. It is that good. Truly, a must-read. Doyle is a genius.
Aidan Fortner
Sep 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Required reading
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Sady Doyle is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York.

In 2008, Sady founded Tiger Beatdown, a pioneering blog in the "3,500-word-long rants about Tina Fey's career" space. While at Tiger Beatdown, she led several successful social media awareness campaigns, including #MooreandMe and #MenCallMeThings, and won the Women's Media Center Social Media Award in 2011.

Sady has been a staff writer at In
“Women are defined from the outside, in terms of how they seem to men, rather than from the inside, as thinking, feeling subjects. They are not fellow people, not even a different or worse variety of person, but simply the opposite of men, and hence, the opposite of human.” 1 likes
“The ultimate violence patriarchy does to women is to make us believe we deserve what has been done to us—a loop forever closing, breaking us so that we will raise broken women.” 1 likes
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