Panda Incognito's Reviews > How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I've Learned from Reading Too Much

How to Be a Heroine by Samantha    Ellis
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This book is part memoir and part literary analysis, and I enjoyed what the author had to say about her personal experiences and how books have shaped her. The first few chapters, which were related to characters I grew up with, resonated with me and gave me some new insights. I agree with the author's criticism of "Little Women," but think she was too hard on L.M. Montgomery's Anne. The argument is that Anne lost herself in adulthood when she started a family and gave up her writing, but personally, I think Anne got a good transition into adulthood and was never so serious about writing that it was an integral part of self. Lots of people write when they're young and trying to understand the world, but then let it drop in the future when they're living out their own story. As a wife and a mother, Anne never lost her imagination, so she never lost herself.

After the chapter on Lizzy Bennet, the book went downhill for me. There were still interesting things about the author's life and instructive insights about different heroines, but the feminist tone of the book became overwhelming and I had to skip over pages at a time to get past sexual stuff I really did not want to read. I skipped one whole chapter entirely. I agreed with the author's feminist perspective on "Little Women" and think that was valid, but I have problems with her worldview on other characters and their issues. The second half of the book was overwhelmingly focused on "female problems" and the whole narrative that women are oppressed by marriage and children and need to find themselves. I don't want to dismiss this out of hand, because a lot of women do feel trapped by marriages and struggle with their identity as a woman; however, I disliked the way this book presented rebellion and breaking out of a mold as the core of being female, while presenting men as nothing more than sex objects and obstacles.

Society does have problematic expectations from women, but it also makes it hard to be a man. I resent this kind of feminism for myopically focusing on women instead of seeing society as male and female and trying to make it better for both of them. Men are not cardboard cutouts, but people with beliefs, contradictions, struggles, and their own fight for personal identity. Not all men are bad husbands, not all men want to mold a woman into what they desire, and many appreciate women who are intellectual equals. If a woman wants the complexity of her life to be known and accepted, it is unjust for her to reduce men to oppressors and obstacles without seeing them as human.

I liked aspects of this book, but for the most part, it just served to deepen my loathing of such feminism. I do not find my identity in what a man thinks of me, but I also refuse to blame men for any identity struggles I have. I am who I am and men are who they are, and even though men can be oppressive to women, I refuse to live my life seeing them as dangerously other. This book makes me grateful to know who I am, be established in what I believe, and see the other half of society as fully human and deserving of equal respect and concern.
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Reading Progress

February 10, 2015 – Shelved
February 10, 2015 – Shelved as: to-read
August 4, 2015 – Started Reading
August 6, 2015 – Shelved as: biography-memoir-diary
August 6, 2015 – Shelved as: read-in-2015
August 6, 2015 – Shelved as: writing-instruction
August 6, 2015 – Finished Reading
January 19, 2019 – Shelved as: nonfiction-adult

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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Emily You are the first person I saw who made a negative review and to that I thank you...
My review is coming as soon as I finish this terrible book.

Panda Incognito Emily wrote: "You are the first person I saw who made a negative review and to that I thank you...
My review is coming as soon as I finish this terrible book."

I'm glad you appreciated it and sympathize. I'll look forward to seeing what you write.

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