Clementine's Reviews > Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen
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it was ok
bookshelves: 2018

I like the idea of this book: an exploration of the ways in which women step out of bounds and are sanctioned for it. But unfortunately the best I can say about it is that it's a perfect illustration of why the rise of feminism in the public consciousness doesn't actually equate to meaningful activism. I mean, do we actually a need a white woman telling us about how revolutionary Hillary Clinton, Lena Dunham, Kim Kardashian, and Caitlyn Jenner are?

Petersen's writing is competent: clear, smart, well-articulated. It's also unmistakably the writing of someone who has spent time in media studies academia. Take, for example, this description of Kim K: "no makeup, her hair tied up in a truly messy, not performatively messy, bun." A performatively messy bun, you guys! Ahh!

But the biggest issue I have with this book is its politics. Petersen takes great pains in the introduction to explain why the majority of the women she writes about are straight and white: because unruliness is accessible, with fewer consequences, to straight white women. This is undoubtedly true. It's also a major fucking copout. The women she writes about are merely completing the work of so many who came before them, many of them women of colour, or trans women, or lesbians. Petersen tries to contextualize each essay, but what's missing is acknowledgment of the labour of the subaltern that white women capitalize on.

Petersen also tries to acknowledge the "problematic" (barf I hate that word) nature of some of the women she profiles, but ultimately fails as she continues to uphold these women as revolutionary. She successfully works through the issue of Serena Williams' anger (and this is the strongest essay in the book by far, a defense of a woman who has spent her entire career dealing with coded and not-so-coded racism and misogyny, scrutinized because it is unbelievable to the white majority that she could be so dominant). But she just misses the mark with her other essays. No mention, for example, of any of the legitimate grievances people might make against Hillary Clinton. No doubt much of the rhetoric around her is frustratingly sexist; no doubt she is perceived as shrill because she is a woman; no doubt misogyny played a large role in her loss. But, come on. She's an establishment politician; she failed to adequately address the concerns of many minority populations; she made major missteps in her campaign.

The chapter on Lena Dunham was obviously an eyeroll. Petersen vaguely references to "a lack of diversity on her show" and "her privilege" but does not expand upon that at all. Again, yes, Lena Dunham is the recipient of misogynistic bullshit, and yes, some of that is because she puts her size 12 naked body on television. But, hello, she has huge issues with race (and acknowledging it as "a blind spot" as she did in a recent profile does nothing to alleviate that), and she LITERALLY accused an actress on her show of lying about being raped by one of her friends. (OH BY THE WAY, the actress was a biracial woman, just to add another layer to that lovely story.) She outed her sibling to their parents. COME ON. She is the worst. She is not a woman who deserves to be hailed as some boundary-breaking feminist hero. The people I know don't hate her because she's naked on HBO, they hate her because she is a truly godawful, unbearable, immoral person.

And Caitlyn Jenner! Oh my god! I Am Cait is worthy of analysis and exploration, and Jenner's celebrity image is absolutely fascinating. But for Jenner to be used as a poster child for trans women, for her chapter to be labelled "too queer", is a slap in the face to the entire LGBTQ community and to trans women specifically. Jenner has done almost no meaningful activism while trans women of colour do work that is never acknowledged. Jenner is a Republican voter and opposes same-sex marriage; choosing her as the representative of "too queer" is truly offensive to all the LGBTQ women who are actually unruly, revolutionary, whose hard work makes a difference, who put up with abuse and assault and social sanctioning that Jenner has insulated herself from. Caitlyn Jenner does not and will not ever represent me or other LGBTQ women. She is an enemy of the community except for when it serves her personally. Of all the trans women and bi women and lesbians whose work is transformative and necessary, for Jenner to be selected instead - it's just insulting. It really is.

Anyway, this book had one good essay (the one on Serena Williams), a few essays that had good points spoiled by generally shallow analyses and dumb academic jargon, and a bunch of REALLY bad ones.
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Reading Progress

December 23, 2018 – Started Reading
December 23, 2018 – Shelved
December 23, 2018 –
page 111
December 24, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018
December 24, 2018 – Finished Reading

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