Ana Mardoll's Reviews > He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know

He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Ever... by Jessica Valenti
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He's a Stud, She's a Slut, and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know / 9781580052450

I really loved Valenti's "The Purity Myth", and I've been reading Feministing off and on for years, so I was pretty primed to like this book, but now that I've read it I'm not quite sure how to rate it. The material here is good, and each of these double standards are absolutely worth calling out for explanation as to why they are harmful to women (as well as other minorities who may or may not overlap but who nonetheless get hurt by institutionalized misogyny). So from that perspective, this is a wonderful book that calls out genuine problems and gathers them all up for a precise take-down.

On the other hand, though, this is really very "intro" material -- people who have been involved in feminist blogging for an extended length of time may end up being a bit disappointed by the fast-and-furious tone that effectively means that each of the double standards gets a mere four pages dedicated to it. That's probably to be expected in a book that covers as many topics as this, but I was nevertheless a little disappointed.

Little things, too, niggled at me a bit. Valenti does address fat acceptance here, especially in a wonderful piece on why "fat suits" in movies are problematic, but the heading for each chapter (and the cover of the book) contains the silhouette of an hourglass-shaped woman, very femme, with long straight hair and her feet turned in such a way as to suggest high heels or deliberately pointed toes. Very probably, Valenti had minimum input into the cover art and chapter layout, but after seeing 50 repeated silhouettes of an Every Woman who strongly suggests straight-haired, thin, and conventionally attractive, I started feeling like I was getting a bit of a mixed message.

Also here on display is some unfortunate use of ableist words, such as when Valenti uses the words "insane" and "crazy" to refer to things that she considers unfortunate or unfair. On the one hand, who am I to judge, seeing that in 2009 (when this book was written), I didn't even know what ableism was? On the other hand, it's here in a feminist book where some readers may not expect to find it, so I feel bound to mention in it my review as a sort of "content note". I will say that in a 180+ page book, I only counted about a dozen instances of "insane" and/or "crazy", so at least it's kept to a relative minimum.

I think "He's a Stud, She's a Slut" is probably a really great book for a feminism introduction. The topics are absolutely germane, the analysis is quick but largely spot-on, and all of this adds up to be worthwhile for an audience that may not be entirely receptive to something meatier. Every movement needs 101 material, and I think having a strong addition to the Feminism 101 lineup is a very good thing. However, folks who are more deeply versed in feminism may be disappointed with the necessarily shallow handling of some of these topics, and some of the accidental ableism and/or absolutism* may leave advanced readers a little disappointed and looking elsewhere for something more nuanced.

(* Such as when Valenti says that women who take their husband's last name aren't bad feminists but need to define their actions in very specific terms: "But if you do [take a man's last name], be honest about it. Don't say it's because it's tradition or because you don't like your last name. As Amanda noted, just be honest that it's sexist". Personally, I strongly feel that the issues around name-changing are complicated and that feminism is emphatically not about dictating women how to frame their life choices, nor about implying they are dishonest if they use different words to describe those choices.)

~ Ana Mardoll
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Reading Progress

March 17, 2010 – Shelved
Started Reading
September 14, 2012 – Finished Reading
May 19, 2016 – Shelved as: ana-reviewed

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