Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen, is an analytical study concerning the notion of what it means to be an ‘acceptable’ woman. Through the lens of female celebrities, Petersen emphasises the boundaries by which female behaviour is policed in both the public and private spheres. Here thesis centres upon the measurement of the significance when a woman is characterised as ‘unruly’ – as being ‘too’ much of something. Thus, the book itself is structured into chapters specifically studying the unruliness of one female celebrity:
- Too Strong: focuses on Serena Williams and her career in a predominantly white-filled sport, constantly and consistently breaking the boundaries of what it meant to be in quite an elitist profession. She kicks ass and I love Serena Williams.
- Too Fat: concentrates upon the actress Melissa McCarthy and fatphobia in America.
- Too Gross: considers the unruliness of Broad City creators, writers and actresses Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer.
- Too Slutty: highlights the reign of Nicki Minaj in contemporary Hip Hop and how she continually demonstrates her worth, in a world where men are usually at the top.
- Too Old: focuses upon Madonna, ageism and ways in which Madonna can actively break boundaries surrounding ageing women in music.
- Too Pregnant: it wouldn’t be a study of women in pop culture without Kim Kardashian and her battle to reconfigure her pregnancy experience with how pregnancy is perpetuated in popular culture.
- Too Shrill: a fascinating chapter studying Hillary Clinton and her life in politics characterised by breaking the mould of what it meant to be a woman in the White House, and a woman campaigning to be the First Female President of the United States.
- Too Queer: concentrates upon Caitlyn Jenner, although I do find her quite a problematic individual, especially the way in which she approaches LGBTQIA+ rights, equal marriage and publicly endorses Donald Trump and the Republican party.
- Too Loud: considers the bestselling author Jennifer Weiner and her quest to voice gender discrimination in the literary world. I found this chapter to be incredible and I immediately followed her on Twitter, because she is a woman that I will continually maintain my support.
- Too Naked: This is the chapter which I glossed over because it was centred upon Lena Dunham and I find her to be quite problematic – she publicly stated in her autobiography, that she molested her sister. No thank you, I don’t support people like her.
I wouldn’t as such describe this collection of essays as a mobilising call for feminists everywhere to act united against the patriarchal systems of oppressing (read Clementine Ford’s Fight Like A Girl for a superb manifesto that will make you stand up and roar). More, it is a highly researched cultural commentary on the fact that these ‘unruly’ women are considered such, as a result of an underlying tension that has soaked society, and manifests in times when women break the passive role. In Peterson’s words, the unruly woman directly or indirectly breaks the status quo as a result of her actions, words and, because we are talking about women here, fashion choices. Petersen states that:
…the unruly women- the type who incite Trump’s ire, and whom millions of voters have decided they can degrade and dismiss, simply because they question, interrogate, or otherwise challenge the status quo (p. x).
When women dominate, act and control their lives typically ascribed to their male counterparts, they are too loud, too bitchy, too shrill, too much. Women who don’t want to get married at 20 years, have two point five kids, and take care of their husbands, are a threat to the preserved understanding that the woman’s role, the woman’s worth, is that which is only perceived by society when she is standing by a man’s side:
The more you analyse what makes these behaviours transgressive, the easier it is to see what they’re threatening: what it means to be a woman, of course, but also entrenched understandings of women’s passive role in society (p. xii).
Underpinning this book is the challenge, for women to only have to live their lives by the rules they set out for themselves, and not because they were told to by intrusive cultural constructs of how women are supposed to be. This book was ultimately a fascinating read, I learnt quite a lot about the perceptions of women in America, and the reactions by the people at large concerning women breaking the glass ceiling. Although I did have problems with two of the women that were profiled, I do implore you to read this book and learn, be that you are a woman, a man, gender fluid, transgender, gender non-binary – please, read this and love it.
Happy reading y’all!