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Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen

BOTTOM LINE: I will be buying multiple copies of this and handing it out to friends. A definite must-read.

Genre: Nonfiction
Publication Date: 20 June 2017
Source: Publisher via Edelweiss

Synopsis from the Publisher:

“From celebrity gossip expert and BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen comes an accessible, analytical look at how female celebrities are pushing boundaries of what it means to be an ‘acceptable’ woman.

You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated—too much. She’s the unruly woman, and she embodies one of the most provocative and powerful forms of womanhood today. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of ‘unruliness’ to explore the ascension of pop culture powerhouses like Lena Dunham, Nicki Minaj, and Kim Kardashian, exploring why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures. With its brisk, incisive analysis, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.”

My Thoughts: Anne Helen Petersen is my new hero and her book Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is my newest manifesto. Each of the women she investigates is someone who has been vilified in the media, sometimes for nothing more than for her appearance. Yet, as she details, each of them continue to do her own thing, thereby breaking down barriers and providing opportunities for women to follow in their footsteps without the scrutiny and derision. It is difficult not to take these stories and use them as inspiration to be unruly in your own life.

As Ms. Petersen takes a detailed look at various women who have upset the status quo in recent years, she shines a light on just what that status quo is. She does not just focus her scrutiny on the easily-seen aspects of it but gets down into the nuances of exactly what bothers people about these women. The chapter on Hillary Rodham Clinton was particularly eye-opening for me, as she explains the vehemence behind the hatred towards her in a way that makes sense but also sheds light on the very hidden misogyny at its heart.

Misogyny is at the heart of every chapter in the book, which comes as no surprise. What is surprising is the lengths to which people will go in order to pretend otherwise. What makes it even worse is the societal criticism women throw at other women, all in the name of some unspoken and impossible ideal that was created by someone somewhere and has been established as the norm. As Ms. Petersen shows, sometimes women are the worst enemies of other women, especially unruly ones.

Each chapter within Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is essentially an essay on the chosen celebrity and her “crimes” against society. This makes it easy to read and digest everything Ms. Petersen uncovers and challenges. The desire to take notes, highlight passages, or mark certain sections with comments like “YES!” or “OMG, this happens to me!” is overwhelming, making the separate chapters a welcome natural pause.

As more and more people recognize and express disgust at the way women and people of color are treated in society today, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is important in helping us identify underlying attitudes that are not always as obvious as one might think. Understanding the reasons for such vilification is important in striking back at it and being able to overcome it. Taking inspiration from any one of the women recognized and applauded by Ms. Petersen for her unruly behavior will help us all unleash our own unruliness. Only then can we make changes to the status quo.

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