What does it mean to be a woman in American culture? More importantly, what does it mean to be an "acceptable" woman in American culture? During the 2016 election, we all watched Hillary Clinton get gutted by the media for all of the ways she failed to live up to the standards of femininity: she was too shrill, too cold, too ambitious, too bitchy, too unlikeable. It didn't matter that Clinton was more experienced, educated, and qualified than her opponent and now-president of the United States. What mattered was that she was just too much for some people, which is exactly why every nasty woman needs to read Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud. A brilliant and timely examination of the combatting contradictions of modern womanhood and those who refuse to bend to them, this thought-provoking and empowering book will make you proud to be an unruly woman, too.
In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, BuzzFeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen examines eleven different female celebrities and the many ways in which they “question, interrogate or otherwise challenge the status quo.” Drawing from her own reporting, additional interviews, and thorough research, Petersen creates rich and complex profiles of trailblazing women celebrities, including Hillary Clinton, Serena Williams, Lena Dunham, Melissa McCarthy, and more, who are not only challenging the stereotypes around acceptable femininity, but changing them for the masses.
Highlighting the many ways these celebrities are deemed "too much" — Nicki Minaj is too slutty, while Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer are too gross, and Caitlyn Jenner is too queer— Petersen's sharp analysis is one of not just the defiant women themselves, but the society who berates, abuses, rejects, and tries to destroy them. As she puts it, Hillary Clinton's November loss is a "startling rejection: not just of Clinton, but of the very notion of unruly women in general." Female celebrities aren't under attack, women everywhere are, and thanks to Petersen's groundbreaking collection, readers have an engaging and accessible way to examine, and ultimately try and solve, these centuries-long issues.
At once a sharp cultural criticism, a celebration of boundary-pushing women, and a call to action for feminists everywhere, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is filled with wit, humor, insight, and admiration for unruly women all over the world.
Every nasty woman should add it to her TBR list, and here's why:
1It celebrates nasty, unruly women of every kind.
From Lena Dunham's perfectly imperfect naked body to Serena William's unmatched athleticism to Madonna's unapologetic sexuality, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud is an ode to those amazing parts of individual womanhood that is too often chastised, criticized, or otherwise altogether rejected by the status quo. If you're a nasty woman who has ever been told you're too loud, too opinionated, too big, too boyish, too much of anything, Petersen's collection will prove to you one thing: you are exactly enough, because there is no wrong way to be a woman.
2It expands a previously limited definition of femininity.
Our culture has a specific idea of what femininity looks like, and it usually centers around a few basic ideals: traditionally thin, beautiful, cis-gender white women with soft voices, clean cut outfits, and a sense of their place in the pecking order. Petersen's profiles of 11 trailblazing women, however, smash this mold to pieces by highlighting the many different ways women express themselves and their femininity. Whether it be Nicki Minaj's celebration of her sexuality and her body, Jennifer Weiner's insistence on getting a seat at the table, or Melissa McCarthy's crude on-screen humor and sweet off-screen personality, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud highlights and even elevates the many, many diverse ways in which women are themselves. In other words, it strives to explain what has been blatantly obvious to feminists for ever, but what remains completely far-fetched to our male-dominated society: how you chose to express (or not express) your femininity should be a choice, not a rule you have to follow.
3It puts intersectionality at the center of the conversation and openly confronts privilege.
Whether she was discussing Serena Williams's controversial rise to the top of the tennis world or examining the ways Lena Dunham's privilege has helped her achieve success, Petersen doesn't shy away from the more difficult, but most crucial, issues in modern feminism: intersectionality and privilege. Throughout the profiles in Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, racism, body shaming, class issues, discrimination, and white privilege were at the center of the conversation as a way to highlight the different ways different women are shunned, shamed, and rejected depending on what they look like, where they're from, or what expectations they refuse to conform to. An important principle in feminism that is all too often overlooked, the intersectional angle from which Petersen approaches her analysis is an accessible conversation starter for some difficult but necessary conversations.
4It's can be the spark to ignite important discussions around feminism.
A once taboo word turned buzzword, feminism has permeated every aspect of the mainstream in everything from politics to entertainment to fashion and beyond. But despite its growing popularity, the facts remain the same: equality is far from a reality, no matter how many clever protest signs or girl power anthems are made. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, however goes beyond the surface of pop feminism and takes a deep dive into the many issues facing women today that, by using celebrities as a starting point, become more interesting and accessible to the average reader. Powerful and poignant, this book has the ability to spark serious and important discussions around feminism everyone can get involved in.
5It's inspirational as hell.
There are so many reasons to read Petersen's relevant and topical book, but the main reason nasty women everywhere will love it is because of the hope it provides. Filled with inspirational stories of barrier-breaking women, fierce and fearless females, and groundbreaking role models, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will leave readers feeling motivated to not embrace their true selves, whoever that may be, but to fight for the right of every unruly woman to be themselves.