Book Review: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

too fat too slutty too loudToo Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman
by Anne Helen Petersen
Feminism Nonfiction
266 pages
Published 2017

This is the first book Book Riot chose for Persist, their Feminist Book Club. I only just learned about the book club, so I’m reading the first two books before diving into the third. (Second book is Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, and the third book is Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy.) I really wish I could have read this book with their book club, as it definitely would benefit from being able to discuss each chapter with other readers.

The book is divided into chapters focusing on individual women and what they are guilty of being too much of. So Too Strong – Serena Williams, or Too Shrill – Hillary Clinton, or Too Slutty – Nicki Minaj. Then it dives deeply into why people think the woman embodies that negative, and often, what the woman herself thinks of it. We get cultural background on the adjective; in Too Pregnant, Petersen examines how celebrity pregnancies have changed how we treat pregnant women – how pregnancy has changed from something to be hidden to something to be valued and publicized and adored. But when someone isn’t pregnant in the right way – Kim Kardashian, for instance, suffered from swollen feet and preeclampsia and general misery and “poor” fashion choices – we judge them for it.

Too Loud delves into the world of publishing and book reviewing, profiling Jennifer Weiner’s fight against sexism in publishing. The chapter educates us on how the genre of “chick lit” started, and how women authors and readers are too often relegated to “chick lit” when if the same story had been written by a man, about a man instead of a woman, it would just be “literature” and eligible for review by things like the The New York Times Book Review.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud was a highly educational look at pop culture and how women are judged much harsher than men are for showing the same traits. It is imminently readable – I only started to fall asleep once, and I think that’s more because I only slept four hours last night! I had a fiction book on the table beside me, ready to dive into when I needed a break from the nonfiction – it’s still there, untouched. This is a great book, but I’d definitely read it as part of a book club or a buddy read if you can. Get a friend to read it so you can discuss it!

From the cover of Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud:

You know the type: the woman who won’t shut up, who’s too brazen, too opinionated – too much. It’s not that she’s an outcast (she might even be your friend, or your wife, or your mother) so much as she’s a social variable. Sometimes, she’s the life of the party; others, she’s the center of gossip. She’s the unruly woman, and she’s one of the most provocative, powerful forms of womanhood today.

There have been unruly women for as long as there have been boundaries of what constitutes acceptable “feminine” behavior, but there’s evidence that she’s on the rise – more visible and less easily dismissed – than ever before. In Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud, Anne Helen Petersen uses the lens of “unruliness” to explore the ascension of eleven contemporary pop culture powerhouses: Serena Williams, Melissa McCarthy, Abbi Jacobson, Ilana Glazer, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Kim Kardashian, Hillary Clinton, Caitlyn Jenner, Jennifer Weiner, and Lena Dunham. Petersen explores why the public loves to love (and hate) these controversial figures, each of whom has been conceived as “too” something: too queer, too strong, too honest, too old, too pregnant, too shrill, too much. With its brisk, incisive analysis, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud will be a conversation-starting book on what makes and breaks celebrity today.

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