Unruly: disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.
Anne Helen Petersen analyzes several high-profile women who have been provocative and controversial, whether intentionally or simply by refusing to change and/or care what others think. Society and the media has responded in varying degrees, with most seeming to be negative reactions (or at least the ones reported in the media have leaned to the overly-critical and scathing side). You may like or dislike these women and agree with many others that they go overboard. Regardless, I found each chapter to be a fascinating essay on what it means to be a woman and how society still very much likes to put females in nice, little boxes that present a neat and tidy package.
Kim Kardashian: Too pregnant.
I saw the paparazzi photos showing her wearing “unflattering” clothes. This chapter shows how it is acceptable to show your pregnancy off if you have a skinny body and simply look like you swallowed a basketball. If your body rebels, if you dare to gain too much weight and still wear form-fitting clothes, it’s time to bring out the magnifying glass and judge. Cover it up! *sarcasm* I’m not a Kardashian fan, but this chapter really struck a chord with me.
Kim actually had health issues going on and a difficult pregnancy. I judged her at the time and thought she looked horrible. Now, I realize I should have shut my trap and not been so dumb about it.
Melissa McCarthy: Too fat.
Most of us are familiar with the infamous Rex Reed incident where he referred to McCarthy as “tractor-sized” and worse. She is probably best known for playing over the top raunchy comedy roles, but has also played likeable domestic types (see Gilmore Girls and Mike & Molly).
This chapter shows that even someone as famous as McCarthy has to conform or withdraw to a certain extent, to “get away with” being unruly. Anything goes when she is in a movie, but off-screen, the actress is portrayed as glamorous, put-together, well spoken and generally calm.
Nicki Minaj: Too slutty.
I’m not a fan of her music, but I admit to judging her. Not just for her music, but because of the way she dresses and acts. The point is, she can wear whatever she wants. We need to stop judging people for not wearing clothes we approve of.
Rap music has objectified women over and over for years. Minaj has attempted to take that and turn it around, using it for her own means instead of being an object for others to control. I’m not sure how successful she has been at that, but she is smarter than most people give her credit for.
Lena Dunham: Too naked.
This is another public figure I have never been a huge fan of, but I have been guilty of judging her for exactly what this chapter uncovers. The author does not mention other controversies Dunham has been involved in. It only focuses on her choosing to be naked with an imperfect body.
Women are “allowed” to be naked if they are toned, stretch-mark and cellulite-free, etc. When they have bellies and flab and pouches and aren’t proportioned “correctly,” they are supposed to cover it up. Dunham has refused to do that and gotten a boatload of attacks for it.
Madonna: Too old.
Madonna has been called “Skeletor” and been the butt of mean “granny” jokes. She continues to put herself out there. But why is Madonna too old to be sexual, to be confident in her body? Who says she can’t be the equivalent of dozens of her male counterparts?
Society tells us that older women are supposed to be matronly and sexless. When an “older female” remains sexually aggressive and open about displaying her body, it makes us feel uncomfortable because we learn from a young age that women are supposed to remain forever youthful. If you reach that point where you start to look your age, you are supposed to “act” like it, whatever that means.
Hillary Clinton, too shrill…
Serena Williams, too strong…
Caitlyn Jenner, too queer…
As I read the book, I knew that I actually had no issues with any of these women being so “unruly,” but at some point, I had bought into most of the negative publicity and judgmental opinions towards them.
Final verdict: This is a fascinating book that is perhaps a tad bit more political and “progressive” than my personal views run, but I can absolutely appreciate it and think anyone could have their blinders ripped off a little by reading it. I absolutely think females should be unruly much more often!
Thank you Netgalley and publisher for providing a digital copy to read and review!