Cover image for Trainwreck : the women we love to hate, mock, and fear ... and why
Title:
Trainwreck : the women we love to hate, mock, and fear ... and why
ISBN:
9781612195636
Physical Description:
xx, 297 pages ; 22 cm
Contents:
Preface: Our trainwrecks, ourselves -- The trainwreck: her crimes. Sex ; Need ; Madness ; Death -- The trainwreck: her options. Shut up ; Speak up -- The trainwreck: her role. Scapegoat ; Revolutionary -- Conclusion: The view from the tracks.
Summary:
"From Mary Wollstonecraft--who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman--to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, [this book] dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to 'behave'"--Amazon.com.
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Summary

Summary

The female trainwreck is a familiar figure to us all: she's Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is as old (and as powerful) as feminism itself, and Doyle's book is a fierce, intelligent, deeply-researched investigation of a centuries-old phenomenon. Who is the trainwreck? What are her crimes? And, in an age when social media makes public figures of us all, what does it mean for the rest of us?


Author Notes

Sady Doyle founded the blog Tiger Beatdown in 2008. Since then, she's been a staff writer for Rookie Magazine and In These Times. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, Elle.com, The Atlantic, Slate, Buzzfeed, and lots of other places around the Internet. She's been featured in Rookie- Yearbook One and Yearbook Two, and contributed to the Book of Jezebel. She also won the first-ever Women's Media Center Social Media award by popular vote. Trainwreck is her first book.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

Pop-culture commentator Doyle launches a ruthlessly funny, smart, and relentlessly on-point takedown of modern misogyny in this feminist anatomy of celebrity "trainwrecks" and the "appetite for specifically female ruin and suffering" that fuels entire venues of popular entertainment. Contemplating her subjects' crimes (having sex, having needs, having opinions) and her subjects' options (self-destruct, disappear, or risk the continual public fury to which a woman who refuses to be shamed, silenced, or stopped is exposed), Doyle compiles portraits including those of historical figures such as Charlotte Brontë and midcentury icons such as Billie Holiday and Sylvia Plath to such contemporary subjects of spectacle as Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Britney Spears. She surmises that the train wreck earns hatred for violating the rules of "good" behavior. But in her profiles of non-self-immolating women such as Harriet Jacobs, Hillary Clinton, and the French revolutionary Theroigne de Mericourt, Doyle suggests that the revulsion is stirred not by the train wreck's questionable behavior but by the fact of her being a visible, vocal female. Doyle's book is really an exposé of persistent cultural pathologies about women and sex, a "200-year-old problem" of enforcing myths about good behavior that essentially prevent women from being the subjects of their own lives. With compassion for its subjects and a vibrantly satirical tone, Doyle's debut book places her on the A-list of contemporary feminist writers. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* What do Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, and Monica Lewinsky have in common? Journalist Doyle, who writes for Rookie and In These Times, argues that they've all been casually categorized, at one point or another, as trainwrecks. Summed up as suffering from, and publicly humiliated for, sexual overabundance, emotional overabundance, all the too-muchness and too-bigness that comes with being a flaming wreck of a woman, these and other women provide a lens for understanding society's prevailing reactions to, and treatment of, them. Canny and conversational, Doyle draws compelling parallels to trainwrecks modern readers might have missed: Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Jacobs, Theroigne de Mericourt. Doyle's dismantling of the trainwreck-inspired media circus is a wreck in itself: difficult to see and hard to look away from. Making her point most pertinently in the case of public figures, Doyle shows the way women in general have been, and very often still are, tried for their very womanness, devoured for their flaws, and respected only once they've been reduced to smoldering ash. High-speed and immediately readable, Doyle's poignant take on the concept of the trainwreck, and its relation to feminism, will provoke much thought and discussion.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2016 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

SHE'S A FAMILIAR SPECTACLE. A former starlet struck down in her prime by a D.U.I. arrest, a TMZ rant, or some combination of both. Britney. Lindsay. Amy. Superstars whose sullied reputations appear salvageable only by rehab, imprisonment or death. A train wreck. In her debut book, "Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear ... and Why," Sady Doyle, the founder of the blog Tiger Beatdown and a staff writer at In These Times magazine, reclaims her. "She's the girl who breaks the rules of the game and gets punished, which means that she's actually the best indication of which game we're playing, and what the rules are," Doyle writes in her preface. As a result, the train wreck may also be one of society's biggest hopes, who - despite our self-proclaimed admiration for "strong women and selfless activists and lean-inners," as Doyle puts it-"might turn out to be the most potent and perennial feminist icon of them all." In a culture that explains away similar (or worse) behavior by men, the train-wreck phenomenon is amplified by new technologies in surveillance and social media, which track the transgressions of public figures in real time and replay them on endless loops. Yet Doyle is smart enough to know that the seeming novelty of the train wreck only masks her timelessness: She is the age-old "fallen woman" gone millennial. Consider, as Doyle does, Mary Wollstonecraft. Today, Wollstonecraft is best known for writing "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman," her 1792 political treatise advocating for the equal treatment and education of men and women in England. But after her death in 1797, her widowed husband, William Godwin, published a colorful biography that described Wollstonecraft's two suicide attempts; her affair with the American speculator Gilbert Imlay; and the birth of their daughter, Fanny Imlay. The posthumous revelation of Wollstonecraft's premarital sex began her downfall, rendering "Vindication" and its progressive gender politics suspect for more than a century. After establishing that the proto-feminist Wollstonecraft was also our earliest train wreck, Doyle then includes an array of women who fit into her category, like Charlotte Brontë; Sylvia Plath; and Valerie Solanas, the radical feminist author of "SCUM Manifesto," who shot Andy Warhol in 1968. Doyle is most expansive when she shows how other categories, like race, further restrict women's identity, with the consequence that women of color are even more likely to be dismissed as train wrecks than their white counterparts. In her treatment of Billie Holiday and Whitney Houston two artists who, after years of struggling with drug addiction, broken hearts and rumors about their sexuality, died tragically - Doyle's lineage is especially compelling. But Doyle enters some shaky ground when she tries to include Harriet Jacobs, the abolitionist and former slave. Jacobs published her "Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl" under a pseudonym, in 1861, and Doyle believes that Jacobs's story itself was "wrecked" by editors, fellow abolitionists and book publishers, who questioned its credibility largely because of Jacobs's detailed account of being sexually harassed by her slave master, dismissing her narrative as fiction and putting it out of print until the 1970s. But Jacobs's literary disappearance was also emblematic of another prejudice: For most of American history, it was the perspective of slaveholders rather than enslaved African-Americans that historians treated as a credible source. That changed only in the 1970s, with the publication of books like John Blassingame's "The Slave Community." Doyle is more persuasive on her book's ultimate heroine, Britney Spears, the quintessential good girl gone bad. With her shaved head, broken marriages and fights with the paparazzi, Spears lost custody of her children, had a string of uneven comeback performances and now, despite the success of her Las Vegas run, remains under parental conservatorship. Unlike Doyle's other examples, Spears and her antics are usually seen less as a feminist apotheosis and more like its antithesis, a warning sign to America's daughters to avoid the pitfalls that come with ambition and attention. Yet this is exactly Doyle's bigger point. The train wreck is "a signpost pointing to what 'wrong' is, which boundaries we're currently placing on femininity, which stories we'll allow women to have." Spears's career coincided with the emergence of new media platforms that gave us round-the-clock access to celebrity meltdowns. Young women now have even greater access to instant fame. And because nearly every minute of their lives can be recorded, their most mundane or traumatic moments are fodder for the world to endlessly consume and condemn. Doyle reminds us that we shouldn't be so quick to judge women in terms of degrading stereotypes or unrealistic expectations. "Women," she writes, "are not symbols of anything, other than themselves." SALAMISHAH TILLET is an associate professor of English and Africana studies at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a co-founder of the nonprofit A Long Walk Home.


Kirkus Review

How and why women are alternately idolized and then given hell for being the way they are.Doyle examines societys fascination with powerful and/or successful females who suddenly go off-kilter, becoming someone or doing something that is not in tune with how they had acted before. Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and many more modern women are well-known in the media for their occasionally wild antics, and Doyle studies the buildup of their celebrity status and their crashing downfalls. She also goes back in time to the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft, who was more famous in her day for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for her books, or Billie Holiday, who broke all sorts of barriers and is equally known for her heroin addiction as for her music. As the author notes, a trainwreck is not just the cost of sharing the wrong things, or of being Visible While Female. Shes a signpost pointing to what wrong is, which boundaries were currently placing on femininity, which stories well allow women to have.And, in her consistent violation of the accepted social codesher ability to shock, to horrify, to upset, to draw down loud and powerful condemnationshe is a tremendously powerful force of cultural subversion. But it is societys fascination with all women, not just the celebrities, and the effect and pressures women constantly face that form the crux of Doyles shrewd narrative. Throughout, she shows how any woman, thanks to the internet and especially social media, can now become an object of unwanted scrutiny. Fortunately, Doyle offers methods for women to fend off the endless observation, policing, and judgments, all of which are part of life for most women. A well-rounded, thoughtful analysis of what can make and break a woman when shes placed in the spotlight. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Library Journal Review

In her first book, journalist Doyle (Tiger Beatdown) invites us to interrogate the cultural figure of "the trainwreck": women who are ritually humiliated, find their careers destroyed, lose their privacy-in some cases their legal and physical autonomy-and are not infrequently left to die for their sins (real or imagined). Across eight thematic chapters, Doyle asks: Who are these women? What are their crimes? When caught in the vortex of a trainwreck narrative, what are their options? And finally, what role does the concept, and the individuals whose lives it devours, play in society? Each chapter includes historical and contemporary examples of real-life women whose behavior has been deemed so egregious as to put them beyond redemption: Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Jacobs, Valerie Solanas, Monica Lewinsky, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and more. -VERDICT Well researched and intersectional, this unapologetically feminist critique of society's vicious treatment of women both famous and obscure who fail to conform to the expectations of normative straight, white femininity will appeal to readers of Jennifer L. Pozner's Reality Bites Back. [See "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 26.]-Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc. Lib., Boston © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.