As women, we are often told not to be “too” anything. At work we should avoid being “too emotional” and/or (because somehow these are interchangeable adjectives) “too feminine.” That is just the beginning. We also must avoid being “too aggressive”, “too intimidating,” or “too bossy,” all of which translate to “too masculine.” In our personal lives, we are often afraid to be judged for being “too messy,” “too perfect,” “too disorganized,” “too uptight,” “too loose,” “too opinionated,” “too crass,” “too focused on career” OR “too focused on family,” or just too anything that might somehow offend someone else. Anyone else.
In her book Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman, Anne Helen Petersen celebrates 11 women who have been long judged for being “too much.” Serena Williams is too strong, Melissa McCarthy too fat, Madonna too old, Jennifer Weiner too loud. All of the vastly different women featured, from Lena Dunham to Nicki Minaj, can all be categorized as unruly, according to Petersen.
Unruly, an adjective, is defined as “disorderly and disruptive and not amenable to discipline or control.” Among its synonyms are words like headstrong, willful, uncontrollable, and disobedient. Each of the women in this book are explored and analyzed on a deep level for their particular breed of unruliness. Their stories are fascinating not only because of their intriguing celebrity status, but because of the metaphors that they represent for women everywhere who are disobeying the strict set of rules that society and culture have set over hundreds of years.
Petersen describes the women in this book as “threatening the status quo,” and that they do. You may not consider all of the women in this book your heroes, I certainly didn’t. Some stories and the societal rules that they define will resonate with you more than others, and those that do resonate may surprise you. I read the book while pregnant with my daughter. While I had not expected Kim Kardashian’s “too pregnant” story to resonate with me, it did, in an incredibly personal way.
Society's standards of femininity and how women "should behave" may be less overt than they were fifty years ago, but rest assured they are there. Petersen's description of these standards and the women that defy them is timely as women everywhere are recognizing the need to threaten the status quos that have cost them promotions, relationships, elections, and most importantly, self-love.
I highly recommend this book– it is the perfect read for women in any stage of life. The essay format makes it easy to pick up (and put back down) whenever you need a burst of inspiration. It's a wonderful as a gift for the unruly women in your life, especially those that will appreciate a book that features Nicki Minaj and Hillary Clinton in the same book.