(Jan. 2017) Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why is a fascinating book. It gives context – historical context – to well known “trainwrecks” from Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Bronte & Sylvia Plath, to Billie Holliday and Marilyn Monroe, right up to Amy Winehouse, Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan.
Here’s the thing: What they have in common is they are remarkable, talented and accomplished women. We look at them and want to believe they must somehow be “flawed.” It makes me think of how people believe that poverty is also a “character flaw” and not situational or circumstantial. We should just be able to fix what’s wrong with us and then we would know success and acceptance!
Sady Doyle has done a great job in her historical research. I was fascinated to learn about some of these women whose life stories I was unfamiliar with. She also draws a common thread from the 17th century to the 21st century to show the similarity in how women are viewed – by the media, in the context of the social norms of the day and always through the lens of impossible standards.
One of the most interesting chapters is about Hillary Clinton and Monica Lewinsky. This book is not an academic endeavor. I believe her research is credible and adds so much to the subject she’s trying to illuminate. But at the end of the day, it’s meant to be a contemporary work about where we are right now and the women and stories that are making headlines. This book is meant to shift our paradigm – to show us the commonplace hostility toward women through a different plane of the prism. Doyle does a good job with that.
I highly recommend the book. In fact, I recommended it to my oldest daughter and she loved it! It is time well invested. We need to consider more thoughtfully the signals we are sending to every generation of girls who become women.