RogerBW's Blog

Trainwreck, Sady Doyle 12 February 2020

2016 non-fiction. Doyle examines the history and the anatomy of the celebrity trainwreck, the (female) figure who is deemed to have fallen from grace and behaved badly.

And the first point is that this is not at all new: for example, Mary Wollestonecraft, whose private correspondence was published by her husband after her death, was known far more for having had a sexual life than for A Vindication of the Rights of Women, for a century or more after her death.

This is a consciously feminist book, and it makes a consciously feminist point, with many examples: that for the woman there is no way to win this game other than never to come to public attention in the first place, because nobody can measure up to the perfect-woman image (and while men can have problems, and are usually allowed to get over them, women are defined by them). Have sex? Slut. Not have sex? Frigid. As a woman, you can be a Hilary Clinton or a Monica Lewinsky, but you'll be abhorred either way.

And in the modern day, "public attention" can mean "one statement on social media that people notice".

Some of this gets heavy-handed; bad behaviour by women is always excused, while bad behavour by men is castigated, though the conclusion largely tries to fix that problem. But even so, books like this point up one of the reasons why I call myself a feminist: because I see the behaviour of the people who want that to be a bad word.

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