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Posted by SB Sarah

B+

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

by Anne Helen Petersen
June 20, 2017 · Plume
Nonfiction

Anne Helen Petersen’s byline on any collection of words means that I’m going to drop what I’m doing immediately to read it. I don’t read a lot of celebrity gossip and culture, but her analyses are fascinating on multiple levels. Not only are they thorough and drawn from a variety of sources, but they attempt to frame one or several layers of meaning around a celebrity’s brand or image, often locating that meaning in a complicated larger context. Because Petersen has studied the gossip industry in its past and present iterations, the context is very often, “We’ve been here before, and here’s another example.”

I was very excited to read Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud – so excited that when I received the email alerting me that my turn on the hold list at the library had arrived, I got to the library branch before they’d put the book out on the hold shelves for me to pick up. (No, I promise I didn’t drive Too Fast to pick up this book. There are speed cameras everywhere and I learned my lesson long ago.)

If you like Petersen’s long form celebrity analyses, you’ll like this book. Each chapter focuses on a different person, and each is a chronological examination of how their brand or public image has shifted, and how coverage of that person personally and professional has evolved. Each chapter also spends some time identifying and then dismantling the overarching perception that follows each individual. The chapters in order are:

  • Too Strong: Serena Williams
  • Too Fat: Melissa McCarthy
  • Too Gross: Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer
  • Too Slutty: Nikki Minaj
  • Too Old: Madonna
  • Too Pregnant: Kim Kardashian
  • Too Shrill: Hillary Clinton
  • Too Queer: Caitlyn Jenner
  • Too Loud: Jennifer Weiner
  • Too Naked: Lena Dunham

The book as a whole was a very quick read for me, and I found myself taking pictures and sharing images of particular paragraphs that resonated. I wanted to tell everyone I knew about each chapter as soon as I read it.

Unruliness is defined in the introduction as possessing of attributes that are antithetical to expectations to traditional femininity. Unruly women:

…question, interrogate, or otherwise challenge the status quo. Of course, there have been unruly women for as long as there have been boundaries of what constitutes acceptable “feminine” behavior: women who, in some way, step outside the boundaries of good womanhood, who end up being labeled too fat, too loud, too slutty, too whatever characteristic women are supposed to keep under control.

So, yeah. Here for this, 3000%.

Each example starts with one element of “unruliness,” but no criticism of women is ever singular; there are many other systems of oppression involved. The chapter on Serena Williams traced how descriptions of her body have not changed all that much over time, locating those descriptions and the attitudes toward her skill and dominance in the larger context of the overwhelming whiteness and racism of tennis as a sport and performance, with a side order of sexism and classism.

I thought the chapter was fantastic, and since my husband likes tennis (and most sports on tv, come to think of it), I passed the book to him so he could read it when I finished. He did the same thing I did: nodded at the page and kept reading. His review: “I knew all of these things already, and I read most of the articles about Serena that are cited, but I hadn’t seen them organized in that way before.”

That’s a pretty apt summary of each chapter: the organization of the story tells another story. The coverage of a celebrity – the narrative that is manufactured by them, or about them, or both – is organized and examined in a way that reveals larger themes and the often massive obstacles that person deals with. In other words, there is a story about the person being profiled, and that story, the way it is told, the words that are used, and the source of the story and who tells and repeats it, reveals a LOT.

Each “too” example is often the reason pointed to by many who criticize or dislike that celebrity or their work. Each chapter pokes at the descriptor to highlight the sexism, misogyny, racism, and prejudice working against that person. Some work steadfastly against their label, and some engage with it deliberately, consciously undermining it or highlighting it to point out how ridiculously limiting and reductive it is.

To say this book gave me brain popcorn is an understatement.

Here are some of my favorite parts, which I had to mark with sticky notes because this is a library book and I am not a total monster. From the chapter on Serena:

“Imagine, too, a woman whose dominance on the court leads to discussions of her skill, not her body. Imagine a scenario in which strength, manifest in physical and mental form, is figured as a pure testament to skill, not as a means of distracting from it. Imagine a world in which female athletes do not provoke anxiety; in which black ones are not automatically perceived as a threat; in which unruliness doesn’t need to be blunted….

A woman who responds to the cries that “she’s too strong,” then “she’s too sexy,” then again “she’s too strong” with “Well, can you choose one? But either way, I don’t care which one they choose. I’m me and I’ve never changed who I am.”

From the chapter on Hillary Clinton (which was a little painful to read):

“Shrillness” is just a word to describe what happens when a woman, with her higher-toned voice, attempts to speak loudly. A pejorative, in other words, developed specifically to shame half the population when they attempt to command attention in the same manner as men.

And in the chapter on Jennifer Weiner, which also addresses a lot of the sexism surrounding the term ‘chick lit,’ an examination I found deeply deliciously satisfying, there’s a discussion of the imbalanced hierarchy within the publishing and the marketing of books:

Women make up around 80 percent of the fiction -buying public, making them an incredibly powerful market force. They’re just not buying the right books – at least according to a pervasive and problematic cultural assumption. The right books are “difficult”: experimental, impenetrable, male. They get written up in prestigious book reviews; they win awards that place a tasteful gold stamp in their corner. Their authors don’t blog or tweet about them because they don’t blog or tweet…. They occupy the rarefied air of high art. And the majority, but certainly not all, of the authors of these books are men.

On the other end of this hierarchy, there’s the feminized, the commercially popular, the books reliant on tacky self-promotion.

I finished the chapter on Nikki Minaj wishing there had been more focus more on the ways she questions the treatment she receives as a female artist and businessperson, and while there was some, I wanted more. (Also: “When a man is assertive, he’s a boss. When a woman is assertive, she’s a bitch. No negative connotations to being a boss.”)

I appreciated that the analysis of each person didn’t assume my sympathy for the person, or my support, and I appreciated that the tone wasn’t one of, “You should support this person and here is why.” From the conclusion:

Questions of representation – who controls it, and who says where and at what point it becomes “too much” in any capacity – have served as the foundation of this book, whose premise is predicated on the small yet significant ways that women have either resisted or wrested control of the way that men have represented them.

Which isn’t to say that they always succeed: the imperative against unruliness might be largely created by men, but as these chapters have shown, it’s often enforced by women.

That was the part I found most interesting, asking myself how I contribute to the castigation of unruly women, and how I manage the accusations of the same when I receive them. I mean, it’s a site called “Smart Bitches,” so I hear opprobrium about our unruliness collectively or individually on a weekly basis. But I had to ask myself about the chapters regarding women I wasn’t as curious about, why was I harboring dislike for that person? Why do I think that way?

Which is the point of the book itself, I think: to challenge readers to measure and examine their dislike or conceptions of individual celebrities in different spheres, and to potentially nudge readers to challenging the way they absorb and examine the presented stories about other people. In other words, don’t believe everything you think. Why do you think that, anyway? How we view other women and how we view ourselves are crucial examinations, and the world of celebrity gossip and public performance make for an accessible on-ramp to the difficult questioning.

I found this book to be fascinating and very edifying, almost comforting at times. I imagine many of us have been told we were both “too much” and “not enough” through our lives. Seeing how that narrative takes shape on a larger scale helps me examine how I absorb and deploy that same contradiction. If you’re at all interested in celebrity culture and how it intersects with cultural expectations and narratives, or you want to celebrate nonconformity and being “too much,” this book will be a treat.

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a photo of a public pool being invaded by dogs for it's first dog pool day - cover for a small story on dogs

Allentown has done something rather spectacular! The town has now opened its pools to not only the public this summer, but they decided to embrace a rather late summer tradition..  Now, one of Allentown's public pools has gone to the dogs! It happened this Saturday, August 19th, 2017!

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Tagged: dogs , cute , pool , funny
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photos showing cats contributing to the war efforts

 While cats might not immediately stand out as brave military animals, the fluffy little felines served an important role in the lives of soldiers, serving as mousers and ratters to protect vital food stores and prevent the spread of disease. But perhaps more importantly, cats often served as a morale boost for soldiers. Many cats were adopted as "mascots" whether it was in the trenches of WWI, aboard battleships, planes or tanks. Via: Flashback & Meowingtons

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Tagged: war , history , photos , Cats

Rugby Players, Magic, & More!

Aug. 20th, 2017 03:30 pm
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Posted by Amanda

Scrappy Little Nobody

RECOMMENDEDScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick is $2.99! It’s a part of today’s Kindle Daily Deals (I highly recommend you check out the rest) and is being price-matched. I listened to this on audio narrated by Kendrick herself and I really liked it. The stories/chapters are short enough to where you don’t lose interest and it has a great balance of being touching, genuine, and really funny.

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

“I’m excited to publish my first book, and because I get uncomfortable when people have high expectations, I’d like to use this opportunity to showcase my ineptitude, pettiness, and the frequency with which I embarrass myself. And while many of my female inspirations who have become authors are incredibly well-educated and accomplished comedy writers, I’m very, very funny on Twitter, according to Buzzfeed and my mom, so I feel like this is a great idea. Quick question: are run-on sentences still frowned upon? Wait, is ending a sentence with a preposition still frowned upon? I mean, upon frowned? Dammit!” —Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick’s autobiographical collection of essays amusingly recounts memorable moments throughout her life, from her middle class upbringing in New England to the blockbuster movies that have made her one of Hollywood’s most popular actresses today. Expanding upon the witty and ironic dispatches for which she is known, Anna Kendrick’s essays offer her one-of-a-kind commentary on the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture.

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

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Winter Garden

Winter Garden by Adele Ashworth is 99c! This is a historical romance with spies! However, readers seemed to be divided on the actual spying assignment. Some found it added a great element of action, while others felt it made little sense to them. This is the second book in the Winter Garden series and the first book is also on sale.

Though a celebrated French beauty in 1849, Madeleine DuMais’s cleverness is her greatest asset — and one she puts to good use as a spy for the British. When her expertise is needed in the south of England to break up a smuggling ring, Madeleine willingly puts her life on hold to help the crown …

Arriving in the quaint resort town of Winter Garden, Madeleine meets her partner in subterfuge. Thomas Blackwood is unlike any man she has ever met. His quiet confidence and mysterious intensity send shivers of pleasure coursing through her … shivers that slowly melt into a desperate passion. As duty gives way to desire, surrender holds its reward. And Madeleine will never recover from the touch of Thomas’s hands on her body — and the touch of his heart on her soul …

Add to Goodreads To-Read List →

This book is on sale at:

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Knowing the Score

Knowing the Score by Kat Latham is $2.99! This is a contemporary sports romance – set in the world of rugby. I mentioned this book on a previous podcast episode. It has a 3.7 average, and readers at GR liked the humor and the dialogue between the hero and heroine (though some reviews warn of a slow start to the story).

Rugby player Spencer Bailey is determined to win a spot on England’s World Cup team. But with a month break before the selectors start watching him, he’s eager to have fun with a woman who knows the score: the relationship will end when rugby season begins. The lovely American Caitlyn Sweeney seems perfect for the role of temporary lover, since her visa will run out soon anyway.

Caitlyn works for an international disaster relief organization and can handle the world’s worst crises, but she flinches from her own. Her past has left her with a fear of intimacy so deep that she has trouble getting close to anyone—until she meets sexy Spencer. His hot body and easygoing nature are too much for even her to resist.

Neither Caitlyn nor Spencer expects to fall hard for each other. But with their relationship deadline approaching, the old rules of the game seem less important than before…until past secrets surface, challenging everything they thought they knew about each other.

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Tarnished

Tarnished by Karina Cooper is 99c! This is a gritty steampunk novel with paranormal and romantic elements. Readers are divided on the heroine, who is an opium addict. Some found that the heroine was too unlikable, while others enjoyed a flawed protagonist. Have you read this one?

My name is Cherry St. Croix. Society would claim that I am a well-heeled miss with an unfortunate familial reputation. They’ve no idea of the truth of it. In my secret world, I hunt down vagrants, thieves . . . and now, a murderer. For a monster stalks London’s streets, leaving a trail of mystery and murder below the fog.

Eager for coin to fuel my infatuations, I must decide where my attentions will turn: to my daylight world, where my scientific mind sets me apart from respectable Society, or to the compelling domain of London below. Each has a man who has claimed my time as his – for good or for ill. Though as the corpses pile, and the treacherous waters of Society gossip churn, I am learning that each also has its dangers. One choice will see me cast from polite company . . . the other might just see me dead.

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Sunday Sweets: Filibuster Edition

Aug. 20th, 2017 01:00 pm
[syndicated profile] cakewrecks_feed

Posted by Jen

A friend once told me, "I love all your posts, but I have to admit, on Sundays you could really write anything. I'm just there for the gorgeous cakes."

Hey, works for me! So, let's see, all I need is to pull together a bunch of amazing cakes, like this:

(By BMT Cake Designs)

...and then fill up the page with whatever I want. It's a Sweets filibuster!

 

Does anybody have a copy of Green Eggs and Ham?
No? Ok, never mind. I'll improvise.

(By Jessicakes)

But, soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juliet is the sun. Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon, Who is already sick and pale with grief, That thou her maid art far more fair than she.

 

(By Mike's Amazing Cakes)

A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V ... and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

 

(By Mishelle Handy Cakes, pic by David Baxter Photography)

I read some 4 and 5 star reviews by those who used this device successfully to change a baby while driving. On that basis, I bought one. I put my baby on it and drove for over an hour. It did not change. Same baby. I am glad it worked for some people but I will be returning mine.

 

(By Cotton and Crumbs)

I have six locks on my door all in a row. When I go out, I lock every other one. I figure no matter how long somebody stands there picking the locks, they are always locking three.

 

(By Iced and Dazzle, pic by Erin Schaefgen Photography)

I hated her... SOOO... much, it - flame, flames? Flames, on the side of my face, breathing - breath, heaving breaths. Heaving breaths... Heathing...

 

(By Cakes Decor member Ria123)

Up up down down left right left right B A start.

 

(By Lovely Cakes)

"You are using Bonetti's defense against me, ah?"
"I thought it fitting, considering the rocky terrain."
"Naturally, you must expect me to attack with Capo Ferro."
"Naturally, but I find that Thibault cancels out Capo Ferro, don't you?"

 

(By Rosebud Cakes)

...and I believe you should put a woman on a pedestal.. high enough so you can look up her dress. And I believe in equality, equality for everyone.. no matter how stupid they are, or how much better I am than they are. And, people say I'm crazy for believing this, but I believe that robots are stealing my luggage.

 

(By Cakes By Beth)

A king cake is a type of cake associated in a number of countries with the festival of Epiphany at the end of the Christmas season, and in other places with the pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras / Carnival. The cake often has a small plastic baby (said to represent Baby Jesus) inside (or sometimes placed underneath), and the person who gets the piece of cake with the trinket has various privileges and obligations.

 

(By Party Flavors Custom Cakes, photo by Amanda McMahon Photography)

1. Take ice tray over to the sink and fill it with cold water.
2. Place the water-filled ice tray back in the freezer.
3. Shut the door to the freezer.

 

(By Neli Josefson)

During the rectification of the Vuldrini, the traveler came as a large and moving Torg! Then, during the third reconciliation of the last of the McKetrick supplicants, they chose a new form for him: that of a giant Slor! Many Shuvs and Zuuls knew what it was to be roasted in the depths of the Slor that day, I can tell you!

That's it! The filibuster's over.

Thank goodness these Sweets speak for themselves.

*****

Thank you for using our Amazon links to shop! USA, UK, Canada.

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Posted by Amanda

Welcome back to Lightning Reviews, where we give some quick and dirty thoughts on books in a mini-review format. We’ve been away from this feature for a while because of all the RITA reviews, but now we’re back into the swing of things. This trio features a historical romance, some historical fiction with romantic elements, and a thriller!

 

    The Dry

    author: Jane Harper

    The Dry is an Australian-set mystery perfect for those who (like me) enjoy a good cold case.

    Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to the small community he grew up in after a childhood friend, Luke, kills his family before committing suicide. His horrifying actions are chalked up to stress: drought has plagued the community for years, farms are failing, and the town is fracturing.

    Falk isn’t sure he buys the murder-suicide theory. When Aaron and Luke were teens, a friend of theirs, Ellie, was found dead in a river. Luke and Aaron, under suspicion, provided each other with alibis. The truth is, Aaron doesn’t know where Luke was when Ellie was killed all those years ago, and his friend’s death is dredging up a lot of questions that had been buried.

    The Dry is an excellent, solid mystery. I loved the setting of a rural community struggling through a drought that sets everyone on edge and amplifies tensions. I loved how the cold case (Ellie’s death) tied into the mystery surrounding the murder of Luke’s family.

    Trigger warning–this book does discuss the murder of children (obviously) and also deals with the sexual assault of a child. It’s not the book to read if you get the heebie-jeebies easily, but if you love a good whodunit and have girdy loins, then I totally recommend it.

    Elyse

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    Goodnight from London

    author: Jennifer Robson

    Goodnight From London tells the story of Ruby Sutton, a journalist who is sent to London at the dawn of World War II to cover the war from the perspective of a young American woman. Once there, she endures the deprivations of war on the home front, the Blitz, sees the changes and horrors that the war causes in Britain, meets a man, falls in love, and all that good stuff.

    Honestly, while this was a good read while I was reading it, in the end I found it curiously unsatisfying, and I spent about four days thinking about why.  First is that Ruby Sutton is a boring heroine. She has one big secret in her background, and a bunch of adversity she needed to fight through to get to her place in the world as a journalist. But once she got that job, everyone falls over themselves to help her, except for one and a half people. There  is very little that even mildly complicates her life.

    Hell, she gets bombed out of her flat during the Blitz, and ends up safe and sound with rich friends, so other than, “well, my passport got blown up, that kinda sucks,” it barely causes a hiccup. Even when her Big Secret comes out, the complications get quietly washed away. And these are MAJOR complications! They should have had actual repercussions, and not have been neatly disposed of in half a chapter.

    The romance is mostly conflictless: he’s got a weird job during the war so he’s in and out of London, but there’s barely any tension. The whole book is “Ruby wants to do something, people help her in doing that thing, Ruby worries that she’s not worthy of their help, people fall over themselves to assure her that she’s adored, rinse, repeat.”

    The best parts of this book where the stories that Ruby went out to report on, like a field hospital in France, or the aftermath of the bombing of Coventry. Those parts were great. But all the interpersonal non-drama was a HUGE drag.

    Redheadedgirl

    ,

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    Six Impossible Things

    author: Elizabeth Boyle

    I mentioned this in a previous “Whatcha Reading” and I totally admit that the title and the cover got me interested. I like Boyle’s writing, and I enjoy her books, but it was the gorgeousness of the cover moved this one up the TBR pile. Marketing: it works!

    Rosalie Stratton’s father worked in the Home Office as a spymaster and diplomat. Of all his children, she is the one who inherited all his skills and his brains. Of course, since she’s a girl, it’s simply impossible that she put those skills to good use…until she just does anyway, with the support of her uncle and a few other people.

    Brody, Baron Rimswell, also works for the Home Office, and he’s had a number of run-ins with a mysterious masked woman, Asteria, who might work with the Home Office (or maybe the Russians?) and those run-ins seem to always end with a passionate make-out session. As so often happens.

    Rosalie and Brody have known each other since they were children, and she’s both annoyed and amused that he doesn’t recognize her when she’s in her guise as Asteria. When they’re caught in a compromising position, they must do the responsible thing and get married, and then figure out how to sort out their lives as spies and spouses. The romance is based on figuring out how a partnership works- Rosalie is NOT going to be a quiet wife, and Brody needs to rethink his ideas of what being a husband means. His parents didn’t give him a good template for a successful, happy marriage, so he needs to figure it out for himself.

    What I liked best about Six Impossible Things was Rosalie and her determination that she would use her talents to help King and Country, whether King and Country liked it or not. She’s a patriot in the purest sense, and she’s got a brilliant mind that’s working two steps ahead of everyone else. Once Brody figures that out – that she’s as smart and talented and brave as anyone he’s ever met – he’s on her team. I love terrifyingly competent heroines and the heroes that adore them.

    This is the sixth book in a series, and I have not read all of them. While I think you can read this as a stand-alone, I have a feeling there are some through-lines that might have more of a payoff if I had read all of the other books. I had a conversation with someone who has read all of this series, and she said that it’s not at that clear how all of these couples intersect (“How is that a SERIES?”). So maybe I didn’t miss a through line.

    Redheadedgirl

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