SLUT! by Leora Tanenbaum

SLUT!

Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Absorbing first-person narratives from a wide range of women, including the author, alternate with a somewhat prosaic analysis of the ramifications of being labeled a slut in adolescence. Journalist Tanenbaum’s first book offers up striking images of the cruelty of teenagers, both male and, more significantly, female, toward the girls whom they have labeled “sluts.” The author indicts the school systems that ignore or even condone such behavior. Her allegations that humiliation of the perceived other—in these cases young women with bad reputations—is alive and well in the American school system may come as no surprise, but her depiction of its various manifestations, ranging from taunting in the cafeteria to rape in a stairwell, is shocking to anyone who thinks of school as a haven from violence. The strength of Tanenbaum’s book lies in the accounts of her interviewees, many of whom attribute their confidence today to what they suffered in their youth. As one woman recounts: “Learning to be an outsider is important, because an awful lot of people in the world are outsiders. I learned to be alone. I learned to use my head in more complex ways than I would have been able to otherwise.” The key point that the book illustrates is how little American society of the 20th century has changed when it comes to condemning women for attempting sexual parity with men. Though the definition of what constitutes sluttiness has shifted over the years, the similarities in the interviews of “sluts” of the 1950s and their contemporary counterparts are sobering and sad. Most often cogently written, the book bogs down toward the end when Tanenbaum abandons analysis for prescription, offering pablum like “For real changes to occur, girls need to change the way they relate to one another.” You haven—t come as far as you thought, baby.

Pub Date: May 20th, 1999
ISBN: 1-888363-94-0
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Seven Stories
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 1999