PRETTY BITCHES by Lizzie Skurnick

PRETTY BITCHES

On Being Called Crazy, Angry, Bossy, Frumpy, Feisty, and All the Other Words That Are Used To Undermine Women
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KIRKUS REVIEW

New York Times Magazine columnist Skurnick (That Should Be a Word, 2015, etc.) curates a feminist anthology that gathers essays on women’s disheartening and empowering experiences.

Ambitious. Exotic. Intimidating. Aggressive. Aloof. These and other descriptors build a fraught lexicon in which barbs and compliments alike convey barely concealed, or even blatant, misogyny. With an introduction by Rebecca Traister that elucidates how certain expressions silence women, this literary collection features voices emphasizing the need to keep speaking up. Novelists, women in media, activists, and others each tackle one commonplace word through pointed memories and deft examinations of word origins, often braiding private experiences with larger events. Though certain themes recur—double standards in the workplace, physical appearance, and expectations about women's behavior—the personal approach keeps the collection fresh and surprising. Stephanie Burt, for instance, weighs the implications of “pretty,” which can be seen as shorthand for not being beautiful enough. Through a rigorous exploration of a spa visit, Amy S. Choi bemoans the lie that beauty is "effortless,” while Dagmara Domińczyk's take on “ugly” is a painful reminder of adolescence. In Monique Truong's "Sweet," she exposes the word that Christine Blasey Ford's colleague used to describe her as the trivializing term it can be. Essays on achievement—and how often it is attributed to reasons other than women’s talent and effort—revisit frustrating ground, and essays on the compounding problems of being a minority woman underscore how little American culture has changed since the civil rights movement. Other salient passages depict how a single word can reverberate in a woman's life for decades. There's no easy solution for eradicating derogatory, deeply ingrained language—or reclaiming certain terms to be used positively—but this uplifting collection serves as a good first step toward highlighting what's wrong with how women are talked about. Other contributors include Laura Lippman, Carina Chocano, Meg Wolitzer, and Katha Pollitt.

A galvanizing, sharp compendium.

Pub Date: March 3rd, 2020
ISBN: 978-1-58005-919-0
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1st, 2019




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