How and why women are alternately idolized and then given hell for being the way they are.
Doyle examines society’s fascination with powerful and/or successful females who suddenly go off-kilter, becoming someone or doing something that is not in tune with how they had acted before. Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and many more modern women are well-known in the media for their occasionally wild antics, and Doyle studies the buildup of their celebrity status and their crashing downfalls. She also goes back in time to the likes of Mary Wollstonecraft, who was more famous in her day for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for her books, or Billie Holiday, who broke all sorts of barriers and is equally known for her heroin addiction as for her music. As the author notes, a “trainwreck” is “not just the cost of sharing the wrong things, or of being Visible While Female. She’s a signpost pointing to what ‘wrong’ is, which boundaries we’re currently placing on femininity, which stories we’ll allow women to have….And, in her consistent violation of the accepted social codes—her ability to shock, to horrify, to upset, to draw down loud and powerful condemnation—she is a tremendously powerful force of cultural subversion.” But it is society’s fascination with all women, not just the celebrities, and the effect and pressures women constantly face that form the crux of Doyle’s shrewd narrative. Throughout, she shows how any woman, thanks to the internet and especially social media, can now become an object of unwanted scrutiny. Fortunately, Doyle offers methods for women to fend off the endless observation, policing, and judgments, all of which are part of life for most women.
A well-rounded, thoughtful analysis of what can make and break a woman when she’s placed in the spotlight.