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Trainwreck
Cover of Trainwreck
Trainwreck
The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear . . . and Why
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She's everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck.

She's Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, "crack is whack," and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself.
From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle's Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to "behave."

Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle's book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.
She's everywhere once you start looking for her: the trainwreck.

She's Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston saying, "crack is whack," and Amy Winehouse, dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is also as old (and as meaningful) as feminism itself.
From Mary Wollstonecraft—who, for decades after her death, was more famous for her illegitimate child and suicide attempts than for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman—to Charlotte Brontë, Billie Holiday, Sylvia Plath, and even Hillary Clinton, Sady Doyle's Trainwreck dissects a centuries-old phenomenon and asks what it means now, in a time when we have unprecedented access to celebrities and civilians alike, and when women are pushing harder than ever against the boundaries of what it means to "behave."

Where did these women come from? What are their crimes? And what does it mean for the rest of us? For an age when any form of self-expression can be the one that ends you, Sady Doyle's book is as fierce and intelligent as it is funny and compassionate—an essential, timely, feminist anatomy of the female trainwreck.
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About the Author-
  • Sady Doyle founded the blog Tiger Beatdown in 2008. Her work has appeared in In These Times, The Guardian, Elle.com, The Atlantic, Slate, Buzzfeed, Rookie, and lots of other places around the Internet. She won the first-ever Women's Media Center Social Media award by popular vote in 2011 and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Trainwreck is her first book.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from July 18, 2016
    Pop-culture commentator Doyle launches a ruthlessly funny, smart, and relentlessly on-point takedown of modern misogyny in this feminist anatomy of celebrity “trainwrecks” and the “appetite for specifically female ruin and suffering” that fuels entire venues of popular entertainment. Contemplating her subjects’ crimes (having sex, having needs, having opinions) and her subjects’ options (self-destruct, disappear, or risk the continual public fury to which a woman who refuses to be shamed, silenced, or stopped is exposed), Doyle compiles portraits including those of historical figures such as Charlotte Brontë and midcentury icons such as Billie Holiday and Sylvia Plath to such contemporary subjects of spectacle as Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, and Britney Spears. She surmises that the train wreck earns hatred for violating the rules of “good” behavior. But in her profiles of non-self-immolating women such as Harriet Jacobs, Hillary Clinton, and the French revolutionary Theroigne de Mericourt, Doyle suggests that the revulsion is stirred not by the train wreck’s questionable behavior but by the fact of her being a visible, vocal female. Doyle’s book is really an exposé of persistent cultural pathologies about women and sex, a “200-year-old problem” of enforcing myths about good behavior that essentially prevent women from being the subjects of their own lives. With compassion for its subjects and a vibrantly satirical tone, Doyle’s debut book places her on the A-list of contemporary feminist writers.

  • Kirkus

    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. COPYRIGHT(1) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from September 1, 2016

    In her first book, journalist Doyle (Tiger Beatdown) invites us to interrogate the cultural figure of "the trainwreck": women who are ritually humiliated, find their careers destroyed, lose their privacy--in some cases their legal and physical autonomy--and are not infrequently left to die for their sins (real or imagined). Across eight thematic chapters, Doyle asks: Who are these women? What are their crimes? When caught in the vortex of a trainwreck narrative, what are their options? And finally, what role does the concept, and the individuals whose lives it devours, play in society? Each chapter includes historical and contemporary examples of real-life women whose behavior has been deemed so egregious as to put them beyond redemption: Mary Wollstonecraft, Harriet Jacobs, Valerie Solanas, Monica Lewinsky, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and more. VERDICT Well researched and intersectional, this unapologetically feminist critique of society's vicious treatment of women both famous and obscure who fail to conform to the expectations of normative straight, white femininity will appeal to readers of Jennifer L. Pozner's Reality Bites Back. [See "Editors' Fall Picks," p. 26.]--Anna J. Clutterbuck-Cook, Massachusetts Historical Soc. Lib., Boston

    Copyright 2016 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Salon "A dazzling compendium of iconic feminist figures...The transhistorical connections between women are delightful, and Doyle showcases the breadth and depth of her knowledge as she moves with ease from Tara Reid to Hillary Clinton to Britney Spears to Marie Antoinette...However, where Trainwreck truly illuminates its readers is in its social and psychological reflections about origins of the narrative."
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Trainwreck
Trainwreck
The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear . . . and Why
Sady Doyle
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