SOCIAL SCIENCES

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

Seal Pr. Mar. 2020. 320p. ed. by Lizzie Skurnick. ISBN 9781580059190. $28. SOC SCI
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Each essay in this new collection edited by New York Times Magazine columnist Skurnick and introduced by Rebecca Traister (Good and Mad) skewers a particular word historically used to denigrate women: princess, ambitious, disciplined, lucky, aloof, intimidating, nurturing, crazy. The essays take various forms; some trace back to the origins of words such as cunt and harpy, mourning how overuse has turned “intentional and weighty insults” into “common diminutions.” Others, including Julianna Baggott’s “Ambitious,” take a personal angle. Reflecting on the push and pull between her aspirations as a writer and society’s expectations of her as a wife and mother, Baggott reflects on what it means to call women ambitious, and how women try to disconnect themselves from the word. Multiple selections throw the chosen words into stark relief when they compare their usage in regards to men.
VERDICT This collection features an array of voices and serves as a multiuse resource that can be a glossary, a takedown of toxic masculinity, or a radical reclaiming of words that are often used to undermine.

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