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Book Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

October 18, 2014 4 comments

A woman's hair is barely visible on the left-hand side of a book cover.  The book's title and author are in red against a black background.Summary:
On Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary, Nick comes home from working at the bar he co-owns with his sister to find his wife gone. The door is wide open, furniture is overturned, and the police say there is evidence that blood was cleaned up from the floor of the kitchen.  Eyes slowly start to turn toward Nick as the cause of her disappearance, while Nick slowly starts to wonder just how well he really knows his wife.

Review:
I’d been wanting to read this since it first came out, but when the previews for the movie came out, I knew I also wanted to see the movie, and I just had to read the book first. Because one should always read the book first.  A friend head me talking about it and offered to loan me her copy, and I flew through the book in just a couple of days.  Even though I had guessed whodunit before I even started to read it, I was still swept up in a heart-racing read.

There have been many reviews of Gone Girl, so I am going to try to focus my review in on why I personally loved it, and also address a couple of the controversies about the book.  Any spoilers will be marked and covered toward the end of the review.  Please note that this review is entirely about the book and does not address the movie at all.

The tone of the book sucked me in from the beginning.  How the book alternates between Nick’s current life and Amy’s diary of the early years of their relationship clearly showed that the relationship started out strong and fell apart, and I wanted to see how something so romantic could have gone so awry.  Amy’s diary entries simultaneously sound feminine and realistic.  She swears to the same extent that my friends and I do, and I loved seeing that in romantic, feminine diary entries. Nick’s portions, in contrast, perfectly demonstrated the measured response to a disappearance that could easily happen if a relationship was on the rocks a bit at the time.  Nick’s reactions felt very realistic to me, and I appreciated it.

Even though I predicted the whodunit, I still found the end of the book to be thrilling, as exactly how it happened was not something I was able to predict.

If you don’t want any spoilers and just want to know why you should read the book, let me just say that anyone who has been in a long-term relationship will find the complex relationship between Nick and Amy frightening and chilling and will be left giving their partner side-eye periodically throughout the book.  If you like the idea of a book that makes you freaked out at the thought of how truly awry a relationship can go, then you will enjoy this thriller.

On to the spoilers.

*spoilers*
This book has been accused of misogyny for three reasons.  Nick’s internal dialogue, the character of Amy, and the fact that Amy falsely accuses an ex-boyfriend of rape.  I did not find this book to be misogynistic at all, and I will now address each of these points.

Nick clearly struggles with how he relates to women due to the fact that his dad is a misogynistic bastard.  It is realistic for a good person to struggle with bad internal dialogue due to hearing such dialogue from a parent.  This is a very real thing that happens, and that people go to therapy for.  The very fact that Nick fights against this internal dialogue shows that he knows that it’s wrong and is trying to win out over it.  Just because one character has misogynistic internal dialogue does not make an entire book misogynistic nor does it make that character misogynistic.  It just makes the book realistic.  In fact, I find the fact that Nick ultimately defeats his internal misogynistic dialogue by realizing that it’s ok to hate women who are actually horrible but not all women to be really progressive.  Some women are horrible people. Nick learns to turn his internal “women are bitches” dialogue into “Amy is a bitch,” and I think that’s awesome.  Now, this point is related to the next point, the character of Amy.

There is at least one strain of feminism that thinks that it’s anti-woman to ever portray any women as bad or evil.  There is also the strain of feminism that just says men and women are equal and should be treated equally.  I am a member of the latter portion.  It is equally harmful to never want to admit to women’s capability for evil as it is to say all women are bad or all women are childlike or etc… There are bad women in the world. There are evil women in the world.  Women are not automatically nurturing, women are not automatically good at mothering, women are not automatically goddesses.  Women are capable of the entire spectrum of evil to good, just like men are.  It is unrealistic to act like women are incapable of evil, when we in fact are.  This is why I find the portrayal of Amy as a narcissistic sociopath to be awesome.  Because there are women just like her out there in the world.  I was continually reminded of one I have known personally while I was reading the depiction of Amy.  The patriarchy hurts men and women, and one way that it does so is with the assumption that women are incapable of evil.  Nick and Amy’s other victims are unable to get people to believe them about Amy because Amy is able to externally project the virginal good girl image that the patriarchy expects of her.  They don’t expect her to be evil. She appears to be a card-carrying, patriarchy-approved cool girl, therefore she is not evil and Nick and the others are delusional.  It’s an eloquent depiction of how the patriarchy can hurt men, and I think that a lot of people are misinterpreting that a misogynistic slant.

Finally, the false rape accusation.  Yes, it is extremely unlikely to happen. (An analysis in 2010 of 10 years of rape allegations found that 5.9% were able to proven to be false and 35.3% were proven to be true. The remaining 58.8% fell into a gray area of not being proven either way. Source)  However, this means that false allegations of rape do indeed happen. 5.9% is not zero, and this isn’t even taking into account the gray cases that couldn’t be proven either way.  Just because we have a problem with rape in this country and with rape culture does not mean that every accusation of rape is actually true.  Just as not all men are rapists, not all women are truth-tellers.  And let’s not forget that men can be raped, and women can be falsely accused of rape as well.  Amy’s false rape accusation also fits well within her character development.  As a teenager, she falsely accused a friend of stalking her. Then she accuses this man she dated in her 20s of raping her. Then she frames her husband for her murder.  It’s a clear downward spiral, and the false rape accusation, complete with faking restraint marks on her arm, is a realistic warm-up to her insane attempt at framing her husband for her own murder.  It fits within the character. It is not a malicious, useless, throwaway plot point.  It fits who Amy is, and real life statistics support that it could indeed happen.

All of these aspects of Amy and Nick and Amy’s relationship are part of what made me love the book.  I am tired in thrillers of so often seeing only men as the sociopathic evil.  I have known women to be sociopaths in real life and in the news, and I like seeing that represented in a thriller.  I also appreciate the fact that Nick is by no stretch of the imagination an innocent golden boy.  He has some nasty internal thoughts, and he was cheating on Amy.  And yet I was still able to feel sympathy for the cheating bastard because he gets so twisted up in Amy’s web.  It takes some really talented writing to get me to sympathize with a cheater at all, so well done, Gillian Flynn.

Finally, some people really don’t like the end of the book.  They wanted Amy to get caught or someone to die or something.  I thought the ending of the book was the most chilling of all.  Nick is unable to find out a way to escape Amy, so he rationalizes out their relationship to himself (she makes me try harder to be a better person or face her wrath), and ultimately chooses to stay in the incredibly abusive relationship for the sake of their child when he finds out she was pregnant.  It is realistic that Nick is concerned that if he divorces her he won’t be able to prove anything, she may falsely accuse him of things, and he won’t end up able to see his child.  This is something people on both ends of divorced worry about, and Nick has proof that Amy is unafraid to fake major crimes just to get even with him.  It is so much more chilling to think of Nick being trapped in this toxic relationship, justifying it to himself along the way, in an attempt to protect their child.  Bone. Chilling.  Because it could, can, and does happen.

Overall, the book is an excellent depiction of how the patriarchy hurts men as well as women, depicts a chilling female sociopath, and manages to be thrilling even if you are able to predict the twist.

*end spoilers*

Recommended to thriller fans looking for something different but don’t be surprised if you end up giving your significant other funny looks or asking them reassurance seeking questions for a few days.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Borrowed

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Book Review: The Walking Dead: Rise of the Governor by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga (Series, #1)

March 13, 2012 2 comments

Silhouettes of two men and a girl standing against the Atlanta city skyine.Summary:
The first in a prequel trilogy that relates how the baddest villain of The Walking Dead’s zombie apocalypse came to be–not just how he came to rule Woodbury, but how he became an evil sociopath.

Review:
Wow. Just wow.  If I could be a good book blogger and just say that I would, but I can’t so I suppose I must attempt to put my love for this book into words.

First of all, it’s important to know that this is sort of a prequel to The Walking Dead graphic novels.  It’s the origin story of The Governor (aka one of the most evil comic book villains ever).  Only instead of sticking to his graphic novel format, Kirkman, with the assistance of Bonansinga, went with the written word.  Now, I was offered this book as an audiobook, and I have to say this really affected my reading of it.  The reader, Fred Berman, does an absolutely amazing job.  He has a natural standard American accent, but seamlessly slips into a Southern drawl when the characters speak.  Beyond this though he is able to bring the anguish and tensity to the survival scenes that is necessary without seeming melodramatic.  It reminded me of being read to by my own father when I was a little girl.  I found myself choosing to curl up with the audiobook over many other activities.  So.  I’m not sure if the experience is the same reading it yourself.  I do know that listening to the audiobook is a remarkable experience.

Now, this is a zombie apocalypse horror novel about an evil man.  It gets uncomfortable.  Kirkman and Bonansinga bring us inside the minds of men warped by situations and psychiatric problems alike.  It’s not pretty.  It makes you squirm.  But it’s supposed to.  Some reviewers have accused this book of being misogynistic because bad things seem to happen an awful lot to the female characters.  I have a couple of things to say about that.  First of all, hello, do you live in this world?  Because women have to survive a lot of bad shit.  Second, this is an apocalypse.  Think of it as a war zone.  Do women get molested, raped, murdered, treated as less strong and unequal?  Absolutely.  The book isn’t misogynistic.  It’s realistic about how a south torn apart by zombies would treat women.  The way to determine if a book in this sort of situation is misogynistic is to look at how the author treats the women.  Does he present them as hysterical, over-reacting?  Do they refuse to stand up for themselves?  I can unequivocally say that although horrible things happen to the women in this book, they fight for themselves.  It is therefore not misogynistic, but realistic.

Now one thing that probably a lot of people wonder is is the story predictable?  We already know who The Governor is and that he keeps his zombie daughter as a pet.  That would seem to remove the ability for the authors to surprise us at all.  I am happy to say that in spite of knowing the end result, this story kept me on the edge of my seat.  Some readers didn’t like all of the surprises and twists.  Personally, I feel that they brought the novel up a notch in both talent and enjoyability.

Overall, this is a wonderful addition to The Walking Dead canon.  Fans of the graphic novel series will not be disappointed, although fans of the tv show seem to be taken aback by it.  All I can say is that the books don’t pull any punches and are not for the squeamish.  If you don’t want to be challenged, stick to tv.  Everyone else should scoop this up as soon as possible.

5 out of 5 stars

Source: Copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review and a giveaway

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Friday Fun! (On Health and Entitlement of Women’s Bodies)

February 10, 2012 16 comments

Hello my lovely readers!  Sorry for the relatively smaller amount of reviews this week.  I’ve finished a few books, but didn’t have the time to write up the reviews yet.  This just means next week will be full. :-)

I have a relatively serious topic I want to talk about today.  You guys know that I take health and the obesity epidemic seriously.  One argument that I’ve heard a lot of unhealthy women make is that they put on a ton of weight to avoid men.  They weren’t comfortable with the attention, etc…  I remember thinking, when I, at the time, was overweight myself, “How bad could it really be?”  Turns out…..pretty bad.

Over the last year, I’ve gone from a size 16 to a size 10.  Over the last month, I’ve had more encounters with men who feel entitled to my body than I had over the entire two years I was overweight.  I know correlation does not necessarily equal causation, but in some cases it does.

I’m a single lady.  I date.  I go places where single people hang out to try to meet new people.  I do what single people in cities do.  I dress attractively, because I WANT to, but also because I’ve worked damn HARD for this body, and I’m proud of my work.  I’m not saying I’m Miss America, and I wouldn’t want to be, but I definitely look happy and healthy when I go out.  Much more so than when I was overweight.  I get hit on. I get asked on dates.  This also happened when I was overweight.  The difference, though, is that now when I dare to say the word no a much higher percentage of them get downright angry at me.

He’ll say something like, “Do you want to go on a date?” I say, “No, thank you.”  He says, “WHY?! Think you’re too good for me?!” or “Well you shouldn’t dress that way if you don’t want attention” or “Please, you obviously need a good fucking.”  (I am not exaggerating.  These all have been spoken or texted or what have you to me).

Worse, though, is I’ll go on a first date. Usually dinner or drinks.  I have a nice enough time, but I can tell we wouldn’t work long-term, and I want a relationship at this point in my life.  He leans in for a kiss, and I turn my cheek or he asks me for a second date and I say no I don’t think it’ll work out.  The reaction generally is, “You owe me, I bought you dinner!” or “How can you possibly know after only one date?!” or “Well, I thought you were ugly anyway.”  (That last one, btw, makes zero sense since he ASKED ME OUT TO START WITH).

What really aggravates me about these interactions isn’t their disappointment that I said no.  Obviously, that is flattering.  What is bothersome is the evident sense of entitlement over MY BODY that they have.  I’m pretty and single.  They’re available and have a penis, ergo, I must want them or I’m a horrible woman.  Since when did my body become the possession of every straight man in the greater Boston area?

Oh yeah, since I started glowing with health.

It’s draining. It’s enough to make me not want to go out some nights.  It’s enough to make me want to stick my earbuds in in public and ignore everyone.  Of course, I’m me, so I’m not going to do these things.  I’m going to keep being my awesome self and feminist hulksmashing the douchebags (verbal smack-down, folks, not a physical one), but.  If I didn’t have such a strong personality or had personal issues or WHATEVER I could totally see this being a thing that would make me stop working out, stop eating healthy, stop it all and just hide to protect myself.

Do you see where I’m going here?  This misogynistic entitlement to women’s bodies is a poison to our whole society.  A POISON.  Every time you police a woman’s body or act entitled to her or watch it happen to a woman and not stand up for her, you are essentially watching the cook poison the food and then serve it to the dinner party without saying anything or trying to stop him.  It hurts everyone, and it is not ok!  It is just as bad as those cultures (that I know Americans judge) that say, “Women need to cover up because they tempt men.”  Our cultural impetus is the opposite.  “This woman is young and healthy and available ergo I deserve her body.”

No. You. Don’t.

I vow to say something any time I hear this attitude happening, and not just to me.  I vow to encourage all women to remember that our bodies are ours and our health is about US and not about THEM.  I hope you all will do the same.

 

The Self Magazine Controversy

August 12, 2009 4 comments

We all are peripherally aware of the fact that a bit of photoshopping is done on magazine covers.  We expect that a fly-away piece of hair in the model’s face might be shopped out or an odd-looking shadow, for instance.  I thought this was about making sure the lighting didn’t make the model/actress/singer look unreal and probably a bit about smoothing out an imperfection that woman is insecure about, like a blemish she had that day.  So when the Kelly Clarkson on the cover of Self controversy came out this week, I was angered on behalf of Kelly.

Essentially, Self shopped off around 20 pounds from Kelly’s frame. Not at her request.  Not with her permission.  In fact, Kelly was appearing in Self to talk about how she’s happy with what she looks like and isn’t letting the “zomg she’s fat and not perfect!” gossip get her down.

Did you catch that?  They photoshopped a singer appearing in the magazine to talk about being comfortable with her weight to look skinnier.

But it gets worse.

Jezebel dug up the Self editors’ response, which did not consist of apoligies, but instead states that this sort of thing is their general method of operation.  When models show up they look so real that they “could be mistaken for a member of the crew or the editorial team.”  The horror.  They then go on to state that they extensively photoshop every cover model, because “It is…meant to inspire women to want to be their best. “

No, Self, you’re not inspiring women to be their best.  You’re guilt-tripping women to continually attempt to achieve a look that is so impossible you have to photoshop models and celebrities to make them appear that way!  God forbid women look like women.  There are many body types.  What makes a person beautiful isn’t their body type; it’s health and who they are as a person.  Some women have boobs and a big butt.  Others naturally lack curves.  Some women have stick-straight hair; others have frizzy fly-away hair.  But no woman’s body is flawless.

Having flaws, both physically and as a person, is part of being a human being.  Presenting to women, and to the little girls who are bound to see these magazine covers, that this body type that is only possible through photoshop as a tangible possibility is harmful.  You’re telling them that it’s their fault they don’t look like this.  They could look like this if they just work hard enough.  If they follow your crazy fad diets.  If they apply every creme in your magazine to their skin.  If they would just spend an hour in the morning doing their hair and applying makeup, not to mention the two to three hours at night working out.  Clearly striving to keep our bodies healthy isn’t good enough, is it, Self?

This photoshop controversy is worse because Self purports to be about women having healthy bodies, not fashion like Elle or Vogue.  The public expects them to feature healthy women on the covers, not a photoshopped fantasy of what women supposedly should look like.

A online commenter pointed out that this is women hurting other women’s body images.  He’s right.  Women put out this magazine.  Women are putting this image out there, causing other women to obsess and waste their time attempting to achieve the impossible, not to mention putting an impossible ideal into men’s heads.  Shame on you, Ashley Mateo and Lucy Danziger.  You are the worst type of misogynist–a female one.

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