Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power

Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power

Women have always been seen as monsters. Men from Aristotle to Freud have insisted that women are freakish creatures, capable of immense destruction. Maybe they are. And maybe that’s a good thing.... Sady Doyle, hailed as “smart, funny and fearless” by the Boston Globe, takes readers on a tour of the female dark side, from the biblical Lilith to Dracula’s Lucy Westenra, from the T-Rex in Jurassic Park t...

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Title:Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power
Author:Sady Doyle
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Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power Reviews

  • Emily Chandler

    I spent months eagerly anticipating this book after reading Sady Doyle's debut Trainwreck, but this blew all my expectations out of the water. I devoured the entire thing in less than 24 hours both because its case studies and arguments were so compelling, and because its prose was moving, maddening and hilarious. I absolutely adored it, would recommend it to anyone with an interest in women, history, horror, true crime, gender and/or feminism, and am raring to read anything Sady Doyle comes out

    I spent months eagerly anticipating this book after reading Sady Doyle's debut Trainwreck, but this blew all my expectations out of the water. I devoured the entire thing in less than 24 hours both because its case studies and arguments were so compelling, and because its prose was moving, maddening and hilarious. I absolutely adored it, would recommend it to anyone with an interest in women, history, horror, true crime, gender and/or feminism, and am raring to read anything Sady Doyle comes out with in the future.

  • Marcus Kaye

    Holy shit this book was so good. Love horror? Love women? THEN HAVE I GOT A BOOK FOR YOU! Don’t? Then why are we even friends?

  • Sarah

    I really loved this book. She basically breaks down cultural norms of misogyny. She uses three categories of womanhood to do this: daughters, wives and mothers, and brings in all kinds of mythology, history, film and literature, news stories, to demonstrate how completely vilified and demonized womanhood is in western culture. It was awesome to see how she took such a huge ambitious amount of cultural artifact and distilled it to support her hypotheses.

    She writes amazingly well. I dog eared a l

    I really loved this book. She basically breaks down cultural norms of misogyny. She uses three categories of womanhood to do this: daughters, wives and mothers, and brings in all kinds of mythology, history, film and literature, news stories, to demonstrate how completely vilified and demonized womanhood is in western culture. It was awesome to see how she took such a huge ambitious amount of cultural artifact and distilled it to support her hypotheses.

    She writes amazingly well. I dog eared a lot of pages to come back to—but she did something I wish more books would do by adding a whole section at the end breaking down her references by type of text (books—fiction and nonfiction; film; theory etc). I just LOVE that so much, I wish goodreads had a 6th star for it. So satisfying—like here’s where I got my ideas—go check them out yourself if you’re interested.

    I think this author is amazing. She really synthesizes a lot of sources here, and it was exciting to read. I liked the section on motherhood a lot, especially where she discusses how even serial killers’ crimes are often blamed in the analysis on their mothers—like that’s how deep this cultures’ hatred of women goes. I hadn’t thought of it in the terms she described, I guess I just accepted that Ed Gein’s mothering was formative to who he became. Doyle made me question things myself, and I consider myself pretty well versed in feminist analysis.

    She takes pains to separate biology from motherhood too—she never equates having a vagina, or menstruating, or mothering, with the construct of ‘woman’ or ‘womanhood’—I loved that she made those differences manifest.

    The last section is about witches, which was also amazing as it leaves you at least a little hopeful.

  • ❤️

    As someone who loves horror, has an interest in women's history, and has a darker sense of humour, I fell in love with this book before I was even finished reading its introduction.

    The book covers everything from odd true crime cases (and often how they go on to influence pop culture), The Exorcist and several other horror gems (like Dracula, The Craft, Carrie, and even Godzilla and Twin Peaks), witchcraft, menstruation, motherhood, female sexuality, etc. It's super informative - though not wit

    As someone who loves horror, has an interest in women's history, and has a darker sense of humour, I fell in love with this book before I was even finished reading its introduction.

    The book covers everything from odd true crime cases (and often how they go on to influence pop culture), The Exorcist and several other horror gems (like Dracula, The Craft, Carrie, and even Godzilla and Twin Peaks), witchcraft, menstruation, motherhood, female sexuality, etc. It's super informative - though not without some hyperbole that I chalk up to Sady Doyle being super fucking hype for this stuff - and it's written in a way that is both humourous and empowering, all while being genuinely thought-provoking.

    I could spend the entire afternoon gushing over and describing this book in depth or attempting to analyze the topics it examines, but I'm not going to, because I think, simply, it speaks for itself. I love anything relating to what Doyle refers to as 'female monstrosity', and if those words speak/mean anything to you at all as well, or catch your attention for whatever reason, this is definitely a book you should read.

  • Michael

    Enjoyed Sady Doyle's last book so I knew I would enjoy this one. I'm not a fan of horror but have seen enough to know that healthy interrogation of them is necessary to fighting back against a misogynist patriarchy. This book really does name a lot of the problems of misogyny through our canonized literature and movies--always seeming to blame victims and erasing the rape culture embedded in the conciousness of the men who worship patriarchy. I liked her reexamination of Scream because it was on

    Enjoyed Sady Doyle's last book so I knew I would enjoy this one. I'm not a fan of horror but have seen enough to know that healthy interrogation of them is necessary to fighting back against a misogynist patriarchy. This book really does name a lot of the problems of misogyny through our canonized literature and movies--always seeming to blame victims and erasing the rape culture embedded in the conciousness of the men who worship patriarchy. I liked her reexamination of Scream because it was one of those movies growing up that has stood the test of time in breaking some of the misogynist tropes. I'm not a professional reviewer (obviously, I always seem to note this) but I'll say the structure of the book is very approachable and accessible. It is never dense or overly academic and the endnotes are helpful if you want to learn more. I think women harnessing the power of their rage and not letting it be squelched through patriarchal oppression is a theme in this book--that the witches, the demons, the rebellious young women fighting off the killer can be a source of renewal and resource as opposed to fantasy or some kind of corporate branding of feminism. These representation s mean things--so do the misogynists who are proclaimed to be heroes in our culture obsessed with the mythology of the handsome, lovely hero. Great writing, great chapter titles, great analysis--I am glad to have intersectional, feminist critique out there. You won't regret reading this book. Because it is brave enough to call out the bullshit of white, straight, cis, male dominated cutlure. I'm sorry if I'm reading like a parody of someone who read a book but I find expressing my feelings about books can be varied and spotty. I personally think things in our culture need to be deconstructed and torn down to become less harmful--to study trauma and abuse and not pretend that misogyny isn't promoted from the get-go. The same is true for transphobia--the book goes into the Gein case a bit and how it influenced contemporary slasher movies. The last thing I'll say in this ramble is that Freud needs t of finally be chucked out. His theories are coded with misogyny and rape culture myths and the way white straight cis males wrote psychology in the 1950s informed that. Always blaming the mother and never the abusive, breadwinning patriarch. I tend to think of my own abuse in that regard. Other things analyzed: irish folk tales, teen horror flicks, media representation of male violence, Scott Peterson, Norman Bates, Aliens, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Henry James, the author's own experience with death threats and online harassment, how we treat working mothers like shit, Doris Lessing, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

    I'm a fan of the work! It's good to learn and unlearn things and this book provides that insight. How do we manage a rape culture that insists it doesn't exist? How do Brock Turners get away with what they do? Why the fuck do we treat women like shit so much?

    Think about your own upbringing. I have absolutely have thought about my own. And I will continue to think about how being raised in a rape culture has informed my opinions.

    But mostly I think men need to read work like this. If they don't they won't understand that maybe they are obsessing over horror for the wrong reasons. I've seen men who are self-proclaimed horror fans and it seems like they just like seeing women scared and chopped up.

    I could go on and on as I listen to a live version of Fugazi playing in Philadelphia during the 90s but I think I've laid my case for why this is a good book and if you want to challenge yourself--read it! The writing is clear, brisk and without a wasted word. It is a vital work we need for pop culture.

  • Melinda Borie

    Reading this book was like discovering a favorite song, one that is perfectly in tune and on best with you.

    I wish I could take back every five-star review I’ve given any other book and give them all to this one, as though love was a zero-sum game, a competition that demands to be won. I feel seen and recognized by the writing here in a way I truly did not expect, and which I think many other women will be also. Doyle is clearly brilliant and thoughtful and skilled, and she also works to be incl

    Reading this book was like discovering a favorite song, one that is perfectly in tune and on best with you.

    I wish I could take back every five-star review I’ve given any other book and give them all to this one, as though love was a zero-sum game, a competition that demands to be won. I feel seen and recognized by the writing here in a way I truly did not expect, and which I think many other women will be also. Doyle is clearly brilliant and thoughtful and skilled, and she also works to be inclusive— making sure to mention the effect of race and racism, as well as taking pains to be considerate of transgender people even in a book where the subject itself is so fraught and confined by gender roles past and present. I fell in love with her writing in chapter one; by chapter three I felt so deeply in conversation with the book that it was like reading watered fertile land in my brain, where my own thoughts could grow. I cried several times. I’ll be thinking about this for the rest of my life.

    And readers on my holiday list should expect copies of this in their futures.

  • Lindsey

    If you feel like women are reaching a boiling point; if you question why we think about daughters, mothers, and wives the way we do; if you've always wondered where it all came from and where it might be heading..... read this book.

    In her compulsively readable, feminist manifesto, Sady Doyle takes a sharp look at mythology, pop culture, and real women through a lens to see how patriarchy was, is, and always has been how we see women.

    Completely fascinating (the couple pages of Jurassic Park alo

    If you feel like women are reaching a boiling point; if you question why we think about daughters, mothers, and wives the way we do; if you've always wondered where it all came from and where it might be heading..... read this book.

    In her compulsively readable, feminist manifesto, Sady Doyle takes a sharp look at mythology, pop culture, and real women through a lens to see how patriarchy was, is, and always has been how we see women.

    Completely fascinating (the couple pages of Jurassic Park alone have me rethinking some things) I loved how she took familiar movies and mythologies and tied them to real women and situations. It really is a book to dive back into again and again when you're tired of the bull**** and need to remember why the patriarchy sucks and how we can see it for what it really is.

    Ending with a call to action, and a look at the most recent presidential election, I found myself feeling hopeful for the first time in a while... even though I know that will come crashing down the next time I read the news.

  • Suz Jay

    “This is a dark book, but some things are clearer in the darkness. This is a violent book, but an unsparing confrontation with violence can bring us to what lies beneath and beyond it. Female monstrosity inspires fear because it really can in the world—or our current version of it, anyway. But our world is not the only one, or the best one, and in fact, the more time I spend with monsters, the more I think it’s destruction is overdue.”

    The book is divided into three parts: Daughters,

    “This is a dark book, but some things are clearer in the darkness. This is a violent book, but an unsparing confrontation with violence can bring us to what lies beneath and beyond it. Female monstrosity inspires fear because it really can in the world—or our current version of it, anyway. But our world is not the only one, or the best one, and in fact, the more time I spend with monsters, the more I think it’s destruction is overdue.”

    The book is divided into three parts: Daughters, Wives, and Mother’s, with the following subsections: puberty, virginity, seduction, marriage, birth, family, and bad mothers. The conclusion is entitled the “Woman at the Edge of the Woods.” Some of the examples include Mary Shelley and her Frankenstein monster, changelings, witches, how women are depicted in horror e.g. the final girl trope, bad guy mothers e.g. Norma Bates, and serial killer Ed Kemper’s mother and how Mindhunter profiler John Douglas seemed to blame her for her son’s monstrous proclivities.

    This book provides a thought provoking take on how women are viewed and treated in society, art, literature, and film. I listened to the audio book version and enjoyed the narration.

  • Neville Longbottom

    I love Sady Doyle’s writing. She’s able to weave together stories about actual historical and current figures, fictional characters, and women from myths into an entertaining book about the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women.

    The book is broken down into three main sections: daughters, wives, and mothers. I definitely enjoyed the book as a whole, but I was more interested in the daughters and wives sections than the one about mothers. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for

    I love Sady Doyle’s writing. She’s able to weave together stories about actual historical and current figures, fictional characters, and women from myths into an entertaining book about the patriarchal and misogynistic fear of “monstrous” women.

    The book is broken down into three main sections: daughters, wives, and mothers. I definitely enjoyed the book as a whole, but I was more interested in the daughters and wives sections than the one about mothers. I’d recommend this to anyone looking for a more “fun” book about pop culture and history viewed through a feminist lens.

  • Casey

    As much as I loved Doyle's last book, this one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think her analysis of culture casting women as monstrous is both valid and important, but in condensing her examples, I feel that she sometimes leaves out crucial details that don't support her case. For instance, she contrasts Aileen Wuornos's six death sentences to Gary Ridgway's life imprisonment but fails to mention a) Ridgway has 48 life sentences plus 480 years and b) he was spared the death penalty in exchan

    As much as I loved Doyle's last book, this one was a bit of a mixed bag for me. I think her analysis of culture casting women as monstrous is both valid and important, but in condensing her examples, I feel that she sometimes leaves out crucial details that don't support her case. For instance, she contrasts Aileen Wuornos's six death sentences to Gary Ridgway's life imprisonment but fails to mention a) Ridgway has 48 life sentences plus 480 years and b) he was spared the death penalty in exchange for identifying unknown victims. While Wuornos's sentence was lamentable, I don't think it's fair to compare their circumstances.

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