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, fr...

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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.

  • Layma

    TW: mutilation, rape, sexual abuse, torture.

    The only reason that I'm posting trigger warnings is because I had no idea what I was going into and was positively shocked by the first chapter alone. (I'm not a fan of true crime genre and may be a bit too sensitive for many gory details cited in this book.)

    That said, I knew for sure I could expect brilliant writing and fresh ideas which I hadn't seen in any other popular nonfiction books on feminism. "Trainwreck" was one of my favourite books of 201

    TW: mutilation, rape, sexual abuse, torture.

    The only reason that I'm posting trigger warnings is because I had no idea what I was going into and was positively shocked by the first chapter alone. (I'm not a fan of true crime genre and may be a bit too sensitive for many gory details cited in this book.)

    That said, I knew for sure I could expect brilliant writing and fresh ideas which I hadn't seen in any other popular nonfiction books on feminism. "Trainwreck" was one of my favourite books of 2018 and the follow up did not disappoint in the slightest.

    It is divided into sections dealing with the roles the society deems acceptable for women: daughters, wives and mothers. In each one Sady Doyle explores how you can never win either trying to please the patriarchy or rebeling against it. The part I personally found the most profound is "Mothers", and in it Doyle voices something that is still a taboo and quite a controversial opinion - the fact that not all mothers (and certainly not all women) have maternal instincts. In that section I found out about the French feminist Élisabeth Badinter who argued that the attitudes of mothers towards their children throughout time were dictated by the beliefs and norms of the society and period they were living in. As a woman who as of now has no intention of having children, I'm really greatful for seeing this point of view illustrated and treated with respect. Besides, the running theme of the book is how the fact that women are forced to suppress their desires and whole personalities creates monsters, be it their aloofness and lack of interest in life or their children who get this desperation and unfulfillment passed down to them.

    There are numerous things I adored about this book, but I feel like two of them deserve a special mention. Firstly, it is very aware of trans issues and seamlessly incorporates those narratives into the fabric of womanhood. The tone of the book is not condescending and although the author states that she is no expert on the topic, she constantly includes trans women into the conversation about motherhood and I think it's wonderful. Secondly, since writing her first book Doyle has become a mother herself and therefore has a much more personal lense to look through when analysing the commonly held ideas about motherhood. She treats herself with humour and acknowledges that it's okay to feel like you're doing everything wrong because of the way our society likes to criticise mothers.

    Overall, this book is a deep exploration of everything to do with culture (from legends and myths to such hits as "Gone Girl" or the phenomenon of the "Final Girl") through the prism of motherhood and how it is believed to create monsters (real or metaphorical).

  • Morgan Schulman

    I received an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for an honest review

    Wow wow wow.

    I've read a lot of Feminist books lately by internet-famous ladies, and they rarely get past the 101. but this was really new and refreshing. Ties in the fear of the maternal/sexual/powerful "witch" in the patriarchy nicely. Must read for all gender/women's studies c;lasses

  • Meena Habibulla

    Dead blondes and Bad Mothers informs us of the ways society paints women and femaleness in a disturbing, and horrific manner. This is explored through history, literature, and film, and is posed and processed into the "acceptable" tropes of female nature and femininity (daughters, wives, and mothers). When women in myth, fairytales, pop culture, and in real life fail to comply with the paragons of womanhood, they are revealed to be monstrous.

    At best, it's insidious propaganda that's been perpet

    Dead blondes and Bad Mothers informs us of the ways society paints women and femaleness in a disturbing, and horrific manner. This is explored through history, literature, and film, and is posed and processed into the "acceptable" tropes of female nature and femininity (daughters, wives, and mothers). When women in myth, fairytales, pop culture, and in real life fail to comply with the paragons of womanhood, they are revealed to be monstrous.

    At best, it's insidious propaganda that's been perpetuated since the dawn of humanity and our collective consciousness. At worst, it's the fuel for fear against women, leading to misogyny, and hate crimes against women.

  • 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?

  • Lauren Olson

    I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. When I read something, I either want to be completely captivated and transported or I want the title to resonate with me and shine new a light on a topic I find personally important. Exceptional non-fiction, like this selection can accomplish both of those things. This will have something for fans of the Lore podcast, true crime, Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti. There are a lot of "badass ladies of history" style books on the shelves these days, but this one

    I'm not much of a non-fiction reader. When I read something, I either want to be completely captivated and transported or I want the title to resonate with me and shine new a light on a topic I find personally important. Exceptional non-fiction, like this selection can accomplish both of those things. This will have something for fans of the Lore podcast, true crime, Roxane Gay, and Jessica Valenti. There are a lot of "badass ladies of history" style books on the shelves these days, but this one stands out because of its depth of back matter and a little dose of ooky spook. Sady Doyle is not pulling these connections out of thin air. Many, if not all, women live through every day horrors and our current societal landscape is a hellish one. We may have to become more like the monsters we've been painted to be throughout history to create a future with less to fear.

  • Gina

    A thought-provoking look at the effects patriarchy has had on women throughout the centuries. Using historical examples, literary tidbits, and statistics, Sady Doyle illustrates how male fear of female power and autonomy has kept women shackled, held back, and disillusioned. This is an eye-opening, sometimes rage-inducing, book that just might give women the impetus to take back what's been stolen from them.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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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