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Trainwreck : the women we love to hate, mock, and fear ... and why / Sady Doyle.
Doyle, Sady, author.
Brooklyn : Melville House, [2016]
xx, 297 pages ; 22 cm
"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, [this book] 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'"
Includes bibliographical references (pages 263-287) and index.
1612195636 hardcover

9781612195636 hardcover

9781612195643 electronic book


Material Type
Call Number
Book P94.5.W65D754

On Order



The female trainwreck is a familiar figure to us all- she's Britney Spears shaving her head, Whitney Houston and Amy Winehouse dying in front of millions. But the trainwreck is as old (and as powerful) as feminism itself, and Doyle's book is a fierce, intelligent, deeply-researched investigation of a centuries-old phenomenon. Who is the trainwreck? What are her crimes? And, in an age when social media makes public figures of us all, what does it mean for the rest of us?

Author Notes

Sady Doyle founded the blog Tiger Beatdown in 2008. Since then, she's been a staff writer for Rookie Magazine and In These Times. Her work has appeared in The Guardian,, The Atlantic, Slate, Buzzfeed, and lots of other places around the Internet. She's been featured in Rookie- Yearbook One and Yearbook Two, and contributed to the Book of Jezebel. She also won the first-ever Women's Media Center Social Media award by popular vote. Trainwreck is her first book.

Reviews 4

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Sept.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* What do Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, and Monica Lewinsky have in common? Journalist Doyle, who writes for Rookie and In These Times, argues that they've all been casually categorized, at one point or another, as trainwrecks. Summed up as suffering from, and publicly humiliated for, sexual overabundance, emotional overabundance, all the too-muchness and too-bigness that comes with being a flaming wreck of a woman, these and other women provide a lens for understanding society's prevailing reactions to, and treatment of, them. Canny and conversational, Doyle draws compelling parallels to trainwrecks modern readers might have missed: Mary Wollstonecraft, Charlotte Brontë, Harriet Jacobs, Theroigne de Mericourt. Doyle's dismantling of the trainwreck-inspired media circus is a wreck in itself: difficult to see and hard to look away from. Making her point most pertinently in the case of public figures, Doyle shows the way women in general have been, and very often still are, tried for their very womanness, devoured for their flaws, and respected only once they've been reduced to smoldering ash. High-speed and immediately readable, Doyle's poignant take on the concept of the trainwreck, and its relation to feminism, will provoke much thought and discussion.--Bostrom, Annie Copyright 2016 Booklist

Library Journal Review

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 Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

How and why women are alternately idolized and then given hell for being the way they are.Doyle examines societys 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. Shes a signpost pointing to what wrong is, which boundaries were currently placing on femininity, which stories well allow women to have.And, in her consistent violation of the accepted social codesher ability to shock, to horrify, to upset, to draw down loud and powerful condemnationshe is a tremendously powerful force of cultural subversion. But it is societys fascination with all women, not just the celebrities, and the effect and pressures women constantly face that form the crux of Doyles 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 shes placed in the spotlight. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.