September 20, 2016
Sady Doyle’s election-year syllabus
by Sady Doyle
Today marks the publication of Sady Doyle’s hotly anticipated Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… And Why (out today!). We got in touch to ask what the books are that no shelf should be without this election season. Her answers spanned centuries:
Big Girls Don’t Cry: The Election That Changed Everything for American Women
Hillary Clinton is a complicated candidate, and she necessitates an equally complicated analysis. Unfortunately, most of the discussion around her focuses on portraying her as either (a) living perfection and the savior of feminism, (b) an ungodly feminazi Muslim-sympathizing Communist-thesis-writing criminal hag, or (c) what would happen if Darth Vader worked for Goldman Sachs. Fortunately, Rebecca Traister applies a scalpel where everyone else is using a sledgehammer. This book — covering both Hillary Clinton’s failed 2008 Presidential run and Sarah Palin’s equally failed 2008 Vice-Presidential one — is clearly and refreshingly sympathetic to Clinton, but more importantly, it’s a nuanced, scrupulously fair, detailed look at the relationship between women, electoral politics, and power as it currently stands in the United States. It will make you see Clinton in a kinder light, but it will also have you asking yourself the kinds of questions that will linger long after November 9.
Men Explain Things to Me
After you’ve read Traister’s book, try saying something nice about Hillary Clinton on social media! In less than thirty seconds, I promise, the thesis of this landmark essay will be alarmingly, directly relevant to your life.
Elections are also a time when journalists delight in creating boring, faux-polarizing articles about “young women” and “older women” and how the sexy young co-eds are rejecting the feminism of their irrelevant crone mothers. ’Twas ever thus. As proof and/or inoculation, I recommend this novel, in which seemingly every sexy young female character had a mother who was “a feminist” and now spends copious time explaining why we’re beyond those petty, old-fashioned gender struggles. It was published in — wait for it — 1963. The “feminist” mothers were suffragists; the thing we’re “beyond” was the vote. Also, one of the sexy young post-feminists has an abusive husband who locks her in a mental institution for sassing him, so in that decade or in this one, moving “past” feminism really never ends well.
Letter From a Fugitive Slave: Slaves Sold under Peculiar Circumstances
Being a woman in America has never meant just one thing. In an election where race and racism are central to the conversation — an election where one candidate, Donald Trump, is running on a platform of nativist white “purity,” where Clinton’s effectiveness for her constituents may well be limited by white feminism, where poll after poll shows that the people most invested in this election’s outcome are black women — it’s more important than ever to sit with Harriet Jacobs, and what she says about the history of womanhood in America. This letter, her first published piece of work, is addressed to First Lady Julia Tyler, who had claimed that slavery “benefited” women. Read it (and keep in mind that Harriet herself was the sexually assaulted “sister” she describes) and remember how very often women of color have had to correct powerful white women about their lives and/or the world at large.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
“I may excite laughter,” Wollstonecraft wrote, “by dropping an hint, which I mean to pursue… for I really think that women ought to have representatives, instead of being arbitrarily governed without having any direct share allowed them in the deliberations of government.” If all else fails, nothing will make you feel more patriotic than this document, from a time when “women voting,” let alone “women voting to elect female politicians,” was considered a dangerously radical and far-out idea. Yes, it’s depressing that this idea still “excites laughter” over 200 years later. But, on the other hand, this is the year you can go out and make Mary Wollstonecraft proud.
Trainwreck is on sale now. Buy your copy here or at your neighborhood independent bookstore.
Sady Doyle founded the blog Tiger Beatdown in 2008. Her work has appeared in In These Times, The Guardian, Elle.com, The Atlantic, Slate, Buzzfeed, Rookie, and lots of other places around the Internet. Her first book, Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... And Why is out now from Melville House.