When Serena Williams confirmed that she’s pregnant a few months ago, there was an article that was making the rounds online wondering whether or not her pregnancy “made her a better athlete”. It was bullsh-t. But it’s the same bullsh-t Serena has been dealing with her entire career, bullsh-t in various forms meant to undermine her intelligence, her commitment, and her skill. And the reason why she’s consistently undermined is because Serena has never conformed – by inviting herself into a sport that never welcomed her and then, in dominating that sport, by refusing to follow the prescribed pattern of behaviour demanded of women on the court, Serena Williams is the living embodiment of a terrifying word, especially when it’s used to describe a woman: UNRULY. For the Unruly Woman cannot be controlled. The Unruly Woman is a disruptor. The Unruly Woman is a threat to order – an order imposed to protect the status quo, a status quo that must be protected so that certain people win more than others, a system designed so to keep women like Serena Williams from winning. Only she just kept f-cking winning. By continuing to be Unruly.
Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise And Reign Of The Unruly Woman is the new book by Anne Helen Petersen, just released today. And she opens with Serena’s unruly rise and reign in a chapter called “Too Strong”, about how Serena defied sport – and society’s expectations about women in sport – with her body and with her attitude. Serena’s chapter is followed by a chapter on Melissa McCarthy’s unruliness for being “too fat”. And from there we move on to the women who are “too gross”, “too slutty”, “too old”, “too shrill”, until there are 10 women in total, all of them unruly in their own ways, and it’s not necessarily a celebration of that unruliness so much as a conversation about how each woman’s brand of Unruly challenges our idea of How To Be A Woman.
I love this book. To me it’s not just an essential read, it’s an essential resource. Because Anne Helen Petersen, as always, has put in the work, is showing her work. And she has always upheld celebrity gossip as a vital form of communication, a reflection of social culture, and an observation of the changing nature of our social morality. So, in addition to being a study of how unruly women have confronted and expanded the narrow spaces that they’ve occupied, Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise And Reign Of The Unruly Woman is also an analysis of female fame within the celebrity ecosystem. It’s PhD level gossip written by a woman with an actual PhD in gossip.
So I’m giving away FIVE copies signed by Anne Helen Petersen, PhD. If you would like a copy, please email [email protected] with “UNRULY” in the subject field by Thursday at noon ET. Standard contest rules apply.
May we all be unruly. And may we all rise from our unruliness.
Yours in gossip,