Thursday, February 19, 2015

Book Review: I Am Not A Slut by Leora Tanenbaum

From Goodreads:
The author of the groundbreaking work Slut! explores the phenomenon of slut-shaming in the age of sexting, tweeting, and “liking.” She shows that the sexual double standard is more dangerous than ever before and offers advice to—and offers wisdom and strategies for alleviating its destructive effects on young women’s lives

Young women are encouraged to express themselves sexually. Yet when they do, they are derided as “sluts.” Caught in a double bind of mixed sexual messages, young women are confused. To fulfill the contradictory roles of being sexy but not slutty, they create an “experienced” identity on social media-even if they are not sexually active—while ironically referring to themselves and their friends as “sluts.”

But this strategy can become a weapon used against young women in the hands of peers who circulate rumors and innuendo—elevating age-old slut-shaming to deadly levels, with suicide among bullied teenage girls becoming increasingly common. Now, Leora Tanenbaum revisits her influential work on sexual stereotyping to offer fresh insight into the digital and face-to-face worlds contemporary young women inhabit. She shares her new research, involving interviews with a wide range of teenage girls and young women from a variety of backgrounds as well as parents, educators, and academics. Tanenbaum analyzes the coping mechanisms young women currently use and points them in a new direction to eradicate slut-shaming for good.
 
Writing
I haven't read the author's previous work, so I started this feeling like I was at a bit of a disadvantage.  Fortunately, I don't think the first work is required reading for this one, although they'd probably read well together.  I found the author's arguments to be well-founded and largely unbiased as far as politics are concerned.  She makes a great case for refusing to "take back" the word "slut" and for how it can be particularly harmful for girls to slut shame each other in the age of the internet, where everything is permanent and may haunt the affected party for life.  It's obviously very "of the moment" and is something that may need to be changed and amended again as trends and technology change, but I think has real value for the present.

Entertainment Value
I enjoyed the book and I think it contains a lot of great information, particularly in the quotes and stories from young women who are currently in high school and college and are dealing with the issues the internet has created in regards to slut shaming.  I did think parts were a bit repetitive.  There's certainly enough information on the topic for a full book, but I felt like the author focused on certain aspects repeatedly rather than presenting the full spectrum (I would have loved to have seen some discussion of women who are doxxed, trolled, harassed, and threatened online).  Much talk was given over to youth culture and how women in college and girls in high school are slut shamed, but I think the same pressures also apply to adult women and would have been interested in more on that aspect.

Overall
This one is definitely worth your time.  I read it over the course of a week or two and found that a chapter a night made for good pacing.  It could also be read in one sitting as it avoids being overly academic in tone.  The frequent quotes from girls who have experienced slut shaming were moving and kept my interest.

Thank you to Harper Perennial for providing me with a copy to review.

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