Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women

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Anchor Books/Doubleday, 1999 - Social Science - 436 pages
10 Reviews
No one better understands the desire to be bad than Elizabeth Wurtzel.

Bitch is a brilliant tract on the history of manipulative female behavior. By looking at women who derive their power from their sexuality, Wurtzel offers a trenchant cultural critique of contemporary gender relations. Beginning with Delilah, the first woman to supposedly bring a great man down (latter-day Delilahs include Yoko Ono, Pam Smart, Bess Myerson), Wurtzel finds many biblical counterparts to the men and women in today's headlines.

In five brilliant extended essays, she links the lives of women as demanding and disparate as Amy Fisher, Hillary Clinton, Margaux Hemingway, and Nicole Brown Simpson. Wurtzel gives voice to those women whose lives have been misunderstood, who have been dismissed for their beauty, their madness, their youth.

She finds in the story of Amy Fisher the tragic plight of all Lolitas, our thirst for their brief and intense flame. She connects Hemingway's tragic suicide to those of Sylvia Plath, Edie Sedgwick, and Marilyn Monroe, women whose beauty was an end, ultimately, in itself. Wurtzel, writing about the wife/mistress dichotomy, explains how some women are anointed as wife material, while others are relegated to the role of mistress. She takes to task the double standard imposed on women, the cultural insistence on goodness and society's complete obsession with badness: what's a girl to do? Let's face it, if women were any real threat to male power, "Gennifer Flowers would be sitting behind the desk of the Oval Office," writes Wurtzel, "and Bill Clinton would be a lounge singer in the Excelsior Hotel in Little Rock."

Bitch tells a tale both celebratory and cautionary as Wurtzel catalogs some of the most infamous women in history, defending their outsize desires, describing their exquisite loneliness, championing their take-no-prisoners approach to life and to love. Whether writing about Courtney Love, Sally Hemings, Bathsheba, Kimba Wood, Sharon Stone, Princess Di--or waxing eloquent on the hideous success of The Rules, the evil that is The Bridges of Madison County, the twisted logic of You'll Never Make Love in This Town Again--Wurtzel is back with a bitchography that cuts to the core. In prose both blistering and brilliant, Bitch is a treatise on the nature of desperate sexual manipulation and a triumph of pussy power.

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BITCH: In Praise of Difficult Women

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

The epithet —bitch— has no male equivalent, and Wurtzel explains this inequity in a series of overgrown essays that swings from insightful to banal. At its best, Wurtzel's discursive style is akin ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - sixwoolsocks - LibraryThing

Too bad Wurtzel spends most of the book coming off as a complete poseur & name dropping every 2 pages. When she actually gets down to cultural analysis, her arguments are actually pretty intelligent ... Read full review

Contents

Manufacturing Fascination
1
He Puts Her on a Pedestal and She Goes Down on It
35
Hey Little Girl Is Your Daddy Home?
93
Copyright

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About the author (1999)

Elizabeth Wurtzel graduated from Harvard College, where she received the 1986 Rolling Stone College Journalism Award.  She was a music critic for The New Yorker and New York, and her articles have appeared in numerous magazines.  She is the author of the bestselling Prozac Nation, and she currently resides in New York City.

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