Bitch : in praise of difficult women

by Elizabeth Wurtzel

Paper Book, 1998





London : Quartet Books, 1998.


No one better understands the desire to be bad than Elizabeth Wurtzel. Bitchis 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." Bitchtells 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 ofThe Rules,the evil that isThe Bridges of Madison County,the twisted logic ofYou'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,Bitchis a treatise on the nature of desperate sexual manipulation and a triumph of pussy power.… (more)


(202 ratings; 3.3)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Brianna_H
I was eager to read Bitch after having read Prozac Nation years before. I was sorely disappointed. Wurtzel rants and expounds on various maligned women throughout history. Her rambling can be hard to follow and I soon lost interest. This book had a lot of potential but Wurtzel just wasn't able to
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I later read her memoir of drug addiction and recovery, More, Now, and Again which explained Bitch's dismal failure. It turns out that during the time Wurtzel was writing Bitch she was heavily using a myriad of drugs.

I suggest reading Prozac Nation and More, Now and Again and skipping Bitch. Read Manifesta and Grassroots for a modern perspective on feminism.
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LibraryThing member heidilove
Not bad. I liked prozac nation better. Being a difficult woman myself, I feel that Wertzel doesn't really go far enough, but perhaps i'm being unfair here, since I think it's everyone else who is difficult.
LibraryThing member Angelic55blonde
This is a women's studies book that focuses on how feminism and the attitudes towards feminism and feminists has evolved over the years. The author writes in a very candid, honest way and will keep the reader interested until the very end. It is a very good read, and it makes you think. There is
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some graphic language so it may not be appropriate for all ages.

I highly recommend this book and I couldn't put it down. Great read through and through.
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LibraryThing member invisibleinkling
Far different from any of Wurtzel's other books, not necessarily bad but a little too forced in places. Jumping from long pieces based on experience and personal issues to a heavily ressearch based commentary, you can tell at times it's not comming from Elizabeth, but something Elizabeth read
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somewhere. Other parts are hilarious. Read it for yourself. You won't be disappointed I'm sure.
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LibraryThing member secretlondon
I should write a really good, thorough review but this book really doesn't deserve one. I'm not entirely sure she can tell pop culture from reality. I'm glad I bought this second hand..
LibraryThing member nilchance
I think this book is an example of authorial voice obscuring intent. If it'd been broken down into article-sized bites, I might have had a different reaction to Wurtzel, but in a 400 page chunk she was too much for me. Yes, she's a brash, brave young voice in the field of feminism, but she
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irritated me. She tried too hard, she generalized too much on subjects she plainly didn't know, like domestic violence or BDSM. I agreed with a lot of what she said, like the freedom of women to make self-destructive choices and still get help recovering from them, but there were stretches at a time where her way of getting to the point just pissed me right the hell off. She's obviously intelligent, her writing is good, but her attititude grated on me, and some of her soundbites ("If Amy Fisher had a father figure, she wouldn't have gotten in trouble"; "We don't have REAL women on the Cabinet if all we have is women like Janet Reno") made me foam at the mouth.
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LibraryThing member alwayslolita
this book is repetitive and boring and self indulgent
LibraryThing member sixwoolsocks
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 Her "cooler than thou" attitude she cops throught the book overshadows what could've been a valuable
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work of cultural criticism.
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Original publication date


Physical description

426 p.; 22 cm


0704380684 / 9780704380684
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