Author and Buzzfeed journalist Anne Petersen read the first chapter of her new book, “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” at the University of Idaho Thursday.
Her book was selected as one of Amazon’s Best Books of the Month for June 2017.
“Petersen’s essays highlight the paradoxical expectations American culture places on women, in particular, the mixed messages it sends: the ‘you can do anything,’ rubbing awkwardly against the ‘you can’t do everything,’” Megan Garber from The Atlantic wrote in a review.
Petersen has had an interest in celebrity culture writing since college. She grew up in Lewiston, Idaho and went to the University of Oregon for her master’s before receiving her doctorate in media studies at the University of Texas.
Professor Russell Meeuf in the UI Journalism and Mass Media Department invited Petersen to speak at the university. Meeuf attended the University of Oregon with Petersen when he was pursuing his PhD and she was obtaining her master’s. Both do similar work on celebrity culture and star studies.
“This book is based on the work of our shared mentor that we had in graduate school who’s a researcher who studies the history of unruly women in popular culture,” Meeuf said.
Petersen made some changes to her book in discussing the history of unruly women in popular culture. While talking about her book, Petersen said her original first chapter was supposed to be about comedian Amy Schumer, but she said she decided to replace Schumer’s chapter with a chapter about Serena Williams after the 2016 presidential election.
“I realized after revising it wasn’t working because there was this divide between Amy Schumer’s politics on the show and Amy Schumer’s politics off the show. I didn’t necessarily need another white straight woman in the book,” Petersen said.
Williams’s chapter added diversity to the book and brought in the issue of racism that the Williams sisters have had to face.
“They are rich, they are beautiful, they are- at least in the mind’s eye and at least until the mid-1990’s- white,” Petersen said about tennis players. “But then the Williams sisters arrived on the International scene and changed all that.”
Petersen had a certain reason for adding Serena and other celebrities to her book.
“I wanted to flush it out more in terms of not just actresses. I added Hillary (Clinton) and Serena to show that it’s across the board when it comes to cultural figures,” Petersen said.
Petersen looks at celebrities from a journalistic perspective and writes about their impact in pop culture. She said analyzing celebrities can reveal something about the larger society.
“You can look at celebrities as these reflections, what a culture is going through in a particular moment. You can look at these celebrities as the guiding light- the guiding star for that moment,” Petersen said.
UI senior Rosemary Anderson, a journalism major, said she could relate to “Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman” and the “unruly women” Petersen wrote about.
“These labels have been put on me especially as a woman who is a queer, and who looks different than what society expects women to look like,” said Anderson, who has short green hair.
Petersen’s talk at the university was not her last presentation about her book. She will continue to discuss the female celebrities she’s analyzed that have faced challenging stereotypes of femininity. Petersen said she hopes writing about various issues will cause people to think more about them.
“We can be inspired by her to continue to fight. It went from woman to woman saying to women ‘It’s okay to be too fat too, too slutty, too loud for what society thinks of you,’” Anderson said.
Lindsay Trombly can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @lindsay_trombly