20 January 2014

Review: Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women by Carol Dyhouse

Trade paperback, 314 pages
Published 2013

Acquired May 2013
Read January 2014
Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women
by Carol Dyhouse

Dyhouse covers the popular "moral panics" that accompany the shifting roles of young women ("women") in British society, from the "New Woman" up to the present day, discussing how there is always some kinda outrage accompanying new rights or roles, always some kinda ill effect that people claim will come if women are allowed to do what they want. It's a good history, and she highlights great examples of the absurd-- yet common-- things people will say about women who dare to have a job, have consensual sex, or go out drinking, even in the 2000s.

I do wish the book had a stronger argument or narrative; there are times where it feels like a series of anecdotes. There's one bubbling under the surface, I think, that comes out in a couple places, about how moral panic can be used as an excuse to display the activities you're "panicking" about ("Oh, look at all these young women in their skimpy, sexual outfits! Just look at them!"). I wish this (or something else) had been brought out more consistently, so that the book cohered a little bit more and said a little bit more. There were also times I felt that Dyhouse lost herself in retelling the same "scandalous" stories she was decrying people for retelling. And then the last chapter kinda sputters out, ending with "Well, we still need feminism because the earning gap isn't closed yet." Yes, but... why here? Other than being about women, it doesn't really fit with the focus of the rest of the book.

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