Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women celebrates strong and defiant women from biblical femme fatale Delilah to beloved Princess Diana to notorious Courtney Love. Deriving evidence from literary and theologian scholars to empowered women portrayed in music, literature, and the movies, Wurtzel argues that society tends to devalue women who break the rules, diminishing their power and strength to sexual wiles and manipulative destruction of men as a means of keeping them down, beneath men, beneath power. This book chronicles and defends strong, virile women who have lived outside and beyond the prescribed rules society inscribes upon their bodies and individuality, and who have been punished for it, one way or another.

A Harvard graduate and social commentator, Elizabeth Wurtzel’s prose reads like poetry — not the whimsical and romantic type that is expected of women, but that of a force to be reckoned with. It is not romantic or soft, but fine and intelligent, sometimes harsh and biting, but continually knowledgeable and well-researched.

Wurtzel points out that historically, biblically, socially, and politically women continue to be blamed for men’s destruction. Like Eve, the belief continues, women use beauty and sex to seduce and destroy men in power, men with strong resolve. She argues that men should be held accountable for their own demise. If women are weak and inferior and men are strong and superior, then how is it possible for little women to have such power over tough men? If men can fight wars and govern nations, then how is it that they cannot overcome the seduction of a minor character, an inferior being. She argues that “this notion that women drag men down with sex…is the basis for too much silliness — it is the reason why rape victims are not named but alleged rapists are — implying that the former, not the latter, should be ashamed because she must have made him do it — she drove him to a felonious act…Women don’t bring men down; for whatever reason, men bring themselves down, and then all of a sudden it’s Cherchez la femme” (64).

This is a powerful book with an even more powerful message that articulates how female strength and power has been appropriated and misinterpreted by male writers, theologians, and scholars. Since the time of Eve and Delilah to the present, strong women have been looked upon with negativity and derision, their power over men diminished to the manipulative use of their beauty and sexual prowess, even if they were not beautiful or sexy to begin with; but the blame had to go somewhere for man’s downfall, and of course, the man could not blame himself. It’s a great book with an empowering message towards redefining the way we look at female sexuality and female strength, and I recommend it to all women and young girls who want to find their power and agency outside of the wiles of their femininity.

Feminist Book Review: Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women by Elizabeth Wurtzel

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