I don’t usually read many self-help or advice books, but I find it interesting when women write advice books specifically for other women. This doesn’t mean of course that women couldn’t benefit from books written by men, but sometimes there are issues more pertinent to women which a female author can better relate to, and a feeling of sisterhood that comes from reading a book written by a woman for other women. So since this blog is called Chicks Dig Books, I’d like to take a look at two radically different self-help books written just for the ladies!
Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman & Kim Barnouin (2005)
My trainer recently loaned me this book to read. I had heard of it of course, but never really knew too much about it. Frankly I was surprised and more than a little put off by this book. What purports to be a diet and wellness book is foul-mouthed propaganda for veganism containing theories disguised to look like facts.
For me, what was most offensive about this book was the tone. The co-authors (a former model and modeling agent, so no duh they’re skinny!) frankly are bullies. By the time I finished the first chapter I had already been called a gluttonous pig, lazy, and a pussy, among other things. Way to motivate, girls! The entire book is filled with a level of profanity I would expect from a Tarantino film, not an advice book. And the chapter entitled “Pooping” is just disgusting. I get the whole “tough love” angle they were going for, but instead of appearing knowledgeable and helpful, Freedman and Barnouin come off as just plain, well, bitches. Which is clearly because they don’t eat.
Just as egregious is the way Skinny Bitch makes nearly impossible promises to its readers. The authors state over and over again ”you will be skinny” if you eat what they eat. I find this to be more than a little irresponsible, since one particular diet is not right for everyone, and not everyone loses weight at the same rate. All in all, I can’t understand the appeal of this book.
Knowing Your Value by Mika Brzezinski (2011)
Knowing Your Value is a book written about another common problem many women face: being underpaid and undervalued in the workplace. Author Mika Brzezinski, co-host of the news program Morning Joe, describes her personal experiences with inequality in her career and offers practical advice on how women can be taken more seriously at work. Brzezinski tells her readers how to go about negotiating for a raise, asking for a promotion, and getting noticed in meetings.
What was most interesting about this book was the author’s analysis of some reasons why women sometimes find it harder to succeed in business. She points out how women are socialized to be passive and accommodating, and thus may not pursue a raise or a promotion the way some men would. She also makes some interesting commentary on how sometimes women can manipulate each other in the workplace, and how sometimes a woman’s worst enemy is herself. I think that any woman can benefit from reading this book, even if she is already happy with her career.
Reading these two books back-to-back was an interesting experience. Both books were intended to inspire women to make positive changes in their lives, yet one book chose to rant and rave at the audience and the other book is calm and personable. In nonfiction books (especially in advice books), the tone is paramount. If readers are offended or confused by an author’s tone, the author’s intentions will be lost on them.
Just as radically different is the information contained in both of these books. Skinny Bitch offers a lot of opinion on the virtues of a vegan diet and less-than-subtle lists of organic food brands the authors endorse. The authors quote a lot of studies and still sometimes manage to get the facts wrong. For example, they state that stevia (a sugar substitute) is illegal in the United States when it is legal but can only be purchased as a dietary supplement as opposed to a food product. My favorite “fact” was the claim that the only cattle-owning tribe in Africa is also the only tribe whose members suffer from osteoporosis. Must be the dairy. Couldn’t possibly be anything else. This book is all correlation and no causality!
Knowing Your Value cites several university studies on gender bias, but also relies on interviews and personal experiences to support its points. What I like most about this book is that Brzezinski doesn’t promise her readers success and wealth if they follow her advice. Instead she offers practical tips based on studies and real-world experiences. It’s ultimately up to the readers to decide how they will put those tips into practice. There’s no bullying or name-calling, just a woman trying to help other women.
It was fascinating to see the differences in these two books. I think the best advice books are those which do not make outrageous promises and do not have an agenda. Women have a lot of options when if comes to finding the right advice book, and I think a realistic, personable book will make a greater impact on a female reader than a book which relies on sensationalist tactics and foul language to motivate its readers. Freedman and Barnouin can learn a lot from Brzezinski about how to be persuasive and classy at the same time.