Based on Mackenzi Lee’s famous #BygoneBadassBroads twitter series, this book discusses 52 forgotten women that changed the world. While not all stories are about heroes, they’re all about notable women that went down in history as little more than legends.
Why this book?: I was interested in it based off of Mackenzi’s twitter series, but I also adored her book The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue.
This is going to be hard. This book, overall, was hard to read, but I guess I should have expected that. I don’t mean to trash Mackenzi, but she’s a white cis woman. So I should have expected that the more of her work I read, the more likely I am to find something problematic. Unfortunately, that was in the second book of her’s that I’ve read. So, *sigh*.
Overall, Bygone Badass Broads was an amazing read, and I’m glad that I read it. I found out about a lot of women who were forgotten in history due to sexism, racism, and, for a few, homo/transphobia. I particually enjoyed learning about Marm Mandlebaum, who was a “queen of thieves” in New York, and the two Doñas that were basically a (possibly sapphic) Batman and Robin duo in Peru (I may have recalled incorrectly, but I’m pretty sure it was Peru). There were a lot of amazing stories included in this book, and I loved that aspect of it.
Mackenzi also tackled writing a non-fiction book with her usual gusto, making the writing style very casual and fun. I felt like I was having a fun conversation about these women with Mackenzi, rather than reading a non-fiction book. Her writing style made it so much easier to read, but also made it entertaining. There were a few points in the narrative when she said things like “yaaas kween” and “DNGAF” and I was really, ah, put off, but I figured they were small and didn’t really bother me too much (compared to other reviews that I’ve read of this book on GR.)
However, her writing style was also what contributed to the low rating at the end of this review. I’m not saying her writing style got annoying–it did, however, utilize general jokes and comments that were transphobic and ableist. While I don’t have exact quotes, the ideas perpetuated by these lines will be below this paragraph (so TW for trans & enby phobia, as well as some ableism.)
- A woman who was said to be gender non-conforming (GNC) was later remarked in her passage to be non-binary. First off, if she were non-binary, why is she in this book? Second, being GNC is not the same as being non-binary.
- A trans woman was introduced by her name, but then deadnamed when going into her history. Why did her deadname need to be revealed, when saying she was transgender was enough.
- Another piece of this is that in the middle of her story, it was remarked that she had “finally transitioned” and honestly that rubbed me the wrong way. Why was so much emphasis being put on her transition, rather than her accomplishments?
- In a passage discussing the Boy & Girl Scouts, it was said that the Boy Scouts “excluded half of the world’s children”, which erases the existence of non-binary children. It basically says that half the world is one gender, half the world is another gender, and that’s just not true.
- There were a few jokes about genitalia, such as one woman “not having the balls” to compete with men, and another about menstrual cycles being a woman’s problem and something called a “male-sheath” (AKA a condom).
- Going back to the GNC woman from the first bullet point, there was also a comment on her XX chromosomes, as if those actually mattered.
- There was also an extremely unnecessary comment about how a disease that disfigured people was basically a death sentence, not because it killed them but because it disfigured them.
So while I really enjoyed the stories overall, I really can’t excuse the repeated trans&enby phobia, as well as the ableism. It would obviously be different if it only happened once, because people make mistakes, but when it happens multiple times? It just shows that the author didn’t care.
Final Rating: ★★½☆☆☆
While I enjoyed Mackenzi’s writing for the most part, the final rating came down to the fact that she included some really harmful jokes and comments. I was really looking forward to this book, and while I did enjoy reading it, whenever I ran into these comments, it hurt. A lot.
Would I Recommend?
To trans friends? No. The comments were often enough that I couldn’t get over them, but spread out enough that it always came as a shock when another came along. While the stories were interesting, I just wish Mackenzi could have told their stories without harming actual readers.
Published: February 27th, 2018
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Page Count: 176
Synopsis: via Goodreads
Based on Mackenzi Lee’s popular weekly Twitter series of the same name, Bygone Badass Broads features 52 remarkable and forgotten trailblazing women from all over the world. With tales of heroism and cunning, in-depth bios and witty storytelling, Bygone Badass Broads gives new life to these historic female pioneers. Starting in the fifth century BC and continuing to the present, the book takes a closer look at bold and inspiring women who dared to step outside the traditional gender roles of their time. Coupled with riveting illustrations and Lee’s humorous and conversational storytelling style, this book is an outright celebration of the badass women who paved the way for the rest of us.
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