Cover Image: Mean Girl Feminism

Mean Girl Feminism

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

"Mean Girl Feminism" is a work of art that I really wish had existed when I was in college. I would have loved to dissect every chapter with classmates as we discussed all of the intricacies that are involved with the word "feminism."

Nguyen dives in deep, providing timely real-world examples to express what is meant by "mean girl feminism." I highly recommend this book to any and everyone!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Was this review helpful?

Mean Girl Feminism is a book I liked the idea of but the execution was a bit drier than expected. There were times (especially within the first couple chapters) where I felt like I needed to reread sections multiple times. I found the section about conservative feminism/Laura Bush/the war on terror the most fascinating.

Was this review helpful?

The actual rating for Mean Girl Feminism is 2.5 stars but I rounded up to 3 stars.

First — I'd like to preface that I think the actual content and discussion of white feminism employing 'mean girl' tactics is an incredibly important one and Kim Hong Nguyen makes compelling arguments with a multitude of examples.

I also think that the description didn't quite give way to how much of an academic research novel this was vs. more of an analytical nonfiction, if that makes sense. There's nothing wrong with it clearly stemming from an academic research paper, but it threw me off when I first started reading. And maybe that's on me for not taking the publisher being University of Illinois Press as an understanding—I'll take that.

But beyond, I did struggle with aspects of it. As someone who has written many a research paper, I understood and appreciated the structure of Mean Girl Feminism and found the break-down of the archetypes fascinating and apt for our current culture. I also felt like Hong Nguyen's cited sources and references that backed her arguments were compelling. But, there were times where I felt like the language was purposefully dense and complicated—especially in the first two chapters, I felt like I had to reread and reread not just paragraphs, but even just sentences.

I also felt like her actual analysis could have been stronger. There were points where Hong Nguyen would explain her example, link it to the previous research, have a little bit of expansion and move on. There was definitely room for her to expand upon her argument beyond just the source/example and I was itching for it. Her conclusion to me, funny enough, was the strongest to me and I enjoyed her shorter analysis, though she listed several examples of her argument of white women deploying mean girl feminism that weren't previous touched on—which was disappointing as the brief analysis of these examples were so strong.

Overall, I appreciated the message and discussion from Mean Girl Feminism and I think that there's a lot to digest from it. However, I think in terms of the analysis itself, there were opportunities to expand on Hong Nguyen's own voice and argument while making it a little more digestible to other readers.

Was this review helpful?

Hmm.. this took me a while to read. This book has some interesting theories, but it is very scholarly. I felt like I was reading someone's PhD thesis. That considered, the cover is kind of misleading. It is very nice and gripping, so it makes you think you will read a gripping book. But the way the theory is presented is dry. I am also not really on board with trying to prove the theories using fictional movies and TV-series, which are often very dramatized. I don't feel like these situations are often in our daily lives, so why try to prove a point using them?

The theories are quite interesting, but the presentation of the information is not for me.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to Kim Hong Nguyen, University of Illinois Press and NetGalley for giving me an advance copy in exchange for my honest review.

I don't think the message of this book got through to me. I've read quite a few feminist books, where the ideas were clear and fluid. I systematically expect to have a book in my hands that speaks to me, that I understand without having to rack my brains too much, especially when it's a book that aims to educate and inform people about a social issue. I didn't find any of that here. From the very first pages, the writing style is jerky, with convoluted terms that sometimes mean nothing when put side by side. The scientific aspect has clearly not been adapted for a general audience, and that's a shame because it's a subject that could be of interest to many people. But personally, I just couldn't get into it.

Was this review helpful?

As soon as I read the synopsis for this book I knew I had to read it. I've thoroughly been enjoying a lot more non-fiction in the socialogy space, and the ideas presented within the blurb of MEAN GIRL FEMINISM is something I've personally been noticing a lot more of in 2023.

MGF reads like an extended academic paper, but I found it easy enough to follow on with the themes Nguygen talks about, and the way she breaks down specific topics. The more conversation we have about intersectionality in feminism, the better. The book isn't designed to give you the answer, but rather make you think more critically about how you engage your feminism - something we can all do a little better.

Thank you to Netgalley and University of Illinois Press for my review copy.

Was this review helpful?

I’ll be interested to see how Kim Hong Nguyen’s Mean Girl Feminism is marketed when the pub date comes, because the presentation on NetGalley feels off. The categorization under Entertainment is a misrepresentation — this is feminist theory that employs examples in media, not a work of media criticism. Similarly, the cover design does it a disservice by presenting this book as a breezy, slangy pop-feminist read. I would like to see this book more clearly advertised as the academic text it is.

If this book can connect with the right readers despite the barriers above, I think it will find deserved success. 4*.

Was this review helpful?

I think this book makes some great points about white/mean girl feminism but maybe I’m just not quite smart enough to stay engaged with the format 😅 I was looking to educate myself and maybe find some good quotes to subtly post to my sister who is a very typical white feminist but I struggled to get through this as it is a very dense read. For someone looking to learn and wanting a really scholarly take on these issues I think this book could be great, but if you just don’t have the mental energy to read anything too heavy this might not be the one.

Was this review helpful?

As someone who identifies as a liberal, bisexual female millennial, I was excited to dig into this book! However, I did not finish, and only got through the first chapter. I found it very hard to read and become interested in. I think the author tried to hard to sound credible and intelligent (and I am sure they are), but it really took away from the message of the book because the language did not flow naturally and sounded way too scientific for what it is. I am glad there are books coming out focusing on dynamics in feminism related to POC experiences, so I think others might enjoy this book with the caveat that it's not very pop-culture driven and you might have to look up what some of the words mean. Thanks, NetGalley and Publisher for the ARC!

Was this review helpful?

While this book contains interesting views on feminism and illustrates how white feminism - or mean girl feminism, is actually a continuation and reinforcement of patriarchy, I found myself struggling to finish this book.

The book gave the impression that this used to be a scientific paper and that it is still in the early stages of being adapted for a general public. I think that’s unfortunate, for the topic is really interesting and I can see the importance and potential of Mean Girl Feminism to add to the discourse of intersectionality. The ARC I received is, in my eyes, not yet friendly for readers who are new to this topic, not too familiar with reading scientific publications or the academic lingo.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks a lot to NetGalley and University of Illinois Press for approving this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

“Mean Girl Feminism: How White Feminists Gaslight, Gatekeep, and Girlboss” by Kim Hong Nguyen is an insightful exploration of certain tropes present in mainstream feminism that ultimately, whether in a conscious way or not, serve to maintain white privilege.

These types of white mean girl feminism come from North American pop culture, and either borrow from or are a counter to BIPOC experiences and social justice movements. But as the author analyses, they’re merely performative in a bid to achieve individual progress in tune with capitalism, rather than collective, intersectional change.

Each chapter sets out to shed light into these tropes and their function of gaslighting, gatekeeping and/or girlbossing through feminism:

👉 Bitch Feminism: Blackfaced girlboss in feminist performative/performativity politics

👉 Mean Girl Feminism: Gatekeeping as illegible rage

👉 Power Couple Feminism: Gaslighting and re-empowering heteronormative aggression

👉 Global Mother Feminism: Gatekeeping biopower and sovereignty

Although relatively short, this book packs a punch and was often challenging to read. That is, despite its ironically girlboss-pink cover and use of pop culture examples, this is not a light and accessible text; rather, it was very much academic. If you’re the type of person to balk at multi-word concepts like “imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy”, or if you don’t care for an analysis centered exclusively around North America, then you might want to give this one a pass…

But I would encourage you to give it a try nonetheless.

I have so much to say that I’m overwhelmed to even try, but, even with some criticism (I think the book could have been made more approachable), I found so much value and prompts for self-reflection that my digital copy is full of underlined passages. I think this is an unmissable volume for anyone who considers themselves a feminist committed with genuine social justice and open to continuous learning. At points, the text intentionally comes off as anti-feminist, even, which was challenging/aggravating. But this is a provocation to engage with your own beliefs and ask: what is your feminism seeking? Is it truly in pursuit of equality for all? Are you prepared to reckon with the fact that equality does not mean we should all be millionaires? Is your intersectionality performative? Is your meanness moving you to the anger needed for meaningful action? Or is it actually just reinforcing white supremacy?

Honestly, I really want a physical copy so that I can constantly refer back to it! I’m so glad I had the chance to read an early copy, and I hope lots of people give it a shot.

Was this review helpful?

In spite of the pink cover and pop culture reference in the title, I found this book extremely inaccessible. It read far more like a scientific paper than a book with a lot of very technical jargon that made it dense and difficult to get through. I consider myself very well read, and this book made me feel incredibly stupid, and furthermore, it didn't really offer any sort of inroad or give me any sort of jumping off point to try to wade further into the text, which feels kind of necessary for such a highly technical written piece like this. In spite of how short it was, it took me forever to get through because I kept falling asleep while reading it - I just could not engage with the text. From an ARC standpoint, I also hated the format - I couldn't adjust the font size and the only way I could read it at night was if I inverted my entire phone colors through the accessibility tab, otherwise the background stayed white no matter what time of day I was reading, and combined with the super small font, I just couldn't read it at night.

Was this review helpful?

Mean Girl Feminism by Kim Hong Nguyen is an interesting entry to feminist theory and critique. It focuses mainly on the performativity of white feminism, specifically the performance of meanness, and the perils that accompany analysis of issues solely through the lens of gender. I think one of the most interesting points made was about the metaphorical blackface of adopting supposed characteristics of racialized peoples by the Bitch or Mean Girl archetypes. Additionally, I think that the analysis of Laura Bush, Global Mother feminism, and conservative feminism as support for the War on Terror — and the presentation of the War on Terror as support for feminism — was well done.

The language of this book is very dense and academic; this is not a negative for me, but something that people unaccustomed ought to be aware of. The ideas presented are valuable, but I think that the execution lacked at points. To me, several chapters felt that they needed more examples and analysis thereof to support the use of “I have shown” and “I have demonstrated” language. That being said, I think that the examples that were used were strong choices that supported the arguments well.

Was this review helpful?

I was challenged by this book to closely observe and discern some mannerisms that made me understand the changes in feminism and I love how the author not only pinpoints certain phrases, tactics or sayings but more of how she unpacks them to show the meanness in them and who it benefits under the guise of 'girl power,' and 'feminism.'
Thanks Netgalley for the eARC.

Was this review helpful?

I found this a little difficult to read. The topics covered were interested and well thought out and I found myself agreeing with a lot of point. I just thought there was an extensive use of “social justice warrior” terms that could have been explained in a more cohesive way; it just made it a bit of a difficult read unfortunately.

Was this review helpful?

I’ve read a lot of non-fiction like this so it was nothing revolutionary for me, but I did like the media the author chose to focus on. It always lands better when you’re coming with context. And Mean Girls, Desperate Housewives, Gossip Girl - many of us are very familiar with these. Overall it was an interesting angle to focus specifically on the mean girl. There was food for thought here and I think it’ll sit well with the right reader.

Was this review helpful?

An incredible addition to the intersectional feminist canon, Nguyen presents a critique of the current modes and methods of white feminism through the principles of the mean girl. This text, though dense, is well worth the read.

Was this review helpful?

DNF @ 30%

i don’t feel like this is a very accessible read if you’re looking for an easy or intro to feminism read. It reads very academic and research paper based. I do understand and agree with the core of the arguments made here, however I do feel the ways in which some are made are a bit of a stretch realistically. to me the entire argument behind the mean girl feminist rhetoric seems to hinge on the second wave of feminisms movement and how white cis-het able bodied women haven’t learned anything from the mistakes that movement made nearly 60 years ago. it’s true a lot of white women haven’t learned anything and continue to cause harm around them, but some of the ways this author implies harm especially racial harm seem to be taken way out of context and make for hard arguments to follow.

Was this review helpful?

I appreciate the opportunity to read and review Mean Girl Feminism by Kim Hong Nguyen, ahead of publication, made possible by #NetGalley and University of Illinois Press.

I want to make clear that I like this book. It’s an important critique of white feminism and Nguyen’s analysis is provocative and smart. I really like their use of pop culture examples to support their argument, especially the breadth of cases, ranging from SNL sketches to movies to political campaigns and speeches. I especially appreciate that the examples are both numerous and accessible, not limited distribution independent films or obscure anime titles or some such. As bell hooks always told us, pop culture is pedagogy.

HOWEVER, I hope there is time for some editing before this book is released. The writing is repetitive, with excessive jargon and superfluous citations. The introduction is twice, if not three times, as long as it needs to be, due largely to repetition and poor editing. The first two main chapters are stronger than the second two; perhaps some of the space saved by cutting the introduction in half could be used to add additional pop culture examples to chapters 3 and 4.

I’d also like to see Nguyen’s developing theory, briefly reviewed in the conclusion, about racialized meanness having a “different, intersectional relationship to power structures and emerges with a different futurity, one that is oriented toward justice” elaborated. She provides two quick examples in the conclusion but this should be a full chapter.

Overall, I found the level of scholarly citation to be excessive. There are definitely too many multiple citations, that is, statements such as, “Following Theorist X, Scholar Y says, ‘Z’.” As an academic writer myself, I sympathize with Nguyen. Of course citations are necessary and I have been known to over-cite, too. I’m also aware that in a great deal of academic Cultural Studies writing, providing citations is less about attribution and more about demonstrating how well read you are. In a monograph such as Mean Girl Feminism, with its potential for wide readership outside of academia and even for undergraduate classroom use, the extreme quantity of citations can undermine the strength of the author’s arguments and overall effectiveness of the text.

Despite my criticisms, I like this book and I learned from it. Kim Hong Nguyen has given me a lot to think about, and I will recommend Mean Girl Feminism. If I were still teaching, I’d probably use it in the classroom! I look forward to reading her next work.

#MeanGirlFeminism #NetGalley

Was this review helpful?

White feminists performing to maintain privilege Mean girl feminism encourages girls and women to be sassy, sarcastic, and ironic as feminist performance

This is an important read for white feminists everywhere. I would have liked if it were a little more accessible as it is a very academic look at the subject, but at the end of the day, the information is important and should be out there.

Was this review helpful?