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Girl, Read With Caution

Submitted by Bethany on Fri, 10/25/2019 - 10:00

Book Review: Girl, Stop Apologizing: A Shame-Free Plan for Embracing and Achieving Your Goals by Rachel Hollis 

It's no secret that I am not a big fan of Rachel Hollis. Her first wildly popular book, Girl, Wash Your Face, inspired me to write my most scathing book review ever. I did not like it. I found it to be riddle with the prosperity gospel and reeking of unacknowledged privilege. To be honest, I was expecting her second book to be more of the same and I went into it fully expecting to dislike it as much as if not more than the first one. 

Which is why I was shocked when I...didn't hate it? I'm not sure I can go so far as to say I liked it. But I definitely didn't have the same visceral reaction to this one as I did to the first one. I think it helped that she basically removed any references to faith/God/Jesus in this book. It's clear that's still a part of her life but she didn't reference any particular verses or try to theologize anything which is a vast improvement. In the last book, it felt like she twisted scripture to fit the message she wanted to give, and in this book, she just gives her message. I can get on board with that. 

As for the message she is giving, overall it's a benignly positive one: Girl, chase your dreams! She divides the book into three sections: Excuses to Let Go Of, Behaviors to Adopt, and Skills to Acquire. Each chapter is filled with personal anecdotes about how exactly she did each of those things, conquered every obstacle, and achieved the success she has today. I'm all for encouraging women to step out of the roles and expectations that often confine them, and I do believe that every woman should feel empowered to chase her dreams. So on that, Hollis and I are on the same page. 

There was one particular point at which I found myself whole-heartedly agreeing with Hollis - she hates the term "girl boss." I just spent 15 minutes trying to find where in the book she talked about it but when that failed I turned to Google and this article is basically reprinted in the book. I agree with Hollis that qualifying the term "boss" with "girl" is unneccessary, infantilizing, and just downright kind of dumb. I love that she says we don't call them "girl doctors" or "girl lawyers" because we can all see right away that sounds stupid. I think this one hits home because myself and so, so many of my fellow young clergywomen colleagues have experienced someone diminishing our position and our ministries by someone calling us a "lady pastor" or some derivative of such. It is never meant as a compliment or a true acknowledgement of our skills, it is demeaning and usually a tacit way of saying "I guess you're okay at this, for a girl." So I'm right there with Hollis when she says this phrase raises her hackles and we as women need to stop perpetuating it. Right on. 

Another aspect I found myself appreciating from this book was her practice of staying 10 goals about where she wants to be/what she wants her life to look like 10 years from now. I did have to eyeroll that she copyrighted (or trademarked? not sure) her particular way of stating this (because it's not really that original of an idea) but the whole thing did get me thinking and having a conversation with Joel about what we want 10 years from now. It really helped me to clarify some goals that have been percolating in my brain for a while and I think will keep things at the forefront of the to do list for my life. 

However, there were some real negatives in the book as well. Hollis has good ideas and encouragement for women but I still think she perpetuates some really negative things as well. 

The first thing I struggle with is her obsession with wealth. It is her measure of success, of a life well-lived, and it makes my stomach turn. Hollis would say that I feel this way because she is a woman and I don't think women should be concerned with earning as much money as possible. I would say it's because I'm a Christian and I don't think anyone should be solely concerned with earning as much money as possible (particularly at the expense of others.) She glorifies hustle and the pursuit of wealth in a way that I would find distasteful coming from anyone. In particular, I disliked her personal story of how she came to vow to be wealthy at the tender age of 11. Her mother threw her a birthday party (how lovely!) but it happened to be in a "shabby apartment" and the cake was a box mix baked in an old Pyrex. The horror! She literally blew out her birthday candles wishing/promising herself that she would be wealthy one day. Man, woman, or little green alien, whoever tells that story it makes me go "ick." 

The second thing I struggle with is her obsession with looks. Rachel Hollis is clearly a vain person. She owns it, so that's something, I guess, but just like her obsession with wealth she spends a good chunk of time in this book trying to justify and glorify her vanity. She couches it under the headline of "Confidence" as a skill to acquire. She spends a really long time talking about the boob job she got after having and breastfeeding her children, going so far as to say getting one is "everyone's dream postbaby." I mean, I've never had kids so I guess I can't really speak to that yet...but I'm pretty sure Rachel Hollis can't speak for everyone either.

She pays lip service to the idea that you should tailor your looks to your ideal, not the ideal of the world, but she also makes it pretty darn clear that she is going to do her best to play into the ideal of current Hollywood standards. Hair extensions, eyelash extensions, boob jobs, she does it all and gosh darn it you should too. Because confidence. It's not at all about catering to the heternormative patriarchy...yeah, okay. I agree that confidence is important, and that looking and feeling your best is a way to have confidence, but her story of getting there and the not so subtle ideas she pushes on to her readers could use some serious examination and deep self-reflection. 

I could continue to parse sections of the book piece by piece but this is a brief overview of my overall impression. There is good and bad, more good than the last book and not enough bad for me to encourage people not to read it. If you choose to read it I would encourage you to take it all with a big old grain of salt and to use your wisdom to see through some of the false or damaging narratives she still espouses. 

So I guess, girl, read with caution.

XOXO, Bethany