December 2003

Veronica Bond

21st Century Fox

Spinsters, Sluts, and Soccer Moms

Settling on stereotypes as the topic of their most recently published battle, the Guerrilla Girls' Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes, aptly titled Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers, focuses on all those notions of femininity that praise, degrade, and segregate women during all periods of their lives. Less of a book presenting research on how stereotypes are made and perpetuated, this guide serves more as a laundry list of the assumptions that piss the Girls off, complete with photographs and colorful insets of random information. "We want to mitigate the power of female stereotypes over our lives," the Girls say in their introduction. "In the following pages we will investigate the origins, histories, and namesakes of some of the most beloved and the most notorious female stereotypes of our time. By taking a closer look and poking holes in some auras, we will praise the good ones, take back some of the negative ones, and propose ways to escape them if we want." So, in less of a review and more of a bulleted synopsis, here are the things the Girls have to say:

In their final chapter, the Girls present a collection of ethnic dolls, each portraying a racial stereotype that is offensive only because it is so unbelievably true. Humor is the main weapon employed by the Guerrilla Girls throughout their treatise, which makes for a quick and entertaining read, but it would have been nice to have been presented with some of the more sound research that went into creating the book. Instead, the Girls give an our-opinion-is-the-right-opinion in their descriptions of the evils of stereotyping, which only serves to detract from the actual point. One thing the Girls seem to forget is that stereotypes exist for a reason, and though I do agree that they do more harm than good, they would not be born were it not for those who fit and perpetuate them. Instead of showing several sides of the argument and allowing the reader to come to his or her own conclusion, the bold language is meant to shock the reader into agreement. But the Girls are correct in that it's easy to forget where stereotypes originate and exactly what they mean: "Stereotypes are living organisms subject to the laws of cultural evolution: They are born, they grow, they die and/or change to fit the times," they say. "The Guerrilla Girls are still waiting for the day when everyone will think of the Feminist as a positive stereotype. Don't let us wait too long." With that statement, their point is obvious: to not be a stereotype, but to be oneself. That, beyond anything else the girls enforce, denounce, or flog in their discourse, is something with which no one can argue.

Bitches, Bimbos and Ballbreakers: The Guerrilla Girls' Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes by The Guerrilla Girls
Penguin Books
ISBN: 0142001015
94 pages