Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol
I really wanted to like this book, as there is a dearth of good literature about the particular difficulties women face accessing recovery, the reasons why women are traumatised and drink and use in the first place, and the ways in which women are traumatised all over again by recovery. As a long time survivor of AA, and someone who has slogged through more than a decade of trauma recovery, I had high hopes. Alas I found this book deeply annoying, not feminist, and for an author who claims to have stopped trying to please everybody, it tries painfully hard to please everybody.
Some accounts of her own life and drinking are well written, as were some parts of her description of trying and leaving AA, and I'm sure many women would identify, but there was just too much wrong (and dangerous) about this book. There's too much to fit into a short review but my headline complaints are:
1. despite nodding to radical feminism, it's not remotely radical (in the latin sense of 'root cause') because Holly doesn't understand the difference between sex and gender (or she does but she's trying so hard not to offend men, she won't say so).
Gender isn't an identity (just like racism isn't an identity), it's the means by which women are oppressed, gender is the SYSTEM of patriarchy, the 'how' that is used to keep women down as a sex, and women are also inculcated into their own oppression via 'femininity' - learning to be submissive, it's not innate, and it's not natural, and if you can't grasp this, then you have no material analysis.
This lack of analysis inevitably leads to utterly offensive suggestions such as embracing your 'feminine energy' - this is evolutionary psychology straight out of the MRA playbook. It's also not true. That chapter was so offensive, I threw the book across the room.
2. it's dreadfully woke waffling on about 'oppressed folks' and then detailing very expensive trips, drinking excursions to vineyards, baby showers and so on, and then a long list of 'recovery' courses, therapy, massage, acupuncture, holistic retreats that were embarrassingly middle class (told without a trace of irony). If you haven't got 'thousands of dollars' like Holly, then whoopsy, sorry oppressed folks.
3. She's still centering men, with all her agender, genderless BS, women are female, men are male, male people oppress female people because of their sex (not their 'feminine energy'), they use gender to do it, this is feminism 101. Any good discussion of WHY women experience things the way we do was then derailed by trying to PLEASE and shoehorn confused men into it. Feminism - clue is in the name - is for females. It is entirely fine and reasonable that women could expect just one book that actually exclusively focuses on them and their needs, it's not women's job to wipe the tears of the whole world.
4. For anyone traumatised, diving into anything as dodgy as Kundalini yoga (which can cause a huge decompression, regression, and all kinds of emotional havoc, and that's before we mention the untrained hippies running those kind of things) is just irresponsible, if you are female, traumatised and in need of help, for God's sake don't do that, it's not safe.
5. More laughing when new ager, arch 12 stepper, and age woo practitioner Echart Tolle turned up, give me strength, once again, McMindfulness, spirtual bypassing twaddle.
6. A course in miracles, is she taking the p*ss? Again dangerous, stay well clear. Those last two books are handed from member to member in AA, nothing new there, or helpful. This kind of junk, just like Marianne Williamson and Byron Katy's (evil) 'The Work' are all the same kinds of abusive twaddle that no woman in her right mind should touch with a bargepole and yet seem to be very popular in recovery circles. It's all still a wolf in sheep's clothing.
7. Falling to her knees and asking God to put her into service - is the KEY PLANK of AA, that's pretty much the entire (nonsense) AA programme in one phrase. There's nothing wrong with helping others, but hardly a counter AA idea, and nor is the idea of 'surrender' - you absolutely do not have to surrender, this is not a war.
8. I live in the UK, but the endless references to oppression taking a turn for the worse because Trump won an election rang a bit hollow, given the dearth of political analysis (there's much abuse and misogyny in liberal, identity obsessed politics, indeed it's the main focus of the actual proper women's movement right now) and I'd imagine many women who perhaps voted for Trump have equally complicated and difficult lives and are in need of good advice on quitting drinking. Virtue signalling isn't political analysis.
In short, nice try but no cigar, which is a shame, as it had the potential to be a better book if she wasn't so afraid of offending anybody (men mostly). In my opinion identity politics has been the ruination of the women's movement, has turned young women's brains to mush, and it has absolutely no business being in your recovery. Being female isn't not an identity, and being female in a patriarchy has serious material consequences.
Do yourself a favour, read some actual feminism, if you are into your spiritual stuff, read some of the brilliant female mystics out there.
If you like yoga, then go to a nice safe gentle class (yoga for trauma for instance, with a trained, safe, boundaried teacher) and stay away from quackery, or people who claim they can heal you, these people are dangerous.
Buy Charlotte Kasl's Many Roads, One Journey (that's the book that got me out of AA, written in 1995, unashamedly centred on the needs of women, still a classic and not done justice by Holly at all) or read Gabriel Glaser's book on women and drinking, and run as fast as you can away from this silly book.
Holly, if you ever read this: the master's tools cannot dismantle the master's house.