#TLCBookTours Review: When Women Ruled the World

November 19, 2018 Uncategorized 12

#TLCBookTours Review: When Women Ruled the WorldTitle: When Women Ruled the World: Six Queens of Egypt
Author: Kara Cooney
Source: from publisher for review

Summary: It’s hard to summarize how bad this was, full of sexism; poorly supported conclusions; and weird references to modern times.

This is a history of six women who ruled ancient Egypt. I expected to really enjoy this, having given the author’s first book (The Woman Who Would Be King) five stars. I also hate to say bad things about a book that a tour company was kind enough to send me. Unfortunately, the honest truth is that this was really bad. It’s almost impressive how the author managed to both beat the reader over the head with a feminist message and be incredibly sexist at the same time.

The one positive quality that carried over from the author’s previous book is that she managed to write engaging stories without glossing over uncertainty in the historical record. I appreciate that. On the less positive side, a lot of the uncertainties were left for footnotes. This is problematic because anyone who doesn’t read the footnotes will be left to simply believe the author’s narrative reconstruction is the truth. This book also felt lighter than the previous one, perhaps because there were so many uncertainties. She’s also covering six women in one book, instead of just one.

OK, back to the most problematic parts of this book. On numerous occasions, theย  author states that ‘women rule differently from men’, endorsing outdated, gender essentialist ideas about men and women. She constantly refers back to stereotypes as though they are true and have useful explanatory power. There are so many examples of this, I don’t even know where to begin. She also constantly compares the way women were treated in ancient Egypt to modern times. In many cases, I felt she was projecting current views onto ancient Egyptians without sufficient evidence. In every case, the references to current events felt jarring and will quickly date the book. Some of these references to current events include lectures about modern politics that only tangentially related to her point. For example, to demonstrate that people don’t always act in their long term best interest, she treats us to a paragraph-long diatribe about global warming.

Basically, this whole book feels like the author just has an ax to grind. She’s decided to focus on six women about whom very little is known. That doesn’t make for a great story. She’s just used them as a springboard to lecture us about how men and women are different; how women should probably be in charge because of those differences; and how women are still experiencing sexism today. The connections she makes between these women and modern figures are poorly supported, relying on insufficient evidence from both time periods to support her claims. Honestly, I can’t imagine this book appealing to anyone, as the liberal politics are likely to annoy conservatives and the sexism is likely to annoy liberals. I’m incredibly disappointed that this was the author’s follow up to a great debut.

12 Responses to “#TLCBookTours Review: When Women Ruled the World”

  1. Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf

    Oh yikes, everything you mentioned makes for very frustrating reading. That gender essentialism stuff is so sneaky (well, sounds pretty blatant here!), I feel like I’m on edge reading anything labeled “feminist” lately. ๐Ÿ™ Thanks for the heads up!

    • DoingDewey

      I feel like it was both blatant and sneaky! She repeats herself a lot and I found it very noticeable, but I’m concerned other reads might just read it without thinking about it and accept what she’s saying because it’s paired with so much surface-level feminism. Gah!

    • DoingDewey

      I almost never DNF a book. I think I have a hard time forgetting about the sunk costs, even though I know that logically I should, and I do prefer to finish a book before I review it. It also was the very worst at the end, where the author went on a rant about how women should be in charge essentially because we’re the gentler sex – that was the last straw.

    • DoingDewey

      Oh man, I have to admit that this one was mostly frustrating. It’s too bad, because parts of it were good, but the references to current politics were too constant and jarring for me to get into it. The issues with how it treated gender were less frequent, but harder to overlook. It did make me feel a bit better to vent about it here though ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. whatsnonfiction

    Yikes, this sounds like it took an unfortunate turn. That’s certainly an odd choice in writing about this bit of history, to link it so strongly to current politics and why any time would be spent on stereotypes and those particular gender ideas is beyond me. Strange choices for a history.

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