10 Quotes From “Girl Land,” Made Palatable by Cat Photos

If you haven’t read Caitlin Flanagan’s new book Girl Land yet, don’t. It’s awful. (Do stay tuned for our Bitch Radio review of the book this Friday though.) As specious and outlandishly essentialist as you’ve come to expect from all of Flanagan’s work, the only fun I had reading this book was making notes in the margin for the next Bitch staffer to find. Until now that is.

I have combined choice Girl Land quotes with cat photos here to both illustrate the ridiculousness that is this book and to keep you from having to read it yourself. Plus, everything—even rage-inducing Flanaganisms—is easier to handle when accompanied by a cat photo.

Girl Land traffics heavily in a false “girls vs. boys” dichotomy. Girls live interior lives, but boys do not:

cat next to some dolls. quote reads, She is a creature designed for a richly lived interior life in a way that most boys are not.

Girls need to keep diaries to protect and make sense of their (heretosexual) budding, fragile desires, but boys do not:

cat holding a book, quote reads The impulse to relive a date in a secret journal seems to be an overwhelmingly feminine one.

On a similar tip, Girl Land romanticizes the shit out of the mythical father figure. In dating life:

kitten being licked by a dog, qupte reads Girls with a father at home always fare better in the dating world

And also when it comes to punks (“punks” by Flanagan’s definition are, I think, boys who are rude to girls):

black and white punk cat, quote reads The one thing punks can't stand is coming under the authority and scrutiny of a powerful adult male.

There is a strange section in the middle of the book where Flanagan uses Patty Hearst as an example of, well, I don’t know what but it had something to do with sex and how Patty Hearst used to be a good girl and then she wasn’t—I think because she left Girl Land?

sleeping cat next to a chair, quote reads [Patty Hearst] sitting quietly—dreamily, inwardly—on the floor beside her mother's chair as a teenager, staring off into the mists of Girl Land.

Preserving an idealized, fictional version of female adolescence appears to be the main point of this book (that’s what “Girl Land” is). One threat to this pretty pink girlhood is THE PROM:

cat in a dress, quote reads As anyone remotely connected to prom understands, the event has moved beyond a dance, beyond a night of sexual initiation, into some kind of bacchanalia that defies most adults' abilities to understand it.

Another threat to it is THE INTERNET:

kitten on a computer, quote reads Taking away the Internet connection in her bedroom is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a daughter.

Yet another threat to this chaste, dreamy girl-ness is FEMINISM, which leads to SEX:

cat licking itself, quote reads Indeed, during the very years that patriarchy has been most seriously eroded, we have seen a cult of mortification of the flesh take root among teenage girls.

Biology in general is kind of a problem for the Flanster, in no small part because it forces one to leave “Girl Land” and enter “Woman Ville” or wherever it is you go once you get your period. On that note, PERIODS:

excited cat, quote reads Today, girls often anticipate menstruation with excitement.

Girl Land paints a regressive, unrealistic picture of just about everything that’s happened in our culture since the 1950s (when girls were chaster and therefore much purer and happier). The experiences of girls themselves get the shortest shrift here, because by romanticizing a false reality for girls La Flanagan only makes real adolescence look like a cross between a gunfight and a porn video (no wonder Flanagan’s “Girl Land” insists girls stay in their rooms and stare at the walls for prolonged periods). At any rate, “Girl Land” is a romantic place that we should all hope to never have to visit. I imagine it looking something like this:

cat growling, quote reads Girl Land is drenched in romance.

by Kelsey Wallace
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Kelsey Wallace is an editor in Portland, Oregon. Follow her on Twitter if you like TV and pictures of dogs.

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22 Comments Have Been Posted

that was incredible!! thats

that was incredible!!
thats it! nothing insightful


This was awesome. That is all.

Primo Bitch work. This is why

Primo Bitch work. This is why I'm glad you guys are around. Never give these nitwits the gravitas they aspire to. Cat photos are perfect.

The "menstruation" picture

The "menstruation" picture and caption combination caused me to publicly fall onto the floor in spasms of hysterical laughter. Thanks for that.


The period pic was the best!

Ditto, laughed my ass off.

Ditto, laughed my ass off. Not my experience with my teenage daughter, either, but I can't wait to show her this picture!

Meh, iunno.

A couple of those struck a chord with me. I often feel like I as a woman who dates men am alone in my ability (curse?) to process things internally. It's probably not a book I'll read but I do feel it's occasionally worthwhile to guard myself against being made to feel alienated by feminist thought that more often has my best interests at heart. Based on my purely anecdotal experience, a lot of the men I've dated have lacked depth and richness and it is something I prize about my girliness that I not only have something to say but also trip all over myself to put it in a diary.

I've known a lot of boys and

I've known a lot of boys and men who are thoughtful, quiet, observant, and like to analyze things in journals. I don't think it's necessarily a feminine trait, just one that's more highly prized and reinforced among women. Perhaps there are boys and men out there who wish it was socially acceptable for them to analyze and talk about feelings, but they don't for fear of being perceived as effeminate or "not man enough," rather than because they lack depth and richness. I can understand your point, but bear in mind that your anecdotal sample of men you've dated is not representative of the larger male population. I don't know what other feminists have said to make you feel unintentionally alienated, though I do think that would make for an interesting discussion topic! As for myself, I can see where you are coming from. What I take issue with is the false dichotomy which assumes that only women and girls are in touch with their feelings.

Right on.

I agree with you heartily, and want to add that it's especially troublesome because Flanagan conflates these traits with biological sex, adding a "nice" (aka terrible) heap of essentialist conjecture to the picture.

I know that it's tempting to rely solely on anecdata, since experiences are so important to feminism, but you can't start drawing universals based on your experience alone. I mean, really, if we're going to validate her stuff individually, I completely invalidate her "girls with dads do better dating" because I was in not one but *two* abusive relationships as a teenager, with my father completely present in my life.

I don't know that I've ever

I don't know that I've ever had a healthy relationship, so if that's "doing better," I'd hate to know what my dating life would be like if my father wasn't present, not to mention caring and supportive.

Cat humor <3

The cat that's excited about menstruation is my favorite. Oh my god, I could not stop laughing!

tut tut

Poor Caitlin Flanagan; someone should tell her that gender, girlhood, and adolescence are social constructs... Do you have an "I'm a social construct" cat? :)

did you see bust magazine's

did you see bust magazine's rave review of that book? yikes, dude.

Does anyone else just want to

Does anyone else just want to spam Flanagan with fanfiction? I wonder how many teen girls have dumped scribbling to themselves every detail of their first date with so-and-so in favor of drafting an entire love affair from first kiss to the family plot for Harry and Draco.

"Girl Land": Thank you... now I'll be sure to buy it

Thanks for your review of this book.

I have worked with hundreds of young (18-25 year old) women. Your reaction to the sound observations of this book is simply bizarre.

Your approach has been part of the problem for decades. Still, I have to thank you for one thing:

Without your review, I would never have had the chance to go out and buy twenty copies of this book for friends, and to recommend it to hundreds of other friends online.

Thank you. You can think of it as your good deed for the day.


I read bits and pieces of the travesty that is that shit book while sitting in my workplace writing. I am now off to share your insightful cat pictures with tumblr- properly credited, of course.

As for the commenter before me- have fun with those copies for every girl you know. Let us know how that turns out, precious.

People have such different

People have such different ideas on pretty much everything in the world today. These photos did make me laugh. You did a real good job here and the sarcasm is just too funny. Thanks for sharing.

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<p>Using cute kittens to get your point across about how badly you like a book about <a href="http://www.gibraltarcasino.com">gibraltar</a> can be rather funny for some but it definitely gets the point across. </p>

I read the first one as

I read the first one as 'richly inferior life'...

One quick thing...

I loved this little review-with-cats take on what sounds, in its own words, like an awful book. I did want to point out (because I am an academic and compulsion drives me) that the quote about criticizing patriarchy leading girls to mortify their flesh is an indication that feminism is making girls cut themselves, not have sex. But right on with the sentiment of this post!

one of many things wrong with girl land

anyone else noticied that the members of girl land are mentioned only as being middle class. i guess that must mean if are poor, then have no reason nor right to date, marry or have experiences like other girls.

Brilliant comment on

Brilliant comment on revolting content. I am relieved not to have to endure this book. It looks just a little too close to the c.1942 copy of "Teen Days" which blighted my father's youth: "Dick Burns wants to ask Sally Graves on a date..."

I just love this.

I just love this.

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