Eat, Play, Go F*&( Yourself
October 18, 2019 8:23 AM   Subscribe

I'm a 36 year old woman going through a divorce and need some empowering media to help me focus on my recovery. I'm not necessarily looking books about divorce specifically, but seeking novels, non-fic, poetry, memoires, TV, movies, etc. that feature women thriving, struggling, handling their shit without the plot hinging on a romantic partnership.

Other details: I have kids, a full time job, and a mortgage that is now 100% my responsibility, so things that work within that context are appreciated but not required!
posted by deadcrow to Human Relations (27 answers total) 42 users marked this as a favorite
Captain Marvel. I'm serious.

Also, Jackie Brown (she has a sweet sort of romantic tension with her caper-partner but the plot really doesn't hinge on that, and they don't get together in the end).

On a completely different axis, something I just read, Yuri Herrera's Signs Preceding the End of the World.
posted by praemunire at 8:40 AM on October 18, 2019 [6 favorites]

This is old (set in WWII and after) and perhaps not the style of empowerment that you have in mind, but I love The Shell Seekers. Strong mother ends up raising kids on her own. The cover of the book looks like a romance novel, at least in old editions, but that's not really what it is.
posted by pinochiette at 8:46 AM on October 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

Heartburn, the 1980s movie with Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson. Watch on repeat if necessary.
posted by luckdragon at 8:47 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

It does hinge on a romantic attachment but not, I don’t think, in the way you mean.... gentleman jack is an absolutely AMAZING show about a powerful and assertive woman!
posted by catspajammies at 8:52 AM on October 18, 2019 [5 favorites]

The Shell Seekers was the first thing that jumped into my mind too (although I found the way it sneered at performative conventional domesticity to be kind of cruel.) Otherwise I liked it a lot and it had two strong female lead characters who handle their shit with grace while men come and go.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:59 AM on October 18, 2019

This is an "If you want a long book" suggestion but I just read Elizabeth Gilbert's new novel called City of Girls and the lead character is a woman growing up as a bit of a libertine in the heady days of wartime in NYC and helping run a funky theater. There is some romance but it's sort of incidental to the general plot, the woman who is central has a lot of interesting adventures and ultimately winds up with a pretty non-traditional life but one that seems like it's exactly what she wants. I know this is a weird suggestion given your title but it's an oddly affirming book.
posted by jessamyn at 9:16 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Hello from another 36-year-old working mother going through a divorce. With the caveat that I like my media kind of weird and dark, I have enjoyed the following:
  • Harlots on Hulu. As you might infer from the name, it involves a lot of sex with sometimes good and sometimes horrible men, but it is fundamentally a show about women, amazing women handling their own shit with style. One of the main characters is a young woman who seems fragile at first but quickly grows an incredible backbone (with the help of some wise, whip-wielding older women) after encountering a couple of horrid men. Watching her come into her own power is a beautiful thing to behold.
  • Killing Eve if you just want to binge some delightful garbage. Unhinged but talented female assassin, equally badass female private investigator trying to find her.
  • Orange World by Karen Russell. Short stories. The first one is a must-read if "living in a house that will collapse if the man is told the truth about himself" resonates with you.
  • Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. Some people find it bleak. I do find it heavy in a spiritual sense, but it's an extraordinary story about girls and women and what makes a family and a home.
  • Amateur Hour: Motherhood in Essays and Swear Words by Kimberly Harrington. Brief, hilarious essays; easy to ready in snippets if your kids only leave you alone for five seconds at a time. Kimberly Harrington is the mom friend you want to sit beside at boring PTA meetings because of the razor-sharp snarky comments she makes under her breath.
  • Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper, which I've only read a few pages of but already love.
  • 100 Things Every Homeowner Must Know. It is basic stuff that I'm sure you can find online and most people probably already know, but I didn't know most of it and feel super intimidated by basic shit like how to drain a water heater, so I like having a finite amount of information I can read to understand the scope of what I need to do maintenance-wise, what investments might be worth it in terms of energy savings, etc.

posted by xylothek at 9:24 AM on October 18, 2019 [12 favorites]

When in this mood I do not always wish to watch better women than I learn and grow and prevail. I often like to mainline reductive stupid vengeance TV. I don't think it's particularly beneficial for me; in fact, quite the opposite; but it's better than a handle of vodka.

What'sit called, Bad Girls, or something like that, about a trio of women who go rogue and rob stores? And there's a stabby British one that's so far back I've mixed it up hopelessly with a stack of other mournful Euro crime dramas starring either women detectives or women murderers. Betrayed wife + scissors = satisfaction. The current idiotic CBS thing that has fantastic interiors and clothes, Why Women Kill. Interestingly, it has to be TV, not movies. A whole three-act movie is too big a gulp. I want episodes.

If you don't want to turn yourself into a rage-snacking moron and would prefer something a little smarter, there's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend and Grace and Frankie and pretty much everything Phoebe Waller Bridge has ever done. She did something called Crashing that I never see get shoutouts, but it's great.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:37 AM on October 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not entirely sure I can recommend it without caveats, but Against Love has been meaningful to me and friends in the past.
posted by eotvos at 9:38 AM on October 18, 2019

Did anybody say Barbara Ehrenreich, yet? Everything. Everything ever she did.
posted by Don Pepino at 9:40 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

You might find some goodies in this question I asked several years ago on the eve of a breakup, requesting movies featuring strong female characters and friendships and NO focus on men/relationships/heteronormative bullshit.

note that the question was prompted by watching Whip It, featuring Ellen Page and Juliette Lewis, so there are some spoilers for that movie in my question!
posted by stellaluna at 10:25 AM on October 18, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'll second City of Girls and add Circe, which does have a brief romance in it but from my perspective the main theme of it was rejecting that romance as defining her life. I also enjoyed The Poppy War, The Great Believers, and Vanishing Act, depending on what genres you're in the mood for on a given day.
posted by metasarah at 10:53 AM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

If/when you're feeling powerless or angry, I highly recommend watching Mad Max: Fury Road. It's got:
- zero romance
- women kicking ass under awful circumstances
- horrible dudes getting their asses handed to them
posted by burntflowers at 11:00 AM on October 18, 2019 [9 favorites]

Some of my favorite badass female poets: Kim Addonizio (especially her poem, To the Woman Crying Uncontrollably in the Next Stall), Dorianne Laux, Nikki Giovanni, Joy Harjo, Rita Dove, Fatimah Asghar, Ada Limón.

"Golden Girls" is one of my eternally favorite TV shows and definitely a great example of women doing their thing. It was remarkably progressive for its time.

If you have time to read, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson is a gorgeously written novel with no male characters (if I remember correctly).

Other books I have read and liked that may work: Broken Places & Outer Spaces: Finding Creativity in the Unexpected by Nnedi Okorafor (and it's pretty short -- based on a TED talk, I believe); Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng; Him, Me, Muhammad Ali by Randa Jarrar.

Best of luck with everything.
posted by wicked_sassy at 11:04 AM on October 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

Shrill is an excellent series. It starts out a little bleak, but it follows the main character through learning to stand up for herself.
posted by FirstMateKate at 11:14 AM on October 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

After my divorce I got a lot of joy out of The Last Seduction

If you want something lighter, I'd send you to Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

And if you haven't read Cold Comfort Farm yet, then run, don't walk.

I'd also recommend Fannie Flagg's books, especially Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man and (of course) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe (the movie's great too).
posted by Mchelly at 12:43 PM on October 18, 2019 [4 favorites]

The Good Wife is a TV show whose premise is that a very smart, accomplished woman is married to a man who turns out to be an utter POS. He goes to jail and she has to go back to work as a lawyer to support her family.

And she kicks ass, takes names and is in general a boss. It's competence porn at its best.
posted by zeusianfog at 2:20 PM on October 18, 2019 [7 favorites]

The movie Songcatcher is a favorite, about a woman who goes to Appalachia in the early 1900s to record traditional songs. There is some romantic stuff, and some sadnesses, but that's not the focus of the movie, and Janet McTeer is transcendant.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 5:57 PM on October 18, 2019

Maybe Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching books?
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 5:58 PM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]

I got a lot of laughs out of the older sitcom The New Adventures of Old Christine, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus. She's a single mom with a great support network, including an ex-husband who was a useless husband but is a great dad, and she is basically a giant mess who complains and laughs and loves her way through work, dating and family stuff. The humour went from corny to bleak to dark, and I would think ok, she's a mess and coping, so can I.

Oh! and Chewing Gum! She's single and young, but the story is about found family and being female and finding your identity. The way it ends - it seems like it's about chasing men in the beginning but it's about identity and female friendships and family and the final episode is so bloody brilliant. I still think of a couple of scenes every now and then.

And Miranda, the UK British comedy. Also a complete and utter mess but unapologetic and I loved the show for showing someone who went fuck it, I'll go my own way.

Actually - UK sitcoms and dramas might be your cup of tea. They tend to feature women with actual interior lives who are working, living and not just focused on romance.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 7:38 PM on October 18, 2019 [2 favorites]

Orphan Black
Baghdad Cafe
Auntie Mame
posted by brookeb at 8:19 PM on October 18, 2019

Here to second praemunire's suggestion of Captain Marvel! Carol Danvers is fantastic. Captain Maria Rambeau in the movie is an amazing character as well -- she's a badass pilot herself, and is a successful single mom who has a confident, charming, and smart daughter (and they have a beautiful home). Heck, they're all confident, charming, and smart.

The movie can be read as having no romance at all (unless you ship Carol and Maria, which I do, tbh). But more importantly for your question, there is no plot hinging on a romantic interest or attraction (not even used as a ploy). It's about women Getting Things Done, and persisting in the face of conflict, and rising to the occasion, and excelling. It's incredibly refreshing.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 8:22 PM on October 18, 2019

I highly recommend 'The Solace of Open Spaces' by Gretel Ehrlich.
posted by kawelch at 5:13 AM on October 19, 2019

20th Century Women
posted by Bron at 8:06 AM on October 19, 2019

posted by ellerhodes at 8:07 AM on October 19, 2019

With the important caveat that this movie is overall BLEAK AS HELL, the first thing that popped into my mind was Winter's Bone.
posted by helloimjennsco at 12:35 PM on October 21, 2019

Song of the Lark by Willa Cather!!!
posted by whimsicalnymph at 5:43 PM on October 22, 2019

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