The Fictional Woman

by Tara Moss

(author’s website:

(an article about the creation of the book cover is here)

This is my fourth review for the Aussie Author Challenge 2015 (first, second and third).

From the back cover:

Tara Moss has worn many labels in her time.

Now, in her first work of non-fiction, she blends memoir and social analysis to examine the common fictions about women. She traces key moments in her life – from small-town tomboy in Canada, to international fashion model in the 90s, to bestselling author taking a polygraph test in 2002 to prove she writes her own work – and weaves her own experiences into a broader look at everyday sexism and issues surrounding the under-representation of women, modern motherhood, body image and the portrayal of women in politics, entertainment, advertising and the media.

Deeply personal and revealing, this is more than just Tara Moss’s own story. At once insightful, challenging and entertaining, she asks how we can change the old fictions, one woman at a time. 

This is not a fun book to read, and I actually had to read it over a few weeks in order to have little rage-induced mini breaks. That is absolutely no reflection on Moss’ skills as a writer, however, as it is an easy book to read when you consider the format and the prose, but it’s the subject matter that’s the killer. In The Fictional Woman, Moss examines numerous different aspects of how women are and have been perceived by society, with chapters such as ‘The Femme Fatale’, ‘The Invisible Woman’ and ‘The Feminist’.

On the subject of the ‘Femme Fatale’, this happened purely by coincidence, but seemed hilariously fitting:


Amusing interlude over, back to the rage. Having been a model, author and public figure, Moss seems to have copped more insults, judgements and abuse than I would ever have thought possible. As a model, she was encouraged to become ‘Paris thin’ (code for skeletal) in order to get work modelling couture and was sexually harassed on more than one occasion, as an author she was accused of not writing her own novels and in the end, submitted to a lie detector test to prove that she didn’t have a ghost writer, and as a public figure she has had endless media speculation about her relationships, including her divorce (where she was branded a ‘gold digger’, even though she owned the house that her soon to be ex-husband was living in). It’s through the prism of Moss’ personal experiences that she examines such facts as the serious lack of women in federal parliament, particularly the Cabinet (the book was published last year so it is still current), about the prevalence of women under the age of 30 in visual media, about the problems which still occur around childcare and domestic labour, about women being judged on their appearance before their skill set, and about the (bizarre) myth that all women hate each other.

Everyone should read this book. Although there are no new arguments here or surprising new theories, the fact that in 2015 this book exists at all shows how far society still has to go.The fact that I couldn’t answer this riddle (which I am incredibly embarrassed to admit) shows that I have a long way still to go:

“There is an old riddle I remember from high school. It involves a terrible car accident in which a father is killed and his son injured and taken to hospital. When the boy is brought into emergency for surgery, the doctor looks at him and says ‘I can’t operate on this patient. This is my son.’ The riddle then asks: ‘ How is that possible?’

… The doctor, of course, is the boy’s mother” (p. 256)


The Fictional Woman fulfils the #female author, #non-fiction book, #author new-to-me and #book published in 2014 or 2015 tags of the Aussie Author Challenge 2015.

So far I have read:

4 books by a female author

3 non-fiction books

1 fiction book

4 books by an author who is new to me

2 books published in 2014 or 2015


8 thoughts on “Review

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