Reviews for On Our Best Behavior

by Elise Loehnen

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

An analysis of society’s behavioral expectations for women. Drawing largely on her own experiences, Loehnen, the host of the Pulling the Thread podcast and former editorial projects director of Condé Nast Traveler, contends that women have been unwittingly programmed to behave in a certain manner in order to be accepted. “Where did this beast come from,” she asks, “how did it get its power, and why was I so willing to submit? I began to trawl through history to locate the early murmurs of when good-ness and acceptability were conjoined for women.” Loehnen shows that the framework for this programming arose via the Seven Deadly Sins found in Christian teachings. The author explores the origin of the sins and examines each in relation to the modern life of women. As Loehnen points out, the sins were based on the “Eight Thoughts” of a fourth-century monk named Evagrius Ponticus, which additionally included the concept of “sadness” and became a teaching tool for the church. While the concepts referenced in the book do have strong religious underpinnings, the author’s language and writing style are more secular in nature and will appeal to a wide audience. “Even if you consider yourself an atheist, or agnostic, or opposed to organized religion, the moral codes directed by the Seven Deadly Sins have influenced you,” she writes. “They are not solely the prove-nance of the church; the sins have permeated culture.” Throughout, Loehnen demonstrates that women have limited their lives based on these artificial restrictions and must strive to break free from this “tool of oppression.” For example, out of fear of appearing slothful, women frequently deny themselves rest. For fear of appearing gluttonous, women often deny their own hunger. Afraid of being deemed “unhinged,” women are often apprehensive about expressing their anger. An engaging work that offers an opportunity for pause and reflection regarding our daily choices. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.