Review of Untamed, (Glennon Doyle), written by guest writer Dr. Ruth Williams

Untamed is a memoir of an unfolding awareness. Author, Glennon Doyle, exposes her experiences of feeling caged through trying to fulfil societal expectations. She explains how over time, the family she grew up in, the culture, the religion, the friends, the class, all ultimately dictated her values, beliefs, and behaviours. Untamed is a recognition of how we have been shaped by others to become acquiescent in an attempt to belong. 

“Until I surrendered myself to the cages of others’ expectations, cultural mandates, and institutional allegiances. Until I buried who I was in order to become what I should be. I lost myself when I learned how to please.”

The book comprises a unique structure, using short autobiographical stories to highlight how unconsciously obedient Doyle became. These life stories showcase standards of subjugation through gender role stereotypes; targeted advertising; marriage, divorce, and blended families; homosexuality; race and white privilege; faith and religion; and social expectations from peer groups and culture of origin. 

Doyle believes societal expectations of being a good woman, wife, and mother is centred around pleasing others, being agreeable, looking a certain way, and putting ourselves last. She argues that mothers are culturally conditioned to become martyrs because society values the mothers who give the most of themselves away; simultaneously dissolving their own identities. She proclaims the unfair burden this puts on children when women model this form of parenting, which we equate to the highest form of love. 

“They’d convinced me that the best way for a woman to love her partner, family, and community was to lose herself in service to them.”

Following on from recognising and identifying our cultural cages, this book is also about peeling back the layers of those external arbitrary expectations, to become our true selves. Doyle unveils the process by which she now refuses to renounce herself, one such process involves establishing and maintaining personal boundaries. She explains that restoring boundaries that have been violated is an act of self-respect and a refusal to abandon yourself to keep a false peace.

As a divorced, middle-aged mother, this intimate book had me perpetually nodding my head in recognition and agreement. I empathised with many of her life stories and felt relief knowing I was not alone in feeling I had lost my voice and identity over time. Demonstrating to our children how to live authentically is a far greater gift we can give them than having them witness us perpetually giving ourselves away. The book provides an example of one woman’s ability to reclaim her freedom and become untamed. 

“May we all live in communities where every person’s truest Self is both held and free.”

Dr Ruth Williams is a Researcher at Deakin University and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She has also been a freelance writer and photographer since 2018, specialising in articles and opinion pieces on work, discrimination, mental health, and lifestyle. A proud Gippsland resident based in Warragul, Ruth has written feature articles for magazines showcasing local towns, events, food, accommodation, and people. 

For freelance work, contact Ruth on ruthwilliams.ink@gmail.com  

To view Ruth’s photography, visit her Instagram page @rudiware 

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1 Comment

  1. Joh Lyons on May 13, 2021 at 7:01 am

    Thanks for the review, Ruth. I look forward to reading this book.

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