You’re Doing It Wrong: A History of Bad & Bonkers Advice to Women by Kaz Cooke

How this author managed to make a book about the ludicrous bits of advice provided to women through the years so funny is truly impressive. This book made me simultaneously laugh out loud and seethe in anger.


Every heading in this book is a lie.

Women have always been told nonsense about what to do with their bodies, health and behaviour (change shape, shoosh, do all the housework), and what we’re not supposed to do (frown, have pockets, lead a country).

The book is a laugh-out-loud frolic through nutty advice (wear a dress made of arsenic, do some day-drinking, have sex with a billionaire biker, worry about your vagina wrinkles) as well as a roar against injustice, a rallying cry for sisterhood, and a way to free ourselves from ludicrous expectations and imposed perfectionism.

Kaz’s own 30-year history of interest and experience in advice – from her newspaper etiquette column, ‘Keep Yourself Nice’, to best-selling books including Up the Duff and the Girl Stuff series – and years of archives research have culminated in a full-colour, exuberant shout of a book with 300 wacky, and sobering historical photos of objects and instructions. You’re Doing It Wrong covers sex & romance, paid work, fashion & beauty, health advice, housework, and a motherlode of mad parenting instructions – from witchcraft to beauty pageants, with a side of aviatrixes.

Using examples from generations of women in her own family (her 4x great grandmother had the first Australian pre-nup, another had a gun tied to her apron) she explains how British colonists introduced unhinged etiquette, and even made housework and contraception racist.

You’re Doing It Wrong is a head-start guide to how young women can recognise and fight back when they’re undermined and disrespected, and a vindication for older women (yep, this has been going on your whole life, and it is ridiculous). from Kaz Cooke


I feel very guilty that I was sad when this book ended. After all, it is literally made of up the insufferable and ludicrous things that people have said to women through the years. Why would I want more?! Well, because Kaz Cooke is hilarious.

Each headline is a piece of advice or “fact” women were told that is wrong followed by the history of the quote and the reasons it is erroneous. Some are longer than others. Take this for example,


– Kettle’s probably still warm. Take a break and Google, ‘women inventors.’

You’re Doing it Wrong by Kaz Cooke

This book covers the usual malarkey that is stuffed into women’s brains from childhood. Chapters cover health, marriage, sex, housework, the workplace, motherhood, physical beauty and more. It is an easy book to pick up and read for a bit but longer reads will demonstrate the repetitiveness and contradictory nature of advice intended for women. I’m not sure how the author could have avoided this but it did make certain sections of the book feel slower.

The book also highlights the atrocious treatment of the indigenous people in Australia. It is easy to see a direct comparison between the indigenous population of Australia, where the author resides, and the enslaved people in America. Turns out, if you put white people in charge, they will agree that the only thing worse than being a white woman is being a woman of color. How they manage to do it more incorrectly than I is a mystery, but societal values were created to keep people in check and quiet.

In the end, this funny and well researched book makes one thing clear: if you are a woman, you’re doing it wrong. If you change how you’re doing it, still wrong. The only way forward is to accept that whatever you are doing, it is wrong and people are going to let you know. Also, if you could be thinner and take up less space while you’re doing whatever you’re doing incorrectly, that would be great.

Tell me, please! Have you read anything by Kaz Cooke?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

One Book More

Another Book, Another Destiny...

Rab's Bookish Planet

My Thoughts Are Here.


book reviews


My Life And Everything Within It

The Literary Escapade

"From that time on, the world was hers for the reading." - Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Mani's Book Corner

The place to read book reviews, bookish posts and the occasional off topic posts

Superfluous Reading

- book reviews for the so inclined

Beverley A Baird

Writing, reading, on upward path to being published. Believer in "all things are possible".

Pillow Fort

We're reading in here.


Book Blog

%d bloggers like this: