‘Girl Up’ by Laura Bates

★★★★★/5 stars

Published by Simon & Schuster!

Usually I’d write my own overview of what the book is about, but I’m going to let Laura Bates take the wheel on this one, because it’s just too good: They said you need to be thin and beautiful. They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups. Wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels. Dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but don’t look like a slut. They said if you’re strong or opinionated, you’ll be ‘shrill’, ‘bossy’, a ‘ballbreaker’. They said ‘that’s not for girls’ — ‘take it as a compliment’ — ‘don’t rock the boat’. They told you ‘beauty is on the inside’… But you know they didn’t really mean it. Well screw that. I’m here to tell you something else. ‘Everyday Sexism Project’ founder Laura Bates mocks the ludicrous pressures and stereotypes faced by young women today. Hilarious, bold and unapologetic, ‘Girl Up’ sets the record straight. Warning: This book contains feminist limericks, colour-by-numbers genitalia and dancing vaginas.

Sounds amazing, right? That’s because it is.

I’ll admit, I took a while getting through this book. But that’s no indication of how utterly funny, uplifting and empowering this book is. In actual fact, the amount of time it took me to read is more indication of me wanting to savour it. I found myself reaching for a chapter or two when I was feeling particularly downtrodden and in need of some positive, girl boss vibes. Or, on the other end of the spectrum, when I felt so completely impenetrable as a woman and needed to feed my feminist soul.

Reading non-fiction can be a little daunting, especially when doing it for pleasure. I’m very used to reading non-fiction with a three year long Bachelors degree under my belt, so sometimes the very idea of it can feel like more of a chore. That said, when slaving over my dissertation, I’d managed to really nail down a topic I loved (clue: it might have had something to do with my favourite ‘F’ word. No, not that one. Yes, FEMINISM!) (this same joke may have been made in ‘Girl Up’, whoops) and actually found, for the most part I liked reading up on feminist theory — although the majority of the books in my uni library were a little outdated, and some of what those theorists were saying had me curling my nose and wanting to throw their backwards-beliefs-incapsulated-in-a-book across the room. So I will say, as much as I’ve got used to reading hundreds of plot-less words, I liked my approach of reading ‘Girl Up’ when I really needed it or fancied a break from whatever story my nose was rubbing up the spine of. And I think it’s a balance I want to continue in the future. Gimmie all the feminist theory!

But let’s talk more about ‘Girl Up’ specifically. ‘Girl Up’ is wonderful. It’s the kind of book I wish had been in existence when I was growing up, because it address and dissects all the outside pressures and, let’s be real, bullshit us girls have to deal with growing up and living as a vagina-bearer. Of course, Laura Bates also does it in a completely inclusive way, noting that, unlike the mistake I’ve just made, you don’t have to have a foof to be a woman and neither do you have to have a penis to be a man. With that in mind, we’re all in someway, shape or form, dealing with the downsides of sexism and the patriarchy. It smashes the very reality of what feminism truly is at its purest, simplest form and that is the political, social and economical equality of the sexes.

‘Girl Up’ pinpoints important areas like social media, body image, sex (which I had the pleasure of reading on public transport), and being an unapologetically successful lady boss. It’s uplifting and inspiring. It had me nodding along in agreement constantly and wanting to click my fingers and scream ‘Hell yeah!’ at the top of my lungs. It also goes without saying that Laura Bates is ridiculously hilarious. Her voice weaves its way naturally throughout the book, with the help of funny anecdotes, photos and amazing, completely wonderful illustrations. And, you know, those fab dancing fannies.

I loved this book and am a little sad not to be folding back its neon cover for pure feminist solace. To be honest, I’m probably going to force it upon my children if I ever have my own sprogs, because it perfectly educates on so many important issues, especially in regards to young girls.

Leaving you with perhaps my fave bit (but probably not, because there were so many bits that made me giggle): “Actually, everybody is either a feminist or an arsehole.” Could not agree more!

Currently listening to #2

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