Girl Up by Laura Bates
So, we’ll just get the most important bit of information out there, up front. You need to get this book and give it to your sisters, daughters, aunties, friends, sons, brothers and uncles. Anyone and everyone you hold dear stands to learn a lot from this handy text.
Famed for her bestselling debut book, Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates’ second book is just as refreshing and honest. Written in Bates’ endearing, irreverent tone, it’s jam packed with dancing vaginas, a colour by numbers vulva and a ‘sexist bullshit klaxton’ which appears throughout the book.
Everyday Sexism was arguably instrumental in giving Bates the background to write this book. Not only did it lead to Bates attending the United Nations Commission On the Status Of Women and the Council of Europe to talk about gender inequality, but it also allowed her to tour the UK speaking to school groups.
Whilst many of us will have witnessed or experienced much of our culture’s obsessions with the female form, Bates manages to break these down and explains how and why they impact society (both young and old).
For example, Bates calls out that thanks to the images of women we are shown in magazines, on television, on billboards outside; “You might have seen 100 women in one day but you’ve really only seen one woman, she is almost always tall, young, thin, white, conventionally beautiful, made up, long-legged and large-breasted.”
By calling out the system that the media, fashion and diet industries all play into, she identifies how women are kept pre-occupied and under-confident. This way of living and understanding ourselves creates a damaging status quo which continues to line the back pockets of said industries.
Unlike any literature I had access to in my most informative years, Girl Up explores lesser spoken about topics such as masturbation, popularity, confidence, friendships, careers, pornography, and romantic and sexual relationships. It’s not the type of text that tells you how to navigate these and how you should handle them, but rather calls out the external sources that are already trying to do this and consequently tries to reiterate that there is no right way to grow up and be yourself – only you can define what that is.
It challenges the assumptions and expectations we place on women, especially young women, as they are changing from young girls and entering into a world where they are expected to conform to a certain set of ideas and behaviours. It takes a certain set of skills to be able to navigate that landscape in a way that’s amusing and accessible, without being patronising in any way, but Bates manages it with ease.
It’s arguably essential reading for all people – of all gender definitions. What are you waiting for? Get your copy here.