Sunday, 4 September 2016

Book Review: Girl Up by Laura Bates

A photo of Girl Up by Laura Bates

Girl Up by Laura Bates

Published: 21st April 2016 | Publisher: Simon & Schuster

They told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty.

They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you'll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it's fine for the boys, but you should know your place. .

They told you 'that's not for girls' - 'take it as a compliment' - 'don't rock the boat' - 'that'll go straight to your hips'.

They told you 'beauty is on the inside', but you knew they didn't really mean it.

Well I'm here to tell you something different.

Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us.

From Goodreads.

I absolutely loved the book Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates, so I had to read her second book, Girl Up. It's just brilliant!

I was really surprised to discover Girl Up is actually aimed at teenage girls, young women - with young women being those of university age - and people with a vagina. Girl Up is pretty much a guide book and introduction to to sexism and feminism, full of advice and blasting misconceptions on numerous topics.

It talks about body image and self-love, but also how the media fills our heads with impossible beauty standards. It talks about sex and sexuality, talks in depth about the vulva and vagina and praises masturbation, with images, and discusses how porn has led to confusion and sometimes fear for young people about what sex is (Bates tells us that at one school she visted, she was told how when a eacher asked a boy who raped a 14-year-old girl why he didn't stop when she started crying, he replied, "Because it's normal for girls to cry during sex."). It covers social media - the good, the bad and the ugly. Bates goes into detail about what feminism is any why so many people have issues with it. And the book talks about many other things in between.

There was a lot discussed in Girl Up that readers of feminist non-fic would have come across before, but what's different about this book is it's aimed at young people. Bates had teenagers as well as young people in mind when she wrote this book, and it shows. She hasn't dumbed anything down for her audience, but she has written with humour and to the interests of young people these days, to apply what she's discussing to their everyday life. Although the focus is on sexism and feminism, Girl Up really is a guide book on how to navigate those years when you're working out who you are, and you're facing all sorts of pressure from every direction. Pressure with exams, pressure from boys, pressure to look a certain way, and so on. It was an eye-opener to me that a lot (though not all) of the angst teenagers who identify as female/who have a vagina face is rooted in sexism. While reading, I would think back over my own teenage years and all I went through, and realised how so much of it would have been easier to deal with if  I'd just known more about feminism and sexism. I would have had some idea what to do about it all; I would have learned to love myself and my body sooner, and stopped reading magazines; I would have understood the bullying I faced had sexism at it's heart and have a language to try and combat it; I would have learnt so much more about sex and my body, and that it was perfectly fine, and not weird, that I didn't want to have sex then. If I had known about feminism and sexism, if I had had Girl Up, the whole of my teenage years could have been so different.

And so now I believe that Girl Up is an absolute must read for teenagers of all genders - boys can learn so much from this book, too - but especially for those who identify as female/have vaginas. This book could make those turbulent years much easier to bear. This book should be in school libraries, though because of the content and the language, I'm not entirely sure it would make it there. So buy a copy, read it, then buy another for your daughter, your little sister, your younger cousin, your niece, your friend's daughter. Let's open the eyes of young people, and help bring about a more confident, clued in generation who won't stand for sexist crap. This book has the potential to change everything - or at least get the ball rolling.

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