‘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 […] They instructed you to wear just enough make-up to look ‘presentable’ but not enough to be a slag; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too slutty. They said if you’re strong or opinionated, you’ll be ‘shrill’, ‘bossy’, a ‘ballbreaker’ […] They informed you that you should know your place‘.
Written by Laura Bates, the author of Everyday Sexism, Girl Up is a fantastic and well-informed guide book aimed at teenage girls and young women. Well, that was the impression I got from reading the book, but Bates does write out to boys and young men who may be reading it too.
I decided to buy this book after reading a review on Viral Feminism. It sounded like my sort of book; witty, funny, interactive and informative. Once I finished reading Girl Up, I thought to myself that I could’ve done with a book like this while growing up in the tormenting years of puberty. Bates speaks out for all young girls and women in a world where females are referred to on a daily basis as the ‘derogatory’ sex.
I really enjoyed the informal narrative style that Bates decided to write the book in. She portrays herself as quirky and humorous yet motivated and serious towards the issues young girls face. Throughout the book Bates includes images and pages of large text to emphasise important points that she has made. For instance, I really like how Bates uses Alice in Wonderland for one of her images to highlight how the media makes young girls and women feel depressed about them body image.
Bates concludes one of her chapters called ‘Circle of Shame’, which focuses on the media, with an important statement:
My favourite part of reading the book was when Bates used a ‘sexist bullshit klaxon’ when she mentioned about something sexist and ridiculous. I wish I could use a klaxon or horn each time I heard something sexist (I do hear sexism on a weekly basis at least).
I felt empowered while reading Girl Up. It felt good to read about the endless amounts of women who stood the test of time and defied gender stereotypes in order to achieve great things. I emphasized with written accounts of young women’s experiences included by Bates in her powerful book. I feel inspired by the suggestions Bates outlines in how to combat sexism in intelligent, peaceful and non-violent ways.
One of my favourite chapters is ‘The F-Word’, a chapter dedicated to feminism. Bates seeks out to remind readers that feminism is essentially equal rights for everyone, regardless of sex and gender. She acknowledges that the word feminism sounds exclusive to women, but in order to achieve complete equality, women’s rights need to be considered and placed to equal grounds with men first. Remember: feminism was starting to be recognised when women campaigned for equal rights towards the end of the nineteenth century, when women were always paid less than men, when women were expected to remain at home as housewives and where women were always considered as inferior and degraded members of society. Some of these conceptions unfortunately still exist today, hence why feminism is still needed and exists today.
Girl Up is an excellent guidebook for young girls and women in how to deal with sexism, since it affects all of us in so many ways, from the way we dress to the way we speak, the way we conduct ourselves to our mental health and well-being. Bates provides plenty of extra reading and advice which readers can easily access. As a young woman myself, I have experienced a lot of sexism while I was growing up, and I still do in my continuing journey of growth. While I have mentioned that it would’ve been useful if this book was published while I was a young girl, it still holds relevance to me and I am now a much more informed individual, confident in knowing that many other people will have read and are reading this important book!
Happy reading and blogging!