They told you you need to be thin and beautiful.
They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups – never accept drinks from a stranger, and wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels.
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.
I read Everyday Sexism back in February, because I thought it was interesting and important to learn about the issues facing women, and it was a fantastic read – Laura Bates covered key ideas of feminism in an informative way, and wrote about a broad range of issues and groups of people. When I learnt that she had released another book, Girl Up, it was a no-brainer to read it.
The tone of the book was friendly and informal, and Laura Bates’ writing style was almost conversational; I flew through the book. Just as with Everyday Sexism, she covered a wide range of topics, from social media to consent. Most of the issues related back to sexism, and how there are a lot of habits and ideas ingrained in our society that impact women negatively, and so I was very pleased that the final chapter of the book was on feminism.
Girl Up was great fun to read, and one of the reasons for this was because of how interactive it was. There were tables and pictures and photographs and flow diagrams, all of which helped it be even more informative and interesting. I also liked the analogies included, as even though I knew some of the ideas already, they were a great way of explaining them, and I know they would be really useful for someone reading the book who hadn’t been previously introduced to the ideas, or useful for me to use to explain the ideas to others!
There are a couple of chapters which talk about sex and other matters surrounding this, so if you are planning on read it, I would recommend thinking about how you feel and if it’s something you feel comfortable reading about. However, there is a contents page and each chapter is titled, so don’t let this put you off reading the book; you can always skip a chapter, and come back to it whenever you feel ready.
Overall, I think that Girl Up is an important book for teenage girls, to help them challenge expectations and preconceptions, to help them fight to make changes to the world, and to help inform them and come away a little wiser and a little less uncertain. I cannot wait to see what Laura Bates does next – I would be interested to see a book for boys to explain how sexism hurts them too!
Girl Up was published by Simon & Schuster on the 21st of April 2016. You can find out more on Goodreads, or purchase a copy on Amazon. Laura Bates also began a project called the Everyday Sexism Project, whose website is here and Twitter is here, which is meant to show how sexism manifests in society all around the world on a daily basis.