MIISTA REVIEWS: GIRL UP BY LAURA BATES
Believe me, I wish I had a Laura Bates in my teenage years. It could have saved me from discovering feminism at the late age of 28 during my business trip. How embarrassing, feminism struck me after watching a feminist panel on a plane.
I boarded in New York as Oriana Kubinska and landed in London as Oriana Fallaci.
As a fully formed equity supporter I've walked the Women's March in London thinking about what brings young women to feminism, for me it has to be anger. And I expected Laura Bates to be a very angry woman:
“I want to give you a heads-up at the beginning that this book is quite rude.”
While it contains the most swear words I seen in any recent memoir, Girl Up is hardly a kind of book you would put next to The Rage and The Pride.
At best we could set it next to #Girlboss or maybe Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham. Intentionally or not, it proves that you can address and care about injustices without expressing anger.
Girl Up is meant for much younger people which I didn't realise when I picked it up.
It wouldn't be surprising if not the fact that Laura Bates knows another way to female activism. Her work includes The Everyday Sexism project. A significant website with an aim to document examples of sexism from around the world.
It is also undoubtedly the most important project I've ever encountered and one that I believe should be known by everyone, whether you call yourself a feminist or not.
With this project Bates has achieved something at once very simple yet painfully relevant. By inviting anonymous submissions from women asking for their experiences of sexism she exposed examples of prejudice we all face.
I was struck by the entries of a very young women facing minor sexism to major sexual assaults.
This explains why Laura wanted to address instances involving little girls as young as 10 being shouted at on their way to school. In an approachable way she identifies sexist and racist behaviour that is often being accepted. She is an online activist that skilfully uses social media to give young women a voice.
What Bates does has a deep value, without being too intellectual. I believe Girl Up to be a great first book on feminism.
It's for these little girls to get curious about the movement before going into a complete review of the history of it. I wish someone would had handed me this book when I was 13, but even now I treat it as a great manual on everyday gender behaviour.
However, her candid approach does not extend to women over the age of 30 and politics.
Everything is isolated into issues of rape, the importance of consent and that women shouldn't tolerate sexism even if it seems petty. She repeatedly states what is obvious: identity and choice.
Which is all fine and valuable, but it would be good if she occasionally focused on the collective struggle. Something millions of women marched for weeks ago together with their little girls. I've seen toddlers proudly holding feminist signs in their tiny fingers.
I'd be really curious to know who Bates voted for. Because while it might be assumed feminists are on the left...
Upon reading Girl Up you would really not know either way.