Wednesday, August 12

This Guide's Guide to Growing Up as a Girl

Following on from the last post about Anita and Me, I often wonder what books I would give out to the young people in my life as a sort of crash course. It's easy enough to give a vegan cupcake recipe to the young girl wanting to go vegan or Stitch and Bitch to a beginner knitter. But what about those not so specialist subjects, the ones that intrude on our everyday life?

What about something can persuade them that, yes, feminism is reliant to them and it's nothing to be ashamed of. In fact it can actually help them by letting them know it's okay to stand up for themselves, and to take responsibility for themselves. Granted it's a bit more 101 than my favourite treatments on the subject but just perfect for the 13-16 year olds in my acquaintance. The ones in need of a little 101.

First is He's a Stud, She's a Slut and 49 Other Double Standards Every Woman Should Know by Jessica Valenti. Granted I'm coming to review it here days after I got rid of my copy . I did find it a bit too 101. That is why I give it up to the gods of book crossing. I did also object quite strongly to one passage: ‘Boobs are not for boys’ …‘boobs are future baby food’. Because in my mind saying boobs are 'for' anyone is taking ownership away from the woman who can do whatever she wants with her boobs.

But, aside from that minor niggle, I think this would be a great first Feminism book for any young woman. It's funny, accessible and deals with their lives not abstract ideas. It's an appetiser. And that is why I bookcrossed it.

Then there is Getting in Touch with Your Inner Bitch which is all about standing up for yourself and being assertive. It tells you the dangers of being Nice (as opposed to genuinely nice) and how you should stand up for yourself.

One example that the book used that especially stood out for me was about condoms. I knew a girl at college who was too Nice to ask the guy to get some, too Nice to get some herself. So she ended up with the morning after pill, and putting both her body and mind at significant risk. She could have done with being a bitch and young women need to know that it is okay to be one too. It, of course, helps that it's a funny, easy to read book.

But, at the end of the day, I think the most necessary piece of advice I'd give to my younger cousins is this Dorothy Parker verse:

The Lady's Reward

Lady, lady, never start
Conversation towards your heart;
Keep your pretty words serene;
Never murmur what you mean.
Show yourself, by word and look,
Swift and shallow as a brook.
Be as cool and quick to go
As a drop of April snow;
Be as delicate and gay
As a cherry flower in May.
Lady, Lady, never speak
Of the tears that burn your cheek-
She will never win him, whose
Words had shown she feared to lose.
Be you wise and never sad,
You will get your lovely lad.
Never be serious or true,
And your wish will come to you-
And if that makes you happy, kid,
You'll be the first it ever did.

Believe me, I've tried it. So perhaps I should get them all a Portable Dorothy Parker instead.

Edit: Both my girl cousins are white, straight and able bodied. So that effects my recommendations a lot.

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