my year of reading women: the conclusion

At the end of 2016 I was at an impasse with my reading. I’d spent a life juggling assigned reading for school and books I could scramble from the library for fun. But during uni I’d let reading for pleasure fall by the wayside. If we’re being honest, I’d let reading for uni fall by the wayside too. But what English Literature student can’t relate? The sheer quantity is a joke. But if I did pick up a book I was usually doing it out of guilt for an essay due. Not to feed my soul.

So fast forward to graduation and it had been years since I had properly read a book, guilt free, that I had chosen for myself. I was so excited to read every book in the world. So what did I do? I read almost none. Partly I was too overwhelmed with where to start and partly I was just being lazy as always. So going into 2017 I knew something needed to change. Books are my favourite thing in the world so not reading them was a big disservice to my authenticity. I decided to take drastic action and vowed to read only women authors for a whole year. It was kind of a fuck you to all the dead white men I’d read at uni.

And thus began my year of reading women.

And you know what I found? It wasn’t even hard. Because there are so many epic women writers in this world, some who get the recognition they deserve and others who sit quietly on the shelf behind the new James Paterson monstrosity. So by reading only women you’re not cutting our thousands of authors you’re actually opening your mind to millions more. On my shelf alone there was hundreds of women I was excited to read but just hadn’t got to. Never mind the gigantic pool the rest of the world also had to offer.

And it was refreshing. What a year to be reading only women when we were out there fighting for our rights and demanding change in a heavily patriarchal world. It was liberating and made me feel so connected to so many badass women. I wasn’t tempted to read a man the whole year because even when I had a hankering for Orwell or Vonnegut or Baldwin I knew I had so much time to read them in the future. Right now they were irrelevant. This was the year of women.

On analysing my bookshelf in January 2017 I noted I had a shocking ratio of men to women. I had about two thirds men. How I’d got to that point I couldn’t tell you. Having about fifteen Shakespeare plays probably didn’t help my case though. So I made a concerted effort to only buy women when I inevitably found myself in a bookstore. The affect of that is I now have more women on my shelf than men. I know. I buy a lot of books. But it satisfies me to look at the shelf now and know it’s properly represented. At least it’s one small slice of diversity out of the giant library of the world.

For 2018 I’ve decided my reading goal will be to now try and read all the unread books on my shelf. I’m postponing buying more new books until my tbr is down quite a bit. Now at my current rate reading my whole shelf could take years but I’m willing to put in the work. Though when January hit I couldn’t quite stop reading women. Part of me wanted to go for round two but I knew I wanted to really get reading everything on my shelf that intrigues me. Man, woman, black, white, Asian, Native American, straight, gay, bi, transgender, cis gender, gender queer, memoir, play, poem, novel, essay. I want to read all the words.

That’s my real goal.

So eventually in March this year I broke my fourteen months of reading women. If you’re gonna do it it’s gotta be with someone boss so I chose Albert Camus. And I don’t regret it but part of me still longs for the glorious days of celebrating women authors.

I learnt a lot from reading women. I learnt that we have some incredibly talented and strong voices. We have important stories to tell. We’re funny as hell. We are deeply troubled by the world we see yet consumed by it’s beauty. We are wise yet we’re never done learning. We want to help people and show them they’re not alone. We want to tell other women to live their truth too. We are badass. And damn, can we write well. Simply, we are storytellers. And I’m so excited to explore thousands more stories and experiences from epic women. So I see many years of reading only women in my future. As well as I’m sure several other reading challenges.

I wholeheartedly recommend a similar year to everyone.

Cos women are boss, duh.

Peace.

Bitch – Meredith Brooks

lessons boss women taught me

In my life every day is international women’s day because I’m constantly surrounded by boss women. Some are my family and some are my friends. Some are strangers or writers and actors. But they have all taught me lessons. So in honour of March 8th and all the fierce women in the world I’m going to tell you some of those lessons. From cool women. About being formidable. About being a woman. About being a human.

1. It’s important to identify as a feminist. Don’t hide from the word for fear of what people will think of you.

2. If people aren’t feminist then they’re on the wrong side of history anyway.

3. Intersectionality is paramount. Keep your heart open to other people’s experiences.

4. It’s okay to like the colour pink and wear high heels. It’s also okay to wear men’s shirts and think make up makes you look like a clown. These stereotypes don’t define you. Like whatever the fuck you want to like.

5. You’re allowed to cry. That doesn’t make you ‘hysterical’ or ‘weak’.

6. You’re allowed to be assertive and demand a room’s attention. This does not make you ‘bossy’. It makes you fierce.

7. Find women who you can confide in and be vulnerable with. They are your soul mates.

8. Don’t let other people’s success make you feel like you’re failing. You’re not.

9. Don’t take your sisters for granted. They’re pretty cool. And they’ll always be there.

10. Men are essential to the feminist movement. Don’t alienate them.

11. Don’t ever feel like you can’t do something. I don’t care what society has told you your whole life. They’re wrong.

12. Being the object of their admiration is not your job. It’s okay if people don’t like you. Pleasing people is exhausting anyway.

13. If you don’t want to fucking smile, don’t. The world won’t alter irreparably.

14. Call out sexism when you see it. Otherwise it won’t ever change.

15. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Being what everyone expects you to be is boring anyway.

16. Your mum really does have all the answers. So stop ignoring her calls and seek her endless wisdom.

17. Sometimes you can just lie in pjs and watch Netflix. It’s hard to fight the patriarchy every day. Make sure to recharge.

18. Go out of your way to tell other people why you think they’re amazing.

19. Be strong and resilient. You’ll work twice as hard as most men have to for the same result and that’s not fair. But we’re going to change that. Remember to celebrate your victories and achievements.

20. You are never done learning. Keep your mind and your heart open to the world even when it challenges you not to. Especially then.

The future is fucking female.

Happy International Women’s Day, friends!

Dream – Gabrielle

something men should know

So I’m going to write something a little bit different today. Usually I like to keep my posts positive and somewhat upbeat because that’s the type of energy I’m wanting to attract into my life. But I’ve realised that shouldn’t stop me talking about other things. Not when it’s something I care a lot about.

So here’s the situation. Yesterday I was making my daily commute to work. I walk to the train station, I get the train, I walk to my office. Simple. I do this every week day (and weekends if my office would ever offer overtime again!). But the point is that it’s my route, I know where I’m going and I feel safe. Yesterday I did not feel safe. The train I get into work is usually quite full as it’s the time a lot of people are actually coming home from work. As the train approaches I glance to see if there’s any free seats of four, there isn’t but I see one with a guy about my age in the corner and decide to head there. As I sit down diagonal to him, as train etiquette dictates, he looks up and stares at me. And I don’t mean glances at me when he thinks I’m not looking. He stares at me like he’s pissed off with me for a good five seconds. I kind of stared back for a second because I thought he was going to say something, when I realised he wasn’t I looked down in hopes he’d look away. For the rest of the journey he kept looking up at me but I didn’t look at him directly. I think at one point he was even taking a photo of me which made my skin crawl. When a girl moved through the door connecting carriages that was right by us he got really angry that she’d touched the door to the chair next to it. Baring in mind this wasn’t even his chair and she was just trying to fit through the door. When we were getting to my station I stood up early to get near the door, a few seconds later he stood up too. He obviously could have been going anywhere but he was in sweatpants and this was the business district so your mind starts to go to these places. When the train stopped I decided to hover and he did walk out in front of me, I wanted to keep him in front of me. It’s a busy station so I was trying to make sure I lost him. At the bottom of the steps he turned around and looked at me so I made sure I was stuck behind a small crowd that I could have walked around and then I proceeded up the stairs really slowly. But of course at the top of the stairs he was stood there trying to decide which way to go. Yeah, he could have just been deciding which way to go but at this point how did I know he hadn’t just followed me off a train. He finally turned left which was good because I needed to go right and I proceeded through the underground tunnel as quick as I could, frequently turning to see if he’d started going my way instead. I’d already decided on the escalator that if he was behind me I’d go and talk to the guard at the ticket gate and make sure he got away from me. He wasn’t there and I continued to work through the dark city streets turning round far too often, just to check.

Now this may seem like a small situation to you. But the point is it was a situation. It was something I had to think about and even fucking strategise about when I should have just been reading my book on my way to work. And this happens to women every day. In all different types of variations. The thing I have a problem with is that I should not have to feel unsafe or uncomfortable just trying to get to work. Just trying to exist in every day life. It’s not fair.

And a man may have looked at this guy and thought yeah, bit of a creep. But then they probably would have moved on with their day. I doubt they were turning their head the rest of their way to work in the dark. If you were, I apologise for belittling your experience. But speaking from the majority, men wouldn’t need to care about that small scenario because that’s not been their experience of life.

Boys aren’t often told to carry their keys between their fingers if they’re walking in the dark alone. Boys aren’t told to not make eye contact with someone you think is suspicious but make sure you always have them in your peripherals. Boys aren’t told that never mind walking in the streets, taxis definitely aren’t safe either! Boys aren’t told to text when they get home, or not to take that shortcut even though it would get you home fifteen minutes quicker. So it is different. And you have to understand that.

Anyway, I just felt a bit spooked out for the rest of my shift and I told people in work about it and I was not surprised that the other women started drowning me in their similar stories but I did notice the look of surprise and horror on some of the men’s faces. These are good people, I assume, so they don’t even consider that as something that happens to people every day whereas the women gave me the ‘I’m sorry that happened to you, what can you do’ look. We’re all familiar with it.

So I thought I would talk about it because I’ve seen a lot of people think that sexual assault is rape and that’s it. They don’t realise or haven’t thought about where behaviour like that begins. You may think something as ‘innocent’ as a catcall should be received with flattery but usually you’re actually just making someone uncomfortable and even angry. But again, you wouldn’t know that because not many women are going to stop and shout at you because you’re usually a big group of men.

And they want to take guards off the Liverpool trains.

Something to think about.

Creep – Radiohead

Elle Woods Is A Boss

Elle Woods is unapologetically herself and I think that’s the best thing you can be. Want to wear a baby pink suit to congress or have scented CVs? Why the fuck not. Be individual and authentic and original. Don’t compromise yourself to please others or to be who you think they want you to be. Elle tried that and she showed it only affects you and your identity. Even if you change for others it will never be enough for them. Other people have got their own lives, don’t worry about what they’re doing.

I mean, just look at Warner: ew. All he does is try and please people. He’s selfish but he’s mainly just a puppet of his powerful family. By trying to win Elle back once she’s bested him in every possible way shows his cowardice. Where Elle oozes intelligence and integrity Warner demonstrates none. He doesn’t know how to be his own person. Don’t be a Warner.

Elle is a badass feminist and I’ll argue with anyone who thinks she isn’t. Her ferocity is why I’ll time and time again come back to these great movies. (Though not knock-off Legally Blondes, that’s two hours I’m never getting back!) When they both finally arrived on Netflix I was bloody elated. I think it’s easy to dismiss these movies as rom coms – as with Mean Girls and many others – but I think that’s a real shame. You’d be missing a great role model. Elle empowers young girls and women. I mean the whole premise of the first movie is a blonde, Malibu girl trying to make it at Harvard Law School. You expect her to be out of her league. Yes, she originally goes to win back her boyfriend but who can say they haven’t done something stupid in the name of love? At least Elle was coming out of it with a law degree.

But the tale quickly becomes much more than that when Elle realises she’s actually good at being a lawyer. She’s honest and bold and she believes in the good of people. She’s not cut-throat because she doesn’t need to be. She’s just confident and effective. She’s strong and intelligent. She’s underestimated constantly and by basically everyone in her life – most dishearteningly by her parents – but this only fuels her determination. The scene with Elle in the pool at her parents house gives some real The Graduate vibes. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Elle is looking at her parents lives and thinking, yeah, she’s not entirely sure where this next adventure is going but she’ll be damned if she doesn’t at least try. Her parents lives are frivolous and she wants better for herself.

I think that’s pretty boss.

I think a big lesson in the movie is understanding your self-worth and then fighting for what you want. And for Elle she concludes, sure, she loves glitter and bikinis and getting her hair done. And she always will. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that. But that’s just one part of her and she’s so much more. She craves a greater purpose in life and a bigger challenge and I think that’s only a good thing. It’s inspiring.

Go and change everything about yourself like Elle because why the heck not. Or just use Elle’s positivity and drive to go after something you’re already slightly working towards but mainly just in your head. Turn intention into action. Just be daring. Be kind. And don’t ever compromise yourself. Because if you’re being truly who you feel you need to be then you don’t need to worry about fitting in or being cool because you already are.

At least, that’s what I learnt from Elle Woods anyway. I’d go as far as to say she’s a feminist icon. But maybe I’m just being a fangirl. Either way, I’m still sitting here waiting for the third movie.

Perfect Day – Hoku

Why I March.

Why do I march?

I march for myself. Because I respect myself and I need to practise self-love. I need to know when my head hits the pillow at night that I’ve done everything in my power to better my life and the lives of those around me.

I march for my sisters and my mother because they’ve brought me up and moulded me into the strong, independent woman I am today. They have shown me courage and determination and compassion and I want the absolute world for them.

I march for my friends because I want them to know they can do anything they put their minds to. They are powerful beyond measure and I hope they know that. I want them to know that daily.

I march for all the feminists out there, whose solidarity brings me joy. I’ve had tears ready in my eyes for days as I’ve witnessed true magic. From scrolling through instagram’s happy faces, powerful friendships and determined captions; seeing endless news headlines about the numbers who’ve shown up to be counted; and don’t even get me started on the signs: I’ve seen hilarious and witty to painfully accurate. I’m so moved by every single one of you. 

I march for my brother and my father and all the other proud male feminists who’ve never treated my gender as an excuse for why I can’t do something or viewed me differently because of my biology. They’ve taught me bravery and sensitivity, they’ve instilled in me a fire to fight injustice in all of its forms.

I march for the young girls who will one day look at our current situation in shock. I march for the millions of girls who aren’t even born yet. When they learn of this history I need them to know that we cared and that we were horrified. That we fought with every fibre of our being to make the world better for ourselves and for them. I want them to know that we never stopped and we will not stop until we have true gender equality.

I march for the OG feminists and I apologise that you are still out here fighting. I apologise to all those incredible women in the world who won the vote for us. One hundred years on as a civilisation we should know better. We should not be where we are, and quite frankly I think they would be ashamed. I want to honour my ancestors not embarrass them.

I march for the women and men who don’t call themselves feminists, the ones who see us as liberal, bra-burning, unwashed, witch sluts. I march because I pity them and I mean to educate them. They have internalised this institutionalised sexism so much that they cannot see truth. They see the world through a misogynistic lens and I need them to know there’s a better life out there, one they pretend they don’t want. I need them to understand that there is a problem and a very real one. One that affects them in so many ways. But one that doesn’t have to be our future.

And I march for Donald Trump. Because he is in office and for the foreseeable future that isn’t changing. We need to educate him and show him we’re serious. As women of the world we stand with our American sisters who seem to be in an impossible position. But we march because we want to enact positive change. We plead Trump realises the error of his ways and works hard to align himself with ALL of America.

And if he doesn’t? Well, we’ll continue to rain hell. 

Women’s March On Washington, Saturday January 21st 2017.

There Is Power In A Union – Billy Bragg