Florence Given’s debut, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty had to be my most anticipated non fiction book of the year, and it was everything I imagined and much, much more.
To quote the description on the back, it is the
“ultimate book for anyone who wants to challenge the narratives supplied to us by the patriarchy. It will teach you how to protect your energy, tell you that you are the love of your own life, and that today is a wonderful day to dump them. Florence Given is here to remind you that you owe men nothing, least of all pretty”
and the book also comes with a warning:
“Contains explicit content (and a load of uncomfortable truths)”
I first came across Given and her work on Instagram just after the time I would’ve needed her most, with a reminder of who the hell I am from a dramatic leopard print clad blonde woman being exactly what I was missing in the years after finishing school. Turns out though, I still had so much more to learn and gain, particularly from her words and illustrations in this book, even if I was already back to my impassioned feminist ways. Now I know we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but I am obsessed with different types of books and this one is one of the most pleasing and downright stunning hardbacks I’ve ever owned.
From the lovely material of the cover…
and the perfect leopard print end papers…
to the bangin’ illustrations…
and use of colour throughout.
All that, plus so much education for living as a woman in this odd world we exist in or as Maya Angelou would say, making sure that our
“mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style”
What more could one possibly ask for? Well probably equal pay, efficient combating of climate change and maybe even an end to world hunger, but in terms of what can be contained in a book, it sure packs a punch. Some chapter headings include:
- refuse to find comfort in other women’s flaws
- protect your energy
- maybe it’s a girl crush, maybe you’re queer
- if it’s not a “fuck yes”, it’s a no
- check your privilege
I spent most of my time while reading this book having to stop, sit back and take some time to think about what I’d just read. There’s a LOT to take in and even more to analyse, to apply, and to rethink within yourself and the way you look at others. I wish I could give this book to every young girl, as I know reading it when I was younger would’ve saved me a hell of a lot of time. It’s one I think I’ll go back to again and again for reminders and guidance and I doubt I’m going to stop recommending it any time soon.
I really adored all the writing on learning and bettering ourselves while being who we truly want to be and not toning that down for other people (and the patriarchy). It was incredibly reaffirming to read Given’s experiences of changing and realising what she wants out of life and the often textbook reaction of others to people who are coming into their own. Also that it’s normal and makes sense to be embarrassed by your past self, it just proves you’re learning and improving. And this knowledge also comes with a whole lot of uncomfortable realisations about not just your own actions, but how other people have treated you. The book certainly isn’t going to sort everything but it’s a starting point for putting the work in and a great help in pointing out the social constructs we’ve been taught to believe as immutable facts of life. Which for the most part, are just holding us back and suppressing all the different unique amazing parts of women and their minds, and just people in general, because constructs keep us all in boxes, just some of us are in more privileged boxes than others.
And would you look at that, a handy little reminder for a certain author to please act with kindness as what the world definitely doesn’t need is her using her platform to cause more harm to human beings who are already dealing with enough shite from her fellow TERFs. Thankfully I’ve not been on twitter in months (as Given advices, I’ve stopped scrolling in the mornings) so I haven’t been ranting so much into the void, but I’m still angry and ready to shout whenever my voice may be needed. It’s a shame she who must not be named doesn’t take a break as well.
Back to some compassion though, this new normal seems like the perfect time for relearning what we thought we knew about society and the pressures put upon us and in doing so finding out so much more about ourselves. The book couldn’t come at a better time for a fresh start with a newfound sense of self-awareness and privilege and what we can do with that. And will likely also bring a hell of a lot of angry feminists to the surface. Be scared.
As Florence Given says,
“Feminism is going to ruin your life (in the best way possible)”
Read the book, I promise you won’t regret it. Well you might for a bit because of all those uncomfortable truths but it gets better and that growth is worth it.