Girl Up is not a book I’d normally review partly because it isn’t yet available in the U.S. (It was published in England last spring and will be out in the U.S. in July.) Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and author of the ground breaking Everyday Sexism, wrote Girl Up to give teenage girls and young women a voice. She wrote it to counter the prevalent messages all teenage girls hear. On the opening page she tells girls that since they were babies, they’ve been getting messages about who they are and how the world sees them, messages that are all around them, all the time.
“They said 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 instructed you to wear just enough make-up to look ‘presentable’ but not enough to be a slag; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too slutty.
They warned you if you’re strong, opinionated, or take control, you’ll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker.
They asked you why you can’t take a joke.
They informed you that you should know your place.
The told you ‘that’s not for girls’; ‘take it as a compliment’; ‘don’t rock the boat’; ‘that’ll go straight to your hips’; ‘smile darling.’ They told you that ‘beauty is on the inside’ but you knew they didn’t really mean it.
Well, f*&% that. I’m here to tell you something else.”
Another reason why this isn't a title I'd typically include on this blog is that it’s filled to the brim and overflowing with the “f” word, with slang words for genitalia, and with statements and drawings that might embarrass some adult readers. However, many adult readers aren't the intended audience for this book (unless they’re teachers, parents, or counselors – then they need to read it).
From the reviews and comments I’ve read in British publications, girls thirteen and older can’t get enough of this book and love quoting parts of it to their friends and even to their mothers. This book is a game changer. This book is a survival guide for today’s teens and young women.
The main reason I am reviewing Girl Up now is that it allows me to share the following paragraph. If you have a teenager (boy or girl) living in your home, if you teach teenagers, if you know a teenager, or if you are a human being – read the next section.
“. . . sex is a lot like ice cream. . .
What’s most important of all is that you’d never force feed ice cream to somebody who said they didn’t want any. What a weird thing to do. People eat ice cream because they enjoy it, or it makes them feel good, or it’s a pleasurable thing to enjoy on their own or with somebody they’re close to. Nobody experiences any of these feelings from being force-fed ice cream when they don’t feel like it. You’d never turn up at someone’s house and prise a spoon between their lips unexpectedly without offering them ice cream first. Even if you came over planning to have ice cream, if they don’t want any you’d put it away again. It doesn’t stop you from going off and having some ice cream on your own, but you can’t force them to have any if they don’t feel like it. Even if someone initially thought they felt like ice cream, and got out the bowls and spoons, it’s still completely their right to decide if they change their mind and don’t want any after all. They equally have every right to push the bowl away in the middle of a scoop if they’ve had enough, or decide they want to stop eating it. If someone has decided they want one particular flavor of ice cream, you wouldn’t suddenly shove a different kind in their mouth while they’re in the middle of eating it. If they were asleep, or unconscious, or very drunk, you wouldn’t just randomly start feeding it to them. And having ice cream with someone once doesn’t give you the right to just assume they’ll always want to split a sundae with you in the future.
All these things also apply to sexual consent.”
Now, do you understand why I think this book is important and why I don't want to wait until July to tell you about it? Before July, you can contact your local independent book store (used or new) and ask them to get it for you now or to preorder it. You can also locate it online from sources like Abe Books, https://www.abebooks.com Alibris http://www.alibris.com/ or Powell’s www.powells.com
If you’re a parent, teacher, counselor, or anyone working with teenagers, promise me that you’ll find a way to read this book and that you’ll share it. After you read it, talk about it with others and figure out a way to get it into the hands of the girls you know.
Summing it Up: Girl Up is brilliant; it’s bold, profane, sarcastic, and just what teenage girls and young women deserve to have in their corner. If you’re a parent, teacher, counselor, or just someone who cares about the future of girls, read this book. Don’t worry, I’ll be back in July to remind you when Girl Up hits the U.S. shelves.
Rating: 5 stars
Category: Diet Coke and Gummi Bears, Five Stars, Nonfiction, Super Nutrition, Sushi with Green Tea Sorbet
Publication date: April, 2016 (in Great Britain), July, 2017 in the U.S.
The Everyday Sexism Site: http://everydaysexism.com/
Laura Bates columns: https://www.theguardian.com/profile/laura-bates
What Others are Saying:
The Economic Times: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/magazines/panache/girl-up-review-what-you-need-to-know-to-be-a-girl-in-2016/articleshow/52435644.cms
The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/apr/20/girl-up-laura-bates-review-feminism-follow-up-everyday-sexism
Huffington Post Women (United Kingdom): http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/laura-bates-girl-up-everyday-sexism_uk_570771bfe4b045b6729d036c