Sunday, 8 March 2015

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates

Today, Sunday the 8th of March, it is International Women's Day, and as I was planning to write this soon anyway, no day seemed more fitting than a day which is dedicated to the very same cause that Everyday Sexism is: a greater awareness for female equality.
Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates is a book brimming with feminism and is based on and outlines a gender equality campaign that strives to make women and girls' voices heard and help ignorant people understand that sexism is still a big issue. Sick and tired of the constant sexist harassment that herself and other women receive on a day-to-day basis, in 2012 Laura Bates established the Everyday Sexism Project. Every girl and woman has a story, a story of discrimination and prejudice because of their gender, and the Everyday Sexism Project is a way to use an online space and social media (through the project's website and Twitter) for ordinary women all over the world to come together and share their stories. They range from rape and domestic abuse or sexual harassment on the street, to losing a job after becoming pregnant as well as a whole host of other stories that scream to people, loud and clear, that sexism is still a very prominent issue today. The project is showing women everywhere that they are not alone in this struggle, proving wrong those who say sexism is dead and empowering and inspiring women to stand up and shout back.

This book, written by Laura Bates, pulls all these stories together, all the things that have been learnt from the project as well as vital statistics. She addresses the major issues that women face due to sexism with a strong and intelligent voice that forces people to recognise that sexism truly is endemic- socially, politically and economically. Following a foreword by Sarah Brown and an introduction fittingly called Everybody Has a Tipping Point the book holds 12 different sections that outline some of the most important topics within the issue of sexism. These sections are: Silenced Women: The Invisible Problem; Women in Politics; Girls; Young Women Learning; Women in Public Spaces; Women in the Media; Women in the Workplace; Motherhood; Double Discrimination; What About the Men?; Women Under Threat and finally, People Standing Up. Each separate section starts with some extremely well researched vital statistics, followed by a brief introduction to the topic before proceeding to showcase some of the stories that women have shared with the project, the author's response to this as well as a more in-depth explanation surrounding the topic about why this is an issue. Some glorious feminist rants are also thrown in there for good measure.
In my opinion, this book was fantastic: inspiring, informational and wonderfully interesting. Although I already considered myself a feminist, knew quite a bit about this topic and already wanted to do something about this huge issue, I learnt so much from this book and found myself becoming increasingly eager to make a difference. I found that this book was extremely well-researched and these snippets of information and facts brilliantly supported the fantastic arguments surrounding the many important sub-topics within this issue, a lot of which I have already used in countless rants and arguments with misogynists and ignorant people alike.  
I also thought that it was extremely well written. Laura Bates managed to get her points her across very clearly so that everything she wrote about made so much sense - it seemed like she had the answers to everything. Her writing was also very emotive and powerful which really inspired me and made me feel so many emotions, something that I believe is very important in a non-fiction book where issue are tackled and it's aims are to make people more aware of the problem. 
The vital statistics at the beginning of each chapter were, in my opinion, a valuable addition to the book because they introduced the sub-topic and gave me more of an insight. It also gave me some perspective of the main issues and the scale of the problem. Furthermore, I felt that it really aided in the understanding of the section throughout the rest of the chapter and gave Laura Bates writing, opinions and information validity. 
The stories from so many women and girls were a really powerful tool in the book and really demonstrated that this is a problem that affects so many, not just the odd few. I really enjoyed this aspect because it also ensures that girls and women everywhere know that they are not alone. Many of the stories made me feel very emotional, showcasing that this is the reality for so many girls and women portraying the monumental issue that this is. 

Many extremely important topics are addressed in this book. For example, Laura Bates writes about the society's ignorant view of feminists' as "feminazis" who think women should rule the world when in actual fact all we want is equal rights for both men and women and this is why everyone should be a feminist. If you believe in equal rights for both men and women, when asked if you are a feminist, regardless of your sex or gender (because it does affect men too), your immediate response should be yes
The issue of cat calling and the media's representation of women is also talked about, addressing the misconception that commenting on a female's physical appearance and consequently making them feel vulnerable and insecure is okay; as if it doesn't matter if you are a straight A student, or someone who dedicates all her time to charity, people will always comment on what your wearing first, or the amount of cleavage that you are showing. It is making people believe that behaviour like this does no harm, that its fine to sexually objectify and oppress women even thought, evidently, it's not. 
The topic of sexual and domestic violence is a huge theme addressed in this book and is an issue that I have always, and even more so after reading this book, feel extremely passionate about. 1 in 3 women will experience rape or domestic violence and every 6 minutes a female is raped causing millions and millions of girls and women (even ones who haven't experienced it) to feel extremely vulnerable and alone as well as terrified simply walking down the street and yet these women are still being accused of attention-seeking, lying and are being convinced that they are the ones to blame while so many aren't believed, so many abusers walk free and hundreds of thousands of them stay quiet about what they have seen, what has happened to them, because of fear of being accused for something that isn't true, fear that they will be blamed for wearing a short skirt or getting a little too drunk. Let me tell you something though, women and girls can wear what they want and do what they want. We can show off our bodies and flirt and drink and that doesn't matter in the slightest because we are in charge of our own bodies and not giving our consent is still just as valid regardless. Sexual, and violent, abuse is never the victim's, or survivor's, fault. They should not be blamed.
In the book, women and girls are also shown standing up against all of this, and this is what empowered me the most. It showed how little reason there is for this oppression, objectification and harassment. Women can be strong, smart and witty and still *shock...horror* wear a short dress with a low cut top or upload a selfie on Instagram with their cleavage on show if that's what they want to do. Just like how men can be strong, smart and witty and upload a selfie on Instagram without a shirt on if that's what they want to do. Ask yourself this, in what way is that any different? 

So many other issues (including more global ones) are addressed that are equally important and need to be equally targeted which is why this book is an extremely important and inspiring read that is making a huge difference and I honestly believe that it is essential for everyone to read it. I can't recommend it enough. Although, as Laura Bates herself states, Everyday Sexism is not a book that offers solutions to any of these problems, nor does it aim to, it is one that raises awareness for sexism and that is where we must start in order to fight it. By getting women, and men, to shout out and say enough is enough, awareness is being raised and those who are ignorant are being forced to realise that sexism is still very much a problem, that there are many things that need to change. 

Enough is enough. 

Monday, 2 March 2015

February Reads

For once I am actually posting this on time - yay for me finally learning how to be efficient... This month, I ended up reading a lot more than I expected to (probably due to the fact that I read all the books rather than doing work but anyway- ). I managed to read 7 books and a total of 1986 pages as well as an audio book. I really enjoyed them all so am very pleased with my month of reading.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Cath and Wren are identical twins and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they're off to university and Wren's decided she doesn't want to be one half of a pair any more -she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It's not so easy for Cath. She would rather bury herself in the fanfiction she writes where there's romance far more intense than anything she's experienced in real life. Now Cath has to decide whether she's ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she's realising that there's more to learn about love than she ever thought possible.
This book was a reread for me, being one of my favourites last year and if possible, I loved it even more the second time around. Rainbow Rowell's characters are fantastic. She puts so much thought into them and develops them so well, allowing them to have their own flaws and quirks. Levi is just... auhh, I kinda, sorta really love him and wish he was real. I also love Cath and most of the other characters too. The writing is brilliant and the dialogue is well executed so it actually sounds like real-life speech rather than movie speech. Although for me, the story and protagonist was only partially relatable, I can definitely see why other people would find it very much so and ultimately, it is just a really brilliant, cute, real story that I couldn't put down. Every time I finish it, I just want to pick it back up and read it all over again - it has given me such a book hangover. Sometimes, when I'm feeling a bit low I reread my favourite scenes (I don't care if that sounds sad) and it never fails to cheer me up...yep it's that good.

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Of Mice and Men is the tragic story of the complex bond between two migrant workers in Central California. George Milton and Lennie Small share a companionship, so unusual for ranch workers like them, and Lennie, a simple-minded, mentally handicapped man who doesn't understand his own strength, relies deeply on George who looks after him and together, they dream of one day owning their own small farm. After getting into some trouble in the town they used to work in, they move on up north to another ranch that appears somewhat troublesome.
This is a book I read in school last yer, and I quickly reread it to refresh my memory of it for an English essay that I had to write. I find it hard to review a book that I have analysed so much because it is difficult to distinguish between what I enjoy and what I appreciate about it but I can say with some certainty that it was an interesting but not challenging to study novella and I really like the writing style and main themes of the story (e.g. dreams and loneliness), as well as the characters in this book because it was all very well developed and reflects a lot of what society was like during the 1930's. The story is not one that I massively enjoy but I definitely appreciate what this book is all about and I recommend it to anyone who is a little interested.

The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman 
(Synopsis to 1st book so to avoid spoilers.) Here lives an orphaned girl names Lyra Belaqua, whose carefree life among the scohlars at Oxford's Jordon College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim ouutline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternative universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs.Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multi-layered naarrative, however, nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument. All around children are disappearing - victims of so-called "Gobblers" - and being ued as subjects in terrible experiments. And somehow both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved. 
I started the final instalment to the His Dark Materials trilogy as an audio book absolutely ages ago and for some reason never finished it, but I started it back up this month so I could get in some "reading" while doing other bits and bobs and I'm really glad I did because it was a great end to the trilogy. Although it didn't feel like everything was completely tied up (there were still some loose ends and parts I was confused about), I still feel pretty satisfied. The story is really fun and the writing is brilliant. I also really enjoyed the characters and world building as well as the background information - it managed to answer some of my questions from the previous books. This trilogy is a definite recommendation if you haven't yet got round to it.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
What secrets lie behind the doors at Misselthwaite Manor? Recently arrived at her uncle's estate, orphaned Mary Lennox is spoilt, sickly and certain she won't enjoy living there. Then she discovers the arched doorway into an overgrown garden, shut up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. Mary soon begins transforming it into a thing of beauty, unaware that she is changing too. But Misselthwaite hides another secret, as Mary discovers one night. High in a dark room, away from the rest of the house, lies her young cousin, Colin, who believes he is an incurable invalid, destined to die young. causing him to fly into frightful tantrums. Will Mary be able to help Colin by getting him to love the secret garden as much as she does and letting its magic work wonders?
This children's classic is such a lovely story with some truly lovely morals. It is full of childish excitement, development and beauty. Although it had important, deeper and darker themes, it really took me back to when I was young and enjoyed running around outside with my friends and it was so sweet and heart warming. The writing was also brilliant, with beautiful descriptions and fun, humorous dialogue - something that I really enjoyed. I found that the characters were real and interesting and saw them really develop.  My only issue with this book is that that it started of a little slowly for my liking and took me a while to get into, but once I had, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
Sent to investigate the disappearance of two little girls in her home town, Camille finds herself reluctantly installed in the family mansion, reacquainting herself with her distant mother and a precocious thirteen-year-old half-sister she barely knows. Haunted by a family tragedy, troubled by the disquieting grip her young sister has on the town, Camille struggles with a familiar need to be accepted. But as clues turn into dead ends Camille finds herself identifying with the young victims and realises she will have to unravel the puzzle of her own past if she's to survive this homecoming.
This was a pretty dark and psychological crime story which is not something I usually read on account on how much of a wimp I am, but I am so glad that I decided to risk it because it was truly great. Gillian Flynn writes really well, managing to give the protagonist a really distinct voice and creating extremely interesting characters which was something that really made this story for me and made it all the more realistic and absorbing. The themes in this book are pretty dark, traumatic and emotional, which it hard for me to read at times, but they were a really important part of the story and added a lot to the mystery aspect. One major part of Camille's background and character is self harm and it is very darkly portrayed and used throughout the book to show Camille's character development and psychological well-being as well as having quite a deep effect on the whole story. (I do warn however, that this may be a trigger to some people on account of the detail gone in to). All in all this was a great read that left me shocked and almost emotionally scarred and something I definitely recommend to people who enjoy psychological, darker themes in a story.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
It's 1999 and the Internet is still a novelty. At a newspaper office, two colleagues, Beth and Jennifer, e-mail back and forth. They discuss their lives in hilarious detail, from love troubles to family traumas. And Lincoln, a shy IT guy who thought he'd spend his time building firewalls and crushing hackers but instead is responsible for monitoring e-mails, spends his hours reading every one of Beth and Jennifer's exchanges. At first their e-mails offer a welcome distraction, but the more he reads, the more he finds himself falling for one of them. By the time Lincoln realises just how head-over-heels he is, it is too late to introduce himself. What would he say...?
Attachments was my third Rainbow Rowell book, having read both Fangirl, which I absolutely loved, and Eleanor and Park. Although I enjoyed Eleanor and Park, I was mildly disappointed because, for me, it felt unrealistic and didn't live up to the hype that it had received so I was hoping that Attachments would be more of a hit with me as the synopsis sounded so appealing. It did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the format of this book, with alternating chapters of emails and of Lincoln's point of view. I felt that it was a really interesting storyline that was well written along with some very well developed and enjoyable characters that were really relatable. This book was extremely addicting because of the flowing writing style and absorbing story meaning that i found it almost impossible to put down. My one criticism, however, would be that the story did not last long enough. Once I had reached the end, I found myself wanting more and feeling as though not everything was tied up, as if the story continued elsewhere... Maybe this is more telling for how much I enjoyed the characters and where it felt like the story was going. Asides from that, I really enjoyed the ending of Attachments and this book as a whole. It's safe to say that it has restored my faith in Rainbow Rowell as a talented story teller.

Everyday Sexism by Laura Bates
Everyday Sexism is a book written in relation to the Everyday Sexism Project which was set up by Laura Bates so that people could share there stories of their sexist experiences online and raise awareness. The book is full of these stories as well explanations and rants about why sexism is still a big problem today, as well as a book that could be a massive eye opener to those who don't realise that sexism is an issue. Everyone needs to read this. I am currently writing a review for this book which will include a bit about sexism, feminism and my views so look out for that if you are interested.

Pigeon Pie by Nancy Mitford
Pigeon Pie tells the story of the highly imaginative Lady Sophia Garfield. When she discovers a nest of very real German spies living in her home, nobody believes her; with her maid murdered and her beloved bulldog held hostage, she sets out alone to gain proof and save Britain.
This was my fist Nancy Mitford book, and having not heard much about her I really wasn't sure what to expect but luckily, I very much enjoyed this novel. Pigeon Pie is very satirical and mocks British high society, religious cults and spy stories and I really enjoyed it for that as I found it very funny and light. I also thought that the authors writing style was brilliant - witty and flowing. The story was really fun and the snippets of history about ww2 (though it probably wasn't really history for Nancy Mitford) was pretty interesting so I liked that aspect too. I definitely recommend that you give Nancy Mitford a try if you enjoy satire, wit and books set between the 30s and 60s and I can't wait to try out some of her other works.

I hope you enjoyed these mini reviews and are having a good week. What did you read in February, anything particularly special?
Love Ellen xxx