HOW TO START A FEMINIST REVOLUTION:
1. Call out anything that is unfair on one gender
2. Don’t call out the same thing twice (so you can sleep and breathe)
3. Always try to keep it funny
4. Don’t let anything slide. Even when you start to break…
Lottie’s determined to change the world with her #Vagilante vlog. Shame the trolls have other
I would never have called myself a feminist. I’ve been in the very privileged position to have never really been affected by any major forms of gender discrimination. Foolishly I took that as a sign that things had moved on in the twenty-first century. I’m ashamed to admit I spent quite a lot of my time believing that feminism was a big fuss about something comparatively little. Thankfully this book changed that.
Instead of focusing on the big feminist headlines that we have sadly become immune to seeing in the news, Holly Bourne chooses to highlight the smaller scale, but no less prevalent, sexist issues that most women encounter on a daily basis, often without realising it. This includes an alarming range of things from getting wolf-whistled at walking down the street, to objectifying perfume adverts, to expensive female-branded products. Protagonist Lottie’s campaign to call out any act of sexism no matter how big or small, leaves her physically and emotionally exhausted and with so many things that need calling out, it’s easy to see why. The campaign has mixed successes but what the book can’t account for is the success the campaign has in spreading an awareness that reaches well beyond the narrative. Even I, who until now barely gave feminism a second thought, now regularly find myself calling out incidences of injustice against the sexes and by the looks of it I’m definitely not the only one.
But perhaps the best feature of the book is that Lottie never once claims to be perfect. In fact, there are times when she’s downright annoying and she knows it (I relate big time). She also admits that she’s not the perfect feminist thanks to a little thing called cognitive dissonance — when you act in a way that is contradictory to your beliefs and values. A classic example in feminism, and one that Lottie also deals with, is shaving. We only shave because society dictates that women should be always smoothy smooth; even other women will judge each other for not doing it, and I’m sorry to have to include myself in that category. I personally haven’t thrown my razor away just yet but Holly Bourne’s portrayal of cognitive dissonance has made me think twice about how I view those who have decided to go au natural.
Holly also succeeds in taking the pressure off of feminist activists. I’ve watched a few interviews with her now and the message she always seems to come back to is that girls can’t be perfect examples of feminism all the time, but that doesn’t mean you’re not a feminist. This really resonated with me as someone who always feels the pressure to do everything perfectly. I really did feel empowered by this book and now I’m keen to follow my own feminist agenda safe in the knowledge that it’s okay to mess up.
And on top of all that What’s a Girl Gotta Do? is simply a great YA read. It has all you expect from a YA novel, including enviable friendship groups, hot romances and tense questions about the future. Holly maintains the perfect balance of real and funny throughout. I can’t wait to read the previous two books of the Spinster trilogy and am looking forward to the novella coming out later this year.
Oh, and a quick note from the publishing geek in me: Usborne’s #IAmAFeminist campaign was such an impressive feat of marketing. They were definitely the envy of all marketing teams at YALC. It just goes to show the importance of relevant topics in publishing, even in YA publishing. And feminism is so relevant.