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 told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty.
They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you’ll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it’s fine for the boys, but you should know your place.
They told you ‘that’s not for girls’ – ‘take it as a compliment’ – ‘don’t rock the boat’ – ‘that’ll go straight to your hips’.
They told you ‘beauty is on the inside’, but you knew they didn’t really mean it.
Well screw that. I’m here to tell you something else.
Hilarious, jaunty and bold, GIRL UP exposes the truth about the pressures surrounding body image, the false representations in media, the complexities of a sex and relationships, the trials of social media and all the other lies they told us.
To be honest, I hadn’t twigged that the book was designed for teenagers, but that makes it pretty easy to read, pretty honest, and having look at so much for Raising Children in a Digital Age, there’s some useful and interesting content in there, including this, related to bullying:
Clearly much of the material comes from a strongly feminist agenda, which I’m getting pretty familiar with, but this nearly made me choke on my reading:
In fact, men are so much more confident about applying when they don’t fit the full criteria that when one university advertised a women-only position, THIRTY men applied for the job.
Another bit that deals with structural inequalities was particularly insightful – and there’s no dumbing down (but plenty of humour/visuals) in this book:
The book deals with public role models, including the limited representations in film, body image, a lot about sex and knowing your own body, the problems of sex that is being represented in the porn industry (why don’t we understand that the ‘fiction’ we see in e.g. Star Wars is being enacted in porn films – lighting, script, etc.), the ‘pressures’ of social media, and on pp. 302-303 asks ‘Can I be a feminist and also be [insert religion here]?’ – with an unqualified yes as an answer.
I’ll leave you with a quote from p.251
It’s clever, because we think of the media as reflecting the world around us, so it’s very powerful in convincing us that this is ‘the way things are’ and the way we are expected to behave and look, when in reality the media reflects the childish and narrow fantasies of a very small group of very powerful men.
Has that whetted your appetite? Buy the book here.
Dr Bex Lewis is passionate about helping people engage with the digital world in a positive way, where she has more than 20 years’ experience. She is Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing at Manchester Metropolitan University and Visiting Research Fellow at St John’s College, Durham University, with a particular interest in digital culture, persuasion and attitudinal change, especially how this affects the third sector, including faith organisations, and, after her breast cancer diagnosis in 2017, has started to research social media and cancer. Trained as a mass communications historian, she has written the original history of the poster Keep Calm and Carry On: The Truth Behind the Poster (Imperial War Museum, 2017), drawing upon her PhD research. She is Director of social media consultancy Digital Fingerprint, and author of Raising Children in a Digital Age: Enjoying the Best, Avoiding the Worst (Lion Hudson, 2014) as well as a number of book chapters, and regularly judges digital awards. She has a strong media presence, with her expertise featured in a wide range of publications and programmes, including national, international and specialist TV, radio and press, and can be found all over social media, typically as @drbexl.