Updated: Sep 26
Although this is a business blog, you'll know by now that I like to read quite widely, so sometimes that can be a lot of business books and other times I veer off into politics, and social sciences and sometimes a novel. My final list for 2019 is here I like to think varying reading inputs can help with business thinking anyway.
I've read two books so far this year, the first was Richard Bransons 'Screw it lets do it' which I loved, and the second The Guilty Feminist by Deborah Frances-White
I think I first heard about the Guilty Feminist podcast from The Power of Mum - Laura Oldfield Laura recommended it on an Instagram post and so I dutifully added it to my podcast list and low and behold forgot about it. This is no offence to the podcast but I just wasn't listening to many at that time.
When I spotted the book in Dulwich library at the end of last year I made the connection straight away and picked it up.
The title of the book refers to the fact that women will often say 'I'm a feminist but...' this book celebrates all of these stories, starting each chapter with a funny story. For example
" I am a feminist but I used to think that The Feminist Mystique was a classic perfume, like Chanel Number Five, not an important feminist text by Betty Friedan, and I only discovered it wasn't when my university tutor asked me how I felt it related to Sylvia Plath- and I replied that I didn't know she wore it"
About the Author
The author Deborah Frances-White is a fascinating woman in her own right. Raised as a Jehovah's Witness she writes about the experience of that on her as a young woman & her eventual confrontation with the faith.
She describes being minimised as a human being, being raised to hate her body, & to believe she was for breeding & spreading the word of the faith only.
Now a stand-up comedian she is best known for her Radio 4 show 'Deborah White rolls the Dice' she is also a screenwriter and regular speaker on inclusion and diversity to businesses.
There is so much in the book, its packed with thought provoking discussion points, but at just over 300 pages long it isn't an epic, and can be digested in a few sittings.
Some topics that run through the book are female guilt and shame, intersectionality, white privilege and white feminists needing to help other women, body shame & diet culture. There is also discussion of feminism from the LGBT perspective which poses some interesting discussion points, for example, should babies receive a gender label at birth or should we let them evolve and self identify? You can imagine the concerns of baby clothing providers and those seeking to enforce the Pink and Blue norms
There are interviews at the end of each chapter with people who have been involved with the podcast and are strong female role models and campaigners for women, such as Jessamyn Stanley a body positivity Yoga teacher, with a huge following globally. Jessamyn encourages her students to ask 'how do I feel?' rather than 'how do I look?'
Ever heard of the Bechdel Test?
Something I learned from the book was about The Bechdel Test.
In discussion of the visibility of women, and the need for women to see women in important roles throughout life #cantseeitcantbeit the Bechdel test is mentioned. I hadn't heard of it up to this point.
The Bechdel test was invented by Liz Wallace, popularised by Liz Bechdel, and asks whether a film or other work of fiction includes two named female characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man. Over half of all films fail this test. I'll let you take that last point in. Over half.
Confidence and Inclusion
So long as patriarchy is the norm, women are minorities in male spaces. Men are naturally more confident because all the signs are there for them to be in spaces in roles of leadership.
The book suggests that there is no such thing as a difficult women, when compared to her male counterpart because society will not tolerate it. The story returns to nature over nurture.
Inclusion is also a big theme. Women need to know that they are wanted by the communities they take part in. Being truly wanted for who you are is one of the most empowering things that can happen for people.
Being brave and doing brave things are important for raising our self esteem and giving us more confidence.
There is a lot you can say about this but Deborah points out that the message women receive by and large is risk is bad, and failure terrible.
There are lots of other things I've read about lack of start up funding for women, and business financing generally for women, compared to that of men. With the amount of women starting up businesses this raises the question how do they manage it without the same privileges offered their male counterparts.
There is so much I could say about this book, but I think you are far better off getting to the job of reading it and enjoying the wonderful light, intelligent writing of Deborah Frances- White.
I cannot resist leaving you with two of the quotes I most enjoyed from the book though, which of course come from famous feminist authors in their own rights.
' You may write me down in history, with your bitter twisted lies, you may trod me in the very dirt, but still like dust I'll rise'
Dr Maya Angelou - And still I rise
" We have to free half of the human race, the women, so they can help free the other half'
Emmeline Pankhurst - Founder of the Suffragettes
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Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in Nunhead near Peckham. Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing. Based at 61 Cheltenham Road, Peckham, SE15 3AF