The other day at work, while we were generally chatting about films and TV and the like, a male co-worker announced that he didn’t agree with Brie Larson’s comments about not wanting white males on her press tour. Automatically, myself and another guy I work with said: ‘that’s not what she meant’ – he then immediately stepped back and allowed me the floor to explain that Larson wanted her press tour to give opportunities to women that normally were not accessible.
We had a spirited debate, where he argued that the right person for the job should get to do it and if they are a white man, they shouldn’t be punished for that; I pointed out that those women could be the right person, but they never get the chance to prove that because the spaces are already filled with aforementioned white men. It was all very respectful and we hugged it out after, but I didn’t realise until I went on my lunch break that a third co-worker, at the same time the original issue was brought up had said ‘you’ve just said that to the wrong person.’
I’ve only been at my job for four months but in that time I can’t think of a moment where I would have mentioned something to divulge my feminism. Not that I’m hiding it either, just that there’s never been a point where I’ve felt the need to bring it up as my work environment is usually female dominated and the gents I work with are generally respectful.
So, I find it pretty cool that somehow, somewhere along the way (maybe it was the outraged face I pulled when the initial Brie Larson comment was made, maybe there have been throwaway comments I never realised I made because my values are just a part of me intrinsically, maybe I just give off some uberfeminist pheromones, maybe it’s just because I’m a relatively well-spoken 20-something woman living in the 21st century) my other male colleagues figured out I’m a feminist and automatically knew that this argument was mine.
Hopefully that is because its becoming part of the norm to assume women are feminists; the taboo of bra-burning and man-hating is no longer the main focus and everyone is sitting up and paying attention to and understanding the larger picture – equality for everyone.
This is a very long intro to my review of Feminists Don’t Wear Pink, a collection of stories and essays from women of all backgrounds about what feminism means to them. This book isn’t a bible or textbook on how to be a feminist – it’s a funny, heartwarming, sad, anger-inducing eye-opener into the lives of 50+ women who all consider themselves feminists.
Every piece is a fascinating look into someone’s personal feminist agenda, so it’s impossible to truly have favourites. Overall, this book is an absolute must-read and it’s hard to write a review that encapsulates all the feels I had during each section. So instead I’m going to do mini-reviews! One for every essay…
Not all at once though! Whew, that would take a while. Luckily for me, the book is split into six chunks with a different theme. As well as talking about each piece, I’ll also mention my own experience under that theme and hopefully mention a feminist experience or story from my own life too!
Today, I’ll be starting with the first one: Epiphany!
a moment when you suddenly feel that you understand, or suddenly become conscious of, something that is very important to you
Epiphany doesn’t just refer to women realising they are feminists – some of the pieces do involve this, but other use the lens of feminism to highlight other things they have realised they care about and are linked to the cause such as their gender, their bodies and their cats (hi Evanna Lynch).
My Feminism by Saoirse Ronan
Multi-Oscar nominated actress Saoirse Ronan starts with a sweet list of every moment she can remember as a ‘series of events’ which led her to feminism. She covers so many experiences over just three pages, all of which may seem small and discerning until made into the larger picture of her feminist identity.
Cat Women by Evanna Lynch
Lovely, quirky Evanna Lynch, best known for playing Luna Lovegood and competing in Dancing With The Stars, brings a lovely stroke of humour to an essay where she explains how period pants helped her realise what kind of woman she is. She is touchingly honest, mentioning her eating disorder and the help she got to overcome it, and listing a couple of literary heroines who defined her childhood.
The Catastrophizer’s Alphabet by Kat Dennings
Comedy actress Kat Dennings pays tribute to her mother in a hilarious list of all the ways she was warned she could be kidnapped. She highlights rape culture attitude, by ironically suggesting that issues like needing to borrow a brush to fix her bangs or the smell of her perfume will lure kidnappers and incite them to take her. Dennings’ distinctive tone of humour is clear throughout – you can almost hear her sarcastic take as you read.
Call Me A Feminist by Chimwemwe Chiweza
Chimwemwe Chiweza is a Girl Up club leader in Malawi and offers up a brief, but moving depiction of her mother’s life as her feminist role model. She writes about her own ideals of championing women and allowing them to reach their full potential in an empowering speech which concludes with the haunting line ‘so if that is what a feminist is, then yes, call me a feminist.’
My Feminism by Alison Sudol
Singer-song writer and actress Alison Sudol, probably most recognisable as Queenie (SHE DESERVES BETTER) in the Fantastic Beasts films brings up her fears of announcing her feminism due to worrying about the backlash she might get. As someone who hates conflict, this piece really resonated with me – she is anxious about the divisive nature of feminism, how even within groups of women some are accused of not being feminist enough and that she could be wrongly seen as an angry, hateful, violent person if she openly declares her feminism. She resolves to recommit herself to equality, with love as her driving force in a beautifully written and very honest piece of writing.
The Question by Lolly Adefope
Funny lady Lolly Adefope writes a piece that is both amusing and anger-inducing. Set within a dream sequence where Lolly is taking part in a quiz show where she is patronised and pitied by the male host and audience, she gives insight into how every woman under pressure to impress without getting the credit she is due must feel. Her final question forces her to choose whether she is ‘a) black or b) a woman’ – her speech refusing to fit neatly into either of those categories is fantastic.
Finding Feminism by Elyse Fox
Activist Elyse Fox talks candidly about her initial misunderstanding of feminism, feeling she was segregated from the rest of the community due to being black. She is open about how she values some traditional gender cues, like gentlemanly behaviour from men she is dating, but doesn’t feel she has to compromise those ideals in order to want equality for all.
A Brief History of My Womanhood by Charlie Craggs
An incredibly moving and brave timeline, written by trans activist and author Charlie Craggs about their experience growing up. Broken into important dates throughout their life including the time they realised the transphobia they experience had morphed into sexism, dates confirmed for various life changing surgeries and moments in their childhood where trans role models inspired them.
With Darkness Comes Light by Charlotte Elizabeth
Designer Charlotte Elizabeth recounts a difficult memory from her life which she uses as the driving force behind her feminism – as a teenager, several doctors didn’t take her complaints seriously enough because they thought she was being an overdramatic girl. These ignored issues culminated in a stroke, but instead of being eclipsed by her pain, Elizabeth used her recovery time to realise that there is a deep rooted issue in society where women’s voices aren’t held in the regard they should be.
Bridget Jones’ Feminism Today Diary by Helen Fielding
A funny interlude from everyone’s favourite romcom legend! Bridget Jones muses in her diary about how things that were acceptable in her heyday – casual misogyny in films, choices made to impress blokes – are now being pulled up. Following a few wine-fuelled instagram rants, she attempts to educate her son over breakfast only to find he’s already plugged in and supporting equality – hopefully highlighting that the next generation are going to be better than the previous.
10 Things I’ve Learned Running My Own Company by Zoe Sugg
YouTube vlogger Zoe Sugg candidly lists things she has learned from running her own company – basically, what it says on the tin! She talks about being a woman at the head of a worldwide corporation and the struggles she has faced to get there.
Imposter Syndrome by Alaa Murabit
In a story that is a shocking look at how ingrained gender roles are in society, doctor and peace advocate Alaa Murabit writes how she was shuffled out of her chair at a meeting she was running as it was reserved for Doctor Murabit. Yep. A staff member automatically assumed that the head of such an important meeting had to be a man and ended kicking her out of her place! Murabit also backs up her words with facts and figures, explaining the statistics which make it obvious that we should get more women into education and positions of power.
Feminism Is… by Rhyannon Styles
An acrostic poem by performer and journalist by Rhyannon Styles listing all the things feminism is, including being intersectional and inclusive.
Feminism, My Vulva and Me by Liv Little
Magazine editor Liv Little writes a warmly funny piece about sexuality and body image, focusing on her vulva. After realising all the men she has slept with have thought something about it was odd, she is intensely self-conscious; until she mentions it to a friend and realises that everyone is built differently – including their genital area. She also notes that women are much more supportive of her appearance and acknowledges that being ashamed of her body doesn’t ‘take away any feminist credentials’ but has helped her become prouder than ever.
17 Truths About Muslim Women by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh
A fascinating and poignant piece written by Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, listing 17 truths about Muslim women. It is funny in parts – ‘my religion mandates sexual satisfaction from my partner; what does yours do?’ – and startlingly to the point in others – ‘forcing her to take it off is not the same as forcing her to put it on.’ Overall, it is an eye-opening read breaking down the myth of a feminist Muslim woman because, yes, she does exist and she exists loudly too.
Like Saoirse Ronan, I don’t think I can pinpoint my feminist epiphany, but whether it was one moment or several which have built up to to make me the person I am today, I sure am glad they happened! And as a feminist, it is amazing to be in the company of women like these, who are only the first chapter’s contributors – oh yes, I have five more chapters of incredible women to discuss before I’m done!
Have you read Feminists Don’t Wear Pink? Which essays resounded with you? What is feminism to you? Did you have an epiphany?
Let me know in the comments!