It was a toss-up between this, and ‘Everyday Sexism’. This won. And although this is Bates’s second book, I’m glad I’ve had this as my first experience of her work. I mean, it opens with a recommendation from Emma Watson. What more do you need to be sold on this?
If you follow me on IG then you may remember an instastories of this book, and that I felt it should be read in high schools across the nation- it was that good. ‘Girl Up’ is a book aimed at girls, of an age quite a bit younger than me (to be honest though, it filled in parts of my sex education that STILL had gaps in) -but I don’t think it would harm many boys to read it either. I think that its a really good idea to set reading for our teens when sex education begins. Just two books a year. Maybe only for one year, to get them started on looking into stuff they need to know. One book aimed at boys, one aimed at girls. And here’s the thing: both sexes read both books. Because the more we feel the opposite sex “get us” the easier it is to talk about sex, eradicate sexism, and basically make life a hell of a lot easier. Sexism is a focal point of this book, and sexism affects both sexes- historically, more so women (heads up: there’s a handy little snippet on why its called “feminism” if feminism is all about equality).
This is the thing: in Britain we have a pretty horrific attitude to sex. Sex education is on the same level as talking about haemorrhoids and bowel movements. Which is completely and utterly wrong. The less educated people are the less fun, and the more dangerous/disguising/confusing/embarrassing, sex seems. The more sex is something to be ashamed of, the more likely people are to turn to porn as education. This is in no way a good idea. Mainly because porn does create ideas of “how sex should be”- ideas which are dangerous, disgusting, confusing and embarrassing. Nearly all porn videos make sex into something that degrades instead of empowering women. In a real relationship all parties having sex should feel respected and should be enjoying it.
The book covers topics I personally could really have used a bit more information on during puberty. From a colour-in diagram of the vagina, to information on porn, sexism, come-backs to sexist taunts, speaking out, and owning the fact that I am a woman. It is for anyone who identifies as female, and encourages us to band together, stop bashing each other, and generally girl up (btw have you ever considered how odd it is that we say “man up”, when we have plenty of incredibly tough women out there? How damaging is that to our ideas of what makes a man and woman respectively- implying women can’t be strong, and men are banned from showing any emotion?).
Whilst on the topic of puberty and sex….Let me tell you about my sex education lessons. Pads and condoms. That was IT. We had “PHSCE” lessons. God knows what that even stood for. They were basically an excuse to doss off for an hour every week, because the teacher couldn’t control the class and their wild excitement regarding genitals. Sex education needs to be more than that. This book fills in all of the gaps (or, most of them). Sex education needs to encompass increasing our knowledge of protection, and also the bits and pieces that need protecting from STDs and the like. But it needs to cover the many other aspects of having sex as well. We also need to know about masturbation: it is completely normal. We need to know what constitutes harassment, why equality between the sexes is needed, why there are double standards for the genders and what we can do about it. Ultimately we need to teach people from a young age that no one gender is better than another, and that this should translate into all areas of our lives. It is also essential that we know where inequality is coming from, and why we need to question it. On top of all of this, it may be useful to continue with the “why”, and ask why a “slut” is a thing- when its about as real as a unicorn (Hannah Witton did a great video on this here. Seriously GO WATCH IT).
The tone of this book is comic, incredibly easy to read. It is very much like listening to a knowledgeable friend you’d slob out with discussing feminism, sex, equality, and funny puberty stories- whilst eating pizza. I took away a LOT of information, but it also kept me laughing throughout. This, I think, is the best kind of informative book. I’m sure it will inspire and inform a generation of strong women.