Book Review: Girl Up: Grow Up-And Girl Up

Uma Madhu, II Year B. A. English.

Laura Bates’ ‘Girl Up’ tells us something powerful, something game changing. It tells us to forget the rules with an audacity that defies all the notions of girlhood and womanhood that were carefully ingrained in everything we consumed. It tells us to question the absolutes. It shows us the magnitude of the misogyny that surfaces in everything from airbrushing to catcalling to assault- the misogyny that leads us to feel that life comes with caution labels to the young and the female. Bates makes it clear that she, quite rightly, isn’t going to be polite about it. She has no qualms in being honest, in being personal, in being rancid, in being explicit, in being enraged, in calling out the lies of the powerful. Where young women are told to shut their mouths and smile passively, Girl Up shouts. Where we are told to be ashamed, be abashed of our sexuality, Girl Up looks it in the eye. When we are taught to fear our bodies and treat them as “problem areas”, Girl Up teaches us to know our body, and embrace it.

This book takes feminism and sets it in the practical framework of everyday life. She provides, along with tongue in cheek “choose your adventure quizzes”, sturdy, sensible “big sister advice” on relationships, real stories of real women facing all-too-real forms of oppression and a glimpse at what feminism is and isn’t about, practical response plans, step by step guides to organizing protests and setting up a feminist platform at college, methods to respond to sexism and harassment, and resources that lead us to organizations and institutions that could lend a helping hand.

This bold, eloquent work, with illustrations of dancing vaginas and female bodies of all shapes, colors and sizes, is a celebration of girlhood, of womanhood, of female strength and solidarity. The incisive, quirky, relatable wittiness of Bates’ voice sets ‘Girl Up’ apart from other self-help books in the same vein. It may not encompass all the facets of feminism and may be limited by the age and nationality it caters to, but it is what its audience needs- a loud, pronounced, booming declaration, that it is more than okay, in fact, that it is absolutely amazing to grow up as a woman and a feminist.
After all, we need someone to tell the man’s world to “Girl Up”.


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