Feminist Reading Journey: Alice Walker ‘The Color Purple’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

I don’t know what it’s like to be poor (sure, my family were not what I would have called ‘well off’ but we were far from poor); I don’t know what it’s like to be black; whether I’m ugly or not is subjective and my cooking skills can be pretty decent depending on my mood. But basically what I’m trying to say is my situation in life is quite far away from that of the main protagonist of Alice Walker’s infamous novel ‘The Color Purple’; however that is the reason I started this whole journey. To read and learn about experiences other than my own.

One of my favourite traits in a person is when they can be empathic to other people. When they can push past whether something ‘offends’ them and see why it might offend others. Something, which is still lost on a lot of people. As, for example a few weeks ago I saw three men dressed up as the Jamaican bob sled team from the film Cool Runnings complete with black face, pop up on my Facebook feed, and a lot of the comments I saw focused on how it was just a ‘laugh’ and people should get over it. They concentrated on how it didn’t offend them, so people it did offend must just be oversensitive. I think this is a good example of racism in Britain works, and why people do not point to it as much as racism in America. It’s less blatant except when something like this pops up, and people cannot understand why their behaviour would cause offence. See also this brilliant article on how golliwogs are viewed in Britain today for this in action. Now, don’t get me confused, I am FAR very from being qualified to be the voice of racism within Britain. Not least, because I live in a privileged position that means I’ve never been the victim of it.

If you’re wondering what my ‘privilege’ is, basically I’m white, and I’m petite in height (this is not generally viewed as something that connotes ‘privilege’ but I’ll explain my reasoning a bit more below). And yes that means I get asked for directions a lot, as generally, people don’t see me as a threat. I’ve noticed this in airports/ in passport control, as well, where even my significant other has been treated different to me (not horribly I might add though- this experience is nothing compared to what people of colour have to go through), despite being the same level of politeness as me. However, he’s tall and some people can find the intimidating. I know this because when they realised that he was with me their whole body language towards him changed dramatically. I can only imagine what people of Asian, or black, or any other person who doesn’t present as white has had to go through.

However, forgive my rant. On to the book. Though, my rant is important because it shows just how good this book is at making you think about the racism in society that surrounds you, even though this book was set in a different time period and place to me. Also, for those not aware here is the context of the book, which I am unashamedly taking from Wikipedia: “Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of African-American women in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture”. The woman the novel specifically focuses on however is Celie, who is poor and uneducated and living in the American South, who begins the novel with a horrible home life, followed by a disastrous marriage.

So before I spoil too much of the plot let’s get onto the main things I love about the themes of this novel:

  • Female empowerment- Celie just doesn’t give up, no matter what life throws at her- she really rises like a phoenix out of the ashes (forgive my overdone metaphor).
  • Female friendships- it’s a little worrying that I still get happy about seeing positive female friendships in books and on the screen (though I’d like to point out this is not me referencing the film because I have yet to see it!).
  • Female sexuality- this book talks about female desire, which is important (obviously), and it has LGBTQ+ representation!!!

The Color Purple

Image: @aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Instagram 

So as you can see there is a heavy focus on the female within this novel, which is not entirely surprising as I’ve dubbed it as part of my feminist reading journey. However, in my research I saw that a lot of members of the black community were upset over the representation of black men as only being barbaric and as sexual predators. Though I believe this was mostly a criticism of the film (but I’m assuming by extension also the novel). However, a lot of people also said that it accurately depicted their experience, and the film was only supposed to tell one woman’s story, and not stand for black men and women everywhere.

Also, before I go on I would also like to take this moment to warn anyone who hasn’t read the book yet that it contains depictions of sexual violence (so if that makes you uncomfortable in any way shape or form I wouldn’t recommend this novel). It’s because of the sexual content of the novel and due to it’s depictions of ‘rough language’, and ‘homosexuality’ to name just a few concerns brought up (not forgetting the novel’s ‘negative image of black men’) that the book has been banned numerous times. I don’t know about you but if a book has been banned, I immediately want to read it more. Mainly, because the very idea of banning reading of any kind disturbs me to my core (knowledge is power after all).

The Color Purple The Kawaii Kollective

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Overall, this book is about someone who had no voice, and following their journey to them finding their voice. While they were helped to that realisation by the friendships in their life on their way; ultimately Celie finds her voice all on her own. And I challenge you to think of a more empowering message than that.

There are though instances where fighting back also just sees someone constantly beat down (which, I’m sure a lot of people can find symbolic meaning in both now and for some constantly throughout their lives). Sofia, is one such character who experiences this, and she reminds me of a lot of strong people I know. Who would never give up on what they believe in. Unless it’s stamped out of them. Instead, of taking the sorrow from this, I try to see it as an example of if you crush someone so much, even the strongest people will fall. So that is why we need to ensure this unequal system of power that allows people to succeed in this is destroyed in the first place (though I’m sure you’re all thinking, if only it was that simple- and I completely agree).

So there you have it, ‘The Color Purple’ was everything I expected it to be, and delighted me in other ways (I was genuinely shocked to see depictions of homosexuality in the book- as I’d never heard this mentioned about the book or film before- though I’m not sure if the film is as explicit). If you like being sucked into someone’s world and truly feel like you’re feeling a character’s life, this novel is for you.

If you want to know more about what I thought about particular passages, etc. please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, as I fear this blog post is not as extensive as it could be due to that I’m currently fighting back a cold.

🍂April🍂

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Update: What’s happening with my Feminist Reading Journey

Image: Pexels 

It’s been a lot more than a hot minute since I’ve written a post for my feminist reading journey series so I thought now would be a good time to have a bit of a catch up and discuss what’s happening with the series. So sit down, have a cup of tea (or if you are like me and hate tea, another beverage) and settle into this short and sweet post. To put it simply, I’m bringing the feminist reading journey posts back. Although, I’ve said in the past that they will be every two weeks; I think for everyone’s sanity including my own- more sporadic than that might be better but I will see how it goes.

I will be relaunching the series next week with a post about The Color Purple. I’m not sure what day the post will be out yet, but it will be an additional post to my normal Monday and Friday posts. Posts in this series I’ve decided will always be like that (apart from this one now), as I feel like putting the series in my regular content will limit my content a bit.

After that I’ve devised a line up (in no particular order) of books I’m hoping to complete by the end of the year. I’ve tried to pick up a line up from authors with a variety of different backgrounds and from different positions- as I always want the books I’m reading to not necessarily be books I know I’m going to agree with. I also think there is something interesting seeing how feminism has changed throughout the generations. The books I picked also discuss a variety of issues that I’ve not explored as of yet, including where body image stands in feminism, and I will also be looking in more detail about gender’s place within feminism- specifically looking at a novel by Kate Bornstein (a transgender author- I mention this only because it is important that transgender individuals are able to tell their own narrative), which ‘offers alternatives to suicide for queer youth struggling to be themselves’.

So without any more of my ramblings here is what is coming up. Next week when I post my The Color Purple post I will announce, which novel is coming next, and so on and so forth. So if you want to read along with me please ensure you check where I am at the end of each post. I’m also going to try to post my reading updates on my Twitter so make sure to follow me there: @aprilcruelmonth.

  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  • Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire by Sonia Shah
  • Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
  • Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
  • Hello Cruel World by Kate Bornstein
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (to check out my post on Milk and Honey click here.)

So there we have it. Who know if I will be able to get all of these completed by the end of the year, but here’s hoping. If you have any more suggestions, please let me know.

🍂April🍂

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Feminist Reading Journey: Margaret Atwood ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Let me start this by saying no I haven’t seen the Hulu TV series yet but I fully intend to! This post however isn’t about the tv series, or the film adaptation, it’s about the novel. I actually read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as part of my undergraduate university degree, but I had read the novel before then because, well, because I like reading!

I also want to quickly address for anyone following this series that I will be reading some new books soon, and the series will be continuing. It’s just on a little bit of a hiatus while I try to finish my dissertation and sort my life out. When it properly comes back I’ll make a blog post letting everyone know, and hopefully have my reading list on there in advance so people can read along with me if they want to. I also want to take more care with the authors I select so that I can actually start to read a variety of different experiences. I try and make my feminism intersectional, and I know at the moment I’m not doing my best to represent that in these blog posts. In terms of a time scale, posts will also be every 2 weeks so that they are not rushed. However, for everyone who hasn’t been reading the rest of my blog posts, sorry about that ramble, and don’t worry I’m going to get on to this blog post now.

First of all, there is a reason that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a classic, and for those of you who have burned before (like me) by the term ‘classic’ being bestowed upon a book because it is incredibly long and difficult to follow; don’t worry this isn’t the case here. The story (for those who don’t know) follows a woman called Offred (though this isn’t her ‘real’ name) and her life as a handmaid in the fictional dystopian future of Gilead (a military dictatorship). Her position as a handmaid in this dictatorship means that she is kept for reproductive purposes and her ‘job’ is to reproduce in an elaborate ceremony with The Commander (the male head of the household she lives at) with his wife attending (it’s as bad as it sounds).

Image: @aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Instagram 

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot than that as I don’t want to ruin anything, but think about the way reproductive rights are in the US (and continue to be in Northern Ireland, and other countries in which there are restrictions on abortion laws or abortion is illegal) and you get a sense of what is going on. Although, there was some positive news recently that women from Northern Ireland will be able to get an abortion in Britain for free. However, this verdict also came on the same day that: “Belfast’s Court of Appeal ruled abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly, not judges – effectively overturning an earlier ruling that the current abortion laws were incompatible with human rights laws” (Source: BBC News).

While a lot of people might argue that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is not necessarily about abortion (which, I agree with to a certain extent); because in the tale the women desire to have a baby. However, they are still being controlled and forced into that one position- their reproductive rights are being taken away from them. I’m also not the only one to have made this link as women have been seen sporting robes similar to the ones depicted in the Hulu TV series in a number of protests related to reproductive rights and the fight against misogyny.

It for this reason that the quotation I ended up choosing is: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. And this week the quotation is very apt not only in terms of equality, but in my own life. I’m coming up to the period where I’m at a bit of a transitional period in my life where I’m not quite sure where I will end up or where I will be. There is something also truly horrible in not knowing, which I hate more than just generally being in a horrible situation. However, I know I’ve just got to get on with it and things will turn around. And at a much faster rate than if I just let life take me where it may. But it’s hard, and I know my friends are finding hard, so basically in a round about way I just want to say if you’re finding everything hard that’s ok. Just try your best to let someone know that you’re finding it hard.

As always the quotation for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has been beautifully illustrated by  Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective:

The Handmaid's Tale Image

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

In regards, to the quotation it is also incredibly relevant recently, as the fight for equality has felt difficult, especially with the series of headlines hitting the media regarding gender parity. Perhaps, the most famous of which is the news of the gender wage gap within the BBC, as well as the controversy surrounding the price of the morning after pill in Boots. Especially, considering Boots’ response that if the pill was priced cheaper it might mean that Boots is “incentivising inappropriate use”. Now then more than ever we need to be banding together to fight for change, while not letting these hits grind us down. And there has already been action with a number of female stars from the BBC acting together to write a letter urging the director general to fix the pay gap.

And this links to the main thing I have seen written about ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and that is that the story is not just a tale: but a warning or a sign of what is happening in our world (particularly, in the Global North, and specifically in America right now). I’ve touched on this already by discussing some of the restrictions placed on women having an abortion, but there is much more that is happening against gender equality and equal rights for everyone whatever gender they identify as (I don’t mean this remark as a flippant ‘whatever’ but as a way to include the variety of different genders people identify as) in Trump’s America.

The author of the article I just linked under ‘gender equality’ also mentions how President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. In fact he actually pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, which is horribly ironic considering that the reason why the majority of people in Gilead are infertile is due to radioactive pollution.

Many of the practices within the novel are also present within other countries in the world not just America, particularly regarding same sex love  (in the novel women are circumcised as a punishment for this, and this is something that is still carried out today though not necessarily as a punishment for homosexuality). This practice may be more familiar to you under the name FGM or Female Genital Mutilation, which can “lead to severe bleeding, pain, complete loss of sensitivity, complications during childbirth, infertility, severe pain during sex, recurring infections and urine retention. And in some cases it is lethal. Unlike male circumcision, female genital mutilation also inhibits sexual pleasure”.

I think then now is a good a time as ever to read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (perhaps the best time) and think about how the practices described are similar or the same to practices inflicted against either gender (as there is not a lot of mention in the novel of how these practices would affect people who exist outside the gender identities of male or female) within the world. Think about then how the world Atwood describes would be like for those who exist out of the 2 gender binaries just mentioned. Most of all, write, talk and protest about the injustices that too closely mirror our own.

After all, Margaret Atwood is being heralded as the ‘voice of 2017‘ so you might as well see for yourself what she has to say. As for me I’m finally going to watch the TV show, and not let anyone grind me down any longer.

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Feminist Reading Journey: Marge Piercy ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

I’m happy to be back with another post in my feminist reading journey (here’s hoping I can start posting more regularly again). This time I’m focusing on Marge Piercy’s ‘Woman on the Edge of Time’, which is actually something I read in my undergraduate degree, but decided to revisit for this series. Not only because I didn’t have enough money to buy a new book but also because it is a real interesting book in terms of gender.

The novel follows Consuelo (Connie) Ramos, an Hispanic woman who is forcibly committed to a mental institution (somewhere she has been in the past for drug fuelled child abuse, which caused her to lose custody of her daughter) for fighting back against the man who was trying to force her niece Dolly to have a ‘backstreet’ abortion. In her time in the mental institution she is visited (it is never revealed if this is imaginary or not) by someone from the future called Luciente. Through Luciente Connie is able to visit the future, which a communal community where the prejudices of Connie’s time are seemingly eradicated.

Woman On The Edge Of TimeImage: aprilisthecruellestmonth/Instagram 

I won’t gave anything more away from that but let me just say there is a reason this is a classic utopian fiction novel. Though I think utopian fiction somehow doesn’t always shock as much as dystopian fiction. Something maybe, which is indicative of how we don’t notice problems until the worse happens. Hence, the increased amount of social and political commentary and criticism since Donald Trump has become President (which, I’m not saying is a bad thing). The reality of Connie’s life though is incredibly brutal and the dystopia in itself (though tragically just reality), although another dystopian future alternative to Mattapoisett (this is the residence that Connie visits in the future through Luciente) is also explored.

The future world basically plays out the core ideas of the women’s movement at the time, which we know widely have moved on to from in order to incorporate not just one perspective, and is what you will probably know as intersectional feminism. However, the novel does not ignore issues of racism, classism, homophobia or issues surrounding the destruction of the environment so is more intersectional than a lot of the critique from the era (and still that appears today).

Also, to understand Connie’s experience of the mental institution better and the concept of different experiences I think its useful to compare Connie experiences with the experiences related in Girl, Interrupted. Both woman suffer from a lack of privacy, and their agency removed. However, Susanna (played by Winona Ryder) in the film adaptation comes from what appears to be a middle class background and is white (at least this is the case for the film- I have read the book but can’t remember if there was any direct references to financial background). While her experiences in the mental institution are far from therapeutic if something happened to Susanna there would be people that would care, and it would not be as easily dismissed. However, it is important to note in the 1960s in general using psychiatry to control women was still commonplace (and actively criticised by the feminist movement) with Diazepam (Valium), which became known as ‘Mother’s Little Helper’ regularly prescribed to woman to cope with the pressures of being a housewife.

Themes, which were present in Season 1 of the popular show Mad Men, where Donald Draper (Jon Hamm) is told by his wife’s (Betty Draper portrayed by January Jones) psychiatrist what they discuss during their sessions. The way it is framed suggests that this behaviour is most definitely commonplace, and all it did was serve to infantilise Betty even further (which, was arguably contributed to her needing to seek help in the first place).

Betty Draper Mad MenImage: Mad Men/ AMC/ Lionsgate Television

However, there are fewer narratives of what the experience of being a mental institution is like for a woman of colour (this novel being the first I have personally come across), with the general psychiatric patient presented to us by the media as thin, white and generally ‘misunderstood’ (thereby trivialising mental illness). Even depictions in film  that are regarded as doing a good job at exploring mental illness, I have not personally seen show the experiences of a woman of colour experiencing mental illness (if there are examples, please direct me to them).

This is why Piercy’s novel is refreshing, and although as far as I can tell the experiences in the novel do not come from her personal biography, for the novel Marge Piercy was careful to talk to, “past and present inmates of mental institutions who shared their experiences with me” (taken from the acknowledgements page of the novel).

One other important theme within the novel is family, and the expectation that a woman should live only for her family. Connie is a primary example of this, as she is expected by members of her family (especially her brother) to be subservient and grateful no matter what. Because she’s a woman. She also carries the guilt of what happened with her daughter during the time she was going through the grief of losing someone dear to her. Everything Connie does is tied to family, and all the blood, sweat and tears she has lost because of them is dismissed. It is what she is supposed to do.

Hence, why I chose this quote from the novel for this blog post, which has been illustrated by the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective:

“You’ll do what women do. You’ll pay your debt to your family for your blood.”

Marge Piercy

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

‘Woman on the Edge Of Time’ is heartbreaking, defiant and hopeful all at once and that is why it is a classic piece of both feminist and utopian literature. Whether you are living in a situation where the prejudices against you are depicted still exist entirely or not this is an important novel to remind yourself that preventing these experiences is something that has been fought for a long time, and we should not let ourselves revert back.

 

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Feminist Reading Journey: Naomi Alderman ‘The Power’

This book has quickly become one of my new favourites. Seriously buy it. Read it. Especially if you’re interested in gender relations.

The narrative is set in the future but looking back on a significant change in human history that occured. That change is when the world switches from a patriarchal society to a matriarchal one. The switch occurs because women around the world, particularly teenage girls, start to discover that they have the power to emit electrical shocks, some stronger than others. Slowly, but surely, women then start to rise up. However, when the power shifts so do women’s attitudes.

The PowerImage: April Wilson 

I don’t want to give a lot more away than that, and hopefully I’ve not given away too much. I have to mention the negatives this power shift brings though because as the title suggests the book is very much focused on power balances. The idea being that if any group has too much power that power will be abused.

Since the novel is also called ‘The Power’ I thought then it would be apt to pick a quotation that exemplifies how masterly Naomi Alderman explores power relations within the novel.

As always the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective has provided the illustration for this post.

“One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’ and the other one answers, ‘Because they could’. That is only answer there ever is.”

-Naomi Alderman 

The Power NaomiImage: The Kawaii Kollective 

For real life examples of how easy power relations can shift you only have to look at the Stanford Prison Experiment. For those who don’t know what the Stanford Prison Experiment is it was an experiment conducted by the psychologist Zimbardo in which he assigned a group of volunteers the role of either prisoner or guard for a 2 week simulated prison experiment.

Soon the prisoners started to protest the conditions, and the guards started to harass the prisoners, and become sadistic. Eventually after 6 days the experiment was ended by Zimbardo after he was told by an outsider (he had become too involved in the experiment) that the conditions lacked morality.

If you are interested in learning more, as I’ve only briefly described what happened and not gone into some of the sadistic, humiliating tactics that the guards used, I suggest you read ‘The Lucifer Effect: How Good People Turn Evil‘ or watch the film based on the experiment simply called ‘The Stanford Prison Experiment‘ (be prepared for graphic content). If you are interested in more examples of similar effects you can look up the Abu Ghraib prison atrocities (be warned graphic images will most likely come up in your search).

Also in relation to power dynamics, the novel does an amazing job at showing the reactions of different groups such as feminist groups, anti-feminists and everyone in between on the debate feel when the power balance starts to shift. And that power shift does a brilliant job more than a lot of arguments I have seen at showing what the current power balance is in the world today.

The novel also reminded me of how much a dialogue does need to exist. I will admit it is hard for me to watch content by anti-feminists. I however am going to make an effort to do so and not instantly judge the content. To do this I am going to watch ‘The Red Pill’ documentary by documentary film maker Cassie Jaye about the men’s right movement From watching the trailer so far some of the arguments brought up I do agree with. There needs to be more men’s shelters and men who are victims of abuse need to be treated seriously. I however, argue this should be a feminist argument (not that it has not been made as one before) if feminism keeps to what I believe it to be: the pursuit of equality. I can’t comment more on the rest of their arguments however without seeing the documentary first.

I also have been taking into consideration the words of the youtuber Laci Green (who I also just discovered- I’m more than a little late to the Youtube world), who talked about the need for an open dialogue, and debate. Though I admit it can be hard I am always trying to learn, and I want to make the effort to do so.

One part of ‘The Power’ that I also think makes it so effective is the way it shifts across different narrative viewpoints. Something, which when it is done masterfully I absolutely love (and ‘The Power’ certainly fits this brief). Though, when it’s done horribly it’s just confusing and a mess. ‘The Power’ follows the viewpoints of Roxy, a Londoner whose family runs a significant crime syndicate, whose world turns upside down when discovering her power; Allie a teenager who after discovering her power reimagines herself as Mother Eve and starts a new women’s movement that brings the women in religion iconography to the forefront; Margot who aspires to move up in the American government (and her daughter Jocelyn whose power comes with some complications) and significantly the male Nigerian Tunde who discovers the power of citizen journalism, as he documents women as they start to discover their power and makes it his mission to map this new movement around the world.

Tunde as a character however is not the only way that Naomi Alderman does a brilliant job at exploring how this event would unfold through social media and website forums without being cringe-worthy, which you can sometimes find from authors who either has not spend enough time on social media; cannot seem to understand it or are not digital natives.

Overall, this is a book that needs to be on university reading lists (I haven’t included younger audiences just because of the graphic nature of one of the scenes), especially when talking about gender. A lot of the times university can look back (which I cannot stress is still an incredibly important thing to do) but this novel is important in that it looks at gender balance in terms of the current political climate, which is something we all need to be aware of and do more.

This also needs to be on a university course reading list so I could talk about this with other people interested in debating gender (though I’ve also finished my undergraduate, and will be finishing my postgraduate degree soon so university is for NOW almost over for me). However, if anyone wants to allow me to teach a module on contemporary gender studies go ahead… (I’d be excited to see what the class could teach me as well).

So basically if you haven’t got the message of this blog post yet it’s basically to just read ‘The Power’ already.

Update: This is in regards to ‘The Red Pill’ by Laci Green. I am still very new to the concept of feminist debate and critique (though I’ve been engaging with feminism for years) so was not sure what to think when I first saw the video. For me personally it reminded me that I need to be ready to take part in more debate (and try to be on the defensive automatically), though I did not entirely agree with the way Laci seemed to be attacking feminists more than anti-feminists (I understand both sides have faults but the debate seemed very one sided). However, if you’ve watched the video I also highly suggest you watch Kat Blaque’s response video, as she highlights many very important issues with the video.

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Feminist Reading Journey: Rupi Kaur ‘Milk and Honey’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

For anyone who isn’t aware of Rupi Kaur, well for one you should be. And two, let me do a little summary that although won’t properly categorise her awesomeness; will help give you an idea of what I knew about Rupi Kaur before reading ‘Milk and Honey’.

Before reading due to the cover of the book I knew that she was a New York Times bestselling author. I also knew that she had become famous after a photograph she posted on Instagram, depicting a woman lying on a bed having bled through her trousers  on her period, was removed from the social media site. Twice.

She responded with a public post that basically destroyed Instagram and made it clear she would not be censored. You can read the full post here, my favourite lines of which are:

“Their patriarchy is leaking.

Their misogyny is leaking.

We will not be censored.”

Well, I for one could tell she was a poet right away. Like how you can probably tell from my writing that I definitely am not.

It was this controversy surrounding Instagram that was the first time I was made aware of Rupi Kaur, as I had recently been researching the shame that surrounds periods and menstruation. Something, which had particularly grabbed my attention when I started to think about what homeless women must go through when on their period. I was of course not the first person to think about this, and in my research for the article I then wrote about the subject; I came across the charity #TheHomelessPeriod and Binti.

After, writing the article I actually also contacted Binti about volunteering for them, and I have since written several articles around the subject for them. Some of which you can find on my published page.

So as you can tell I went into reading ‘Milk and Honey’ having known Rupi Kaur through her photography and her position as an advocate to end the shame surrounding periods. What I found is a book of poetry so rich and full about all the struggles women go through life. Some I could relate to. Some I could not (due to my heritage in comparison to Rupi Kaur). But what I didn’t know I learnt from. And what I did know gave back that feeling that is hard to describe, but maybe is best described as being like honey to honour Rupi Kaur. As the feeling I am describing is both sweet and familiar, and also soothing just like honey. It is that feeling you have when you have read something that reflects back an experience you have also had and makes you no longer feel alone.

What Rupi Kaur has written I think intends to do just that, which you can see by the different subsections she chose to categorise her poetry by: ‘the hurting’, ‘the loving’, ‘the breaking’, ‘the healing’. Also, her poetry although devastatingly brutal at times is easy to read if you are not used to poetry. Or are new to poetry. As if I am being honest, although there are some poems I love; poetry has never been my go to option. I’ve never been able to have the same sustained connection with poetry, as I have been able to have with novels.

However, as ‘Milk and Honey’ depicts a journey through poems it provides a narrative and so a safe, similar space that us novel readers are used to feeling. Not that of course this is anything new for books of poetry, but when thinking of narrative poems; many people probably remember the long poems written in old English that they used to struggle with. Here is instead something you can sink your teeth into with being an english student.

However, all the while you are reading Rupi Kaur manages to sink her teeth right back into you. Partly, because there is an undeniable sensual edge to a lot of the poems that is open and unafraid (and of course makes me slightly uncomfortable to talk about just because that’s who I am) in its explicitness.

Rupi’s poems reflect how in recent years there has been an increasing movement of women taking back their sexuality and talking about it openly and honestly. Including the highs and the lows, and what sexuality is like for women from their own perspective. Rather, than the male lens that is constantly thrown on sexuality.

Women then are no longer giving into the theory that women have to be in competition with each other over these matters. Instead they want to discuss it. Something, which connects to the poem, which I chose to showcase alongside Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective’s beautiful illustration of Rupi Kaur.

“other women’s bodies

are not our battlegrounds”

-Rupi Kaur

Rupi Kaur 1Image: The Kawaii Kollective

I’m also happy to share a special bonus image of Rupi Kaur by The Kawaii Kollective, which is for now exclusively on this blog post!

Rupi Kaur 2Image: The Kawaii Kollective

The reason I chose this poem out of all the beautiful poems in the collection is that it is something I have personally over the last few years really tried to drum into my head.

I used to obsessively reading ‘women’s’ magazines. You know the ones that talk about who’s gained weight and who’s lost it. No one was perfect. Everyone who was tiny was revered (and then berated the next week). I didn’t enjoy the content but I couldn’t put it down. I internalised what the right weight was, the right size, always chastising myself for never living up to that ideal.

This continued into the start of my first year of university, and was not helped by the internet (not that I didn’t use the internet before university but I generally started to spend a lot more time on my laptop in general at university) where you could easily google someone’s weight and height. There were even websites dedicated to guessing (which I’m not going to put here because I don’t want to encourage anyone to go to them) celebrities weights and sizes. In the comments I would read I’d see people debate someone’s weight extensively, and argue passionately about whether a particular celebrity was telling the truth.

I hated the way these comments talked about women, and each other. But it was something I couldn’t stop.

I’m not sure how, though I knew why, but at one point I did stop.

I made a conscious decision to not read these magazines or look at the websites anymore. And I found myself a lot happier. No, it did not automatically cure the anxieties I had about my weight. But my weight and body image became something that no longer took up almost every working hour of my day.

The reason I am talking about this is because it is not just celebrities we do this to. I think Facebook as we are all aware is one of the biggest culprits for this. We all look on in glee if someone has gained weight, or slightly annoyed if someone has lost it. When quite frankly it’s none of our business. I’ve managed to stop myself doing this recently, as I’ve become more aware of the damage always talking about someone in terms of weight has done to me and others I know.  Now, I try not to engage with the changes in people I know past surface value. If someone loses weight and is happy about it, good for them, as long as they are healthy and happy, that’s all I care about. If someone gains weight, not that I’d ever make it my business or talk to them about it (I never know why people think it’s their business to comment); it’s none of my business. All I try to look for now is if someone is happy, and if they are not.

Personally, beyond this kind of conversation I will not talk about changes in my weight. This is only because I know I’d obsess over the figures. The weight before. The weight after. The gain or loss. It made the situation worse for me. Obviously, I am not saying no one should not talk about it ever. But I personally don’t have any sage wisdom to share. I don’t know enough about nutrition or exercise. Therefore, I don’t want to say anything. I’m not saying someone cannot be proud of their weight loss or weight gain for that matter. I’m just avoiding the subject because of my own personal experiences.

That’s why this poem was one that resonated with me the most. Though I can also think of an extension to the poem as well. Other women’s bodies are also not our aspiration. Your body is never going to live up to someone else’s. We all have different body shapes, etc. This also applies to men, non binary and trans individuals, or the gender identity you define yourself as (as these are categories in which issues with weight are still not discussed as much as they should be). Personally, this was something that took me way too long to realise, and plagued my teenage years, as my body shape then was different to all my friends.

I think in the end what I take from ‘Milk and Honey’  is that you can always rebuild yourself back up and start anew. You can change the way you think. About yourself. About other women. Don’t let anyone ever make you think you can’t. It’s never too late to change the way you think. We can all heal (as cheesy as that sounds).

Whether you can relate to the struggles that Rupi Kaur covers such as bad relationships, father issues, the way women are sexualised within society, or not, ‘Milk and Honey’ delivers Rupi Kaur’s perspective of being a woman. Read it if you can’t relate and prepare to cry if you can.

Feminist Reading Journey: Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Before I begin talking about Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ I want to talk a little bit again about why I started this journey. For those who don’t know, or haven’t read my previous posts, I began what I have deemed as my ‘feminist’ reading journey because I had still not read a lot of the ‘classics’ of feminist literature.

Although, so far in my journey I am quite confident that most of the authors I have read would identity as feminists (in fact, I have seen the majority say they are one) but that doesn’t mean all of them will identify as feminists. Since, I want to explore works not only by feminist authors but that have feminist themes, or more importantly showcase an experience that I have no authority on; I personally don’t see this to be an issue. Also, many people also forget that feminism, as part of its mission for equality should also take into account other issues, such as class inequality, racism, prejudice, and abillity (so I intend to look at works that cover this experience as well). Some times then the books I read may not have feminism, as its main theme, but it will always be there lurking in the background.

For me this journey is about learning about other experiences. I have heard about a lot of the voices of people who have had different experiences to me from seeing their quotes plastered on social media. Maya Angelou was a voice that cropped up again and again. I engaged with her, yes, but only on a surface level. The reason I started this journey then quite simply was to stop mildly paying attention and full immerse myself in feminism.

I also think Maya Angelou is important when we live in a world where people try to speak to an experience they have not lived through, or completely understand. As although a lot of people may think they know what it was like growing up black in the 1930s and 1940s in South America; Maya Angelou actually knows what the experience was like. She lived it.

After all, one of the main debates within feminist theory started from the idea that as woman we all share the same experiences, and so can be united over this experience. This train of thought however was shattered when many pointed out that women of colour, for example, not only face the world with the prejudice of being a woman, but an added prejudice because of their skin colour. Low income women also have a different experience from women with a higher income. Queer women have a different experience. Trans women have a different experience- one that should not be discounted.

Recently, the author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, received backlash over her comments about the difference between a cis women and a trans women’s experience:

“My feeling is trans women are trans women…I think if you’ve lived in the world as a man with the privileges that the world accords to men and then sort of change, switch gender, it’s difficult for me to accept that then we can equate your experience with the experience of a woman.”

Laverne Cox, famous for starring in Orange Is The New Black responded in a series of tweets in which she weighs in other Adichie’s comments:

“I was talking to my twin brother today about whether he believes I had male privilege growing up. I was a very feminine child though I was assigned male at birth. My gender was constantly policed. I was told I acted like a girl and I was bullied and shamed for that.

My femininity did not make me feel privileged. I was a good student and was very much encouraged because of that but I saw cis girls who showed academic promise being nurtured in the black community. I grew up in Mobile, Ala.

Gender exists on a spectrum & the binary narrative which suggests that all trans women transition from male privilege erases a lot of experiences and isn’t intersectional. Gender is constituted differently based on the culture we live in. There’s no universal experience of gender, of womanhood. To suggest that is essentialist and again not intersectional.

Many of our feminist foremothers cautioned against such essentialism and not having an intersectional approach to feminism. Class, race, sexuality, ability, immigration status, education, all influence the ways in which we experience privilege. So though I was assigned male at birth I would contend that I did not enjoy male privilege prior to my transition. Patriarchy and cissexism punished my femininity and gender nonconformity. The irony of my life is before my transition I was called a girl and after I am very often called a man. Gender policing and the fact that gender binaries can only exist through strict policing complicates the concept gendered privilege & that’s ok cause it’s complicated. Intersectionality complicates both male and cis privilege.

That is why it is paramount that we continue to lift up diverse trans stories. For too many years there’s been too few trans stories in the media. For over 60 years since Christine Jorgensen stepped off the plane from Europe and became the first internationally known trans woman the narrative about trans folks in the media was one of macho guy becomes a woman. That’s certainly not my story or the stories of many trans folks I know. That narrative often works to reinforce binaries rather than explode them. That explosion is the gender revolution, I imagine, one of true gender self determination.”

What Laverne’s response to Chimamanda’s argument reveals is that the argument over shared experiences vs. intersectionality is one that is still taking place within feminist politics. What the response also demonstrates if that stating why you disagree with an opinion is more powerful than declaring the other person should not speak, and that you can have a dialogue without it turning to aggression.

Hence, why like Laverne suggests to do, I have made it my mission to read as many different voices who have had as many different experiences as possible (though unfortunately there is still quite a sizeable gap in experiences written by trans women). I might not always agree with what they define in terms of feminism. I, for example, don’t agree with Chimamanda’s views about transgender women, but agree with her on many different issues. However, though I disagree with her on this issue that does not mean I will ignore ‘We Should All Be Feminists’, for example, and it one of the books I intend to read in my journey. I will also read books by people that have created very polarising opinions such as the works of  Lena Dunham and Sophia Amoruso because I think it is better to engage these works for their positives and negatives rather than ignore them.

However, I’ve talked enough about my reasonings now; it’s time for me to talk about ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

For those who have not read the book yet I shall start by issuing a warning that the book contains rape/child abuse. This discussion also contains quite a lot of spoilers, which is something which my reviews/ discussions usually do not contain, but I found it hard to talk about the significance of this novel without raising significant plot points. 

Maya I Know WhyImage: April Wilson 

The first in a series of autobiographies by Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’ deals with the period in Angelou’s life up until she is 17 (date wise that is up until 1944). Like Angelou, the book is fearless, and honest in the way so few books are. Unsurprisingly, it instantly gripped me in a way that I hadn’t felt about in a book in a while (and in fact needed- I was getting way too distanced from my earlier love of reading).

The book’s honesty reminded me of the book ‘Chinese Cinderella’ by Adeline Yen Mah that I strongly suggest you read if you haven’t already. Like Angelou, Adeline Yen Mah wrote her autobiographies later in life, which is why I think both books are so ‘honest’ (I’m not saying that everything is completely 100% true- just that it feels like the authors are not holding anything back). Time, as we all know, gives us perspective and most importantly lets us distance ourself from the embarrassment we felt over particular events. There are many events that I am able to freely talk about now, like, for example, the stress that came with having an extremely heavy period during a class trip; that would have embarrassed me to talk about as freely as I do now at the time.

The themes of the book are best summed up by Maya Angelou herself and the quote I chose to accompany the illustration for this book, which Caroline from The Kawaii Collective very kindly illustrated, does just that:

“The black female is assaulted in her tender years by all the common forces of nature at the same time that she is caught in a crossfire of masculine prejudice, white illogical hate and black lack of power.”

-Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

This drawing, along with all of my other collaborations with The Kawaii Collective was originally inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post.

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

Angelou’s experience demonstrates this quote and then some. Not only does she have to cope with the hatred from the white children who came into her grandmother’s store; she has to deal with the threat of the Klux Klux Klan in a scene early in the book.  Although the sheriff tells them of the threat; he does not offer any protection and they are left hoping that their Uncle Willie will not be lynched (and end up hiding him in a bin of potatoes and onions in case anyone comes by the store). Maya herself is also sexually abused and raped at age 8 by her mother’s boyfriend.

Through all this Angelou remains a fighter, despite her vulnerability. In fact, she remains a fully realised human being. This might seem stupid of me to mention until you realise how it is only when black people tell their stories that they are in fact given fully realised characters. See this article for a better explanation of what I am referring to, as I do not feel I have further authority to speak on the subject, not having experienced the same situation in terms of representation, as the author of the article.

However, Angelou is unsurprisingly failed by the world. She becomes pregnant towards the end of the novel through sex she doesn’t even enjoy, “I…didn’t enjoy it.” Not at all surprising considering the experience ended with: “My partner showed that our experience had reached its climax by getting up abruptly”.

Why have the sex then? Because she feared she might be a lesbian, which spells out why sex education is needed stronger than most examples I know (I know this is of course set in an earlier time period, but sex education today is lacking in the way it teaches consent and LBGTQ+ issues).

Especially, considering the stereotypes she believes make up a lesbian still persist today:

“After a through self-examination, in the light of all I had read and heard about dykes and bulldaggers, I reasoned that I had none of the obvious traits- I didn’t wear trousers, or have big shoulders or go in for sports, or walk like a man or even want to touch a woman.”

Not only do these stereotypes perpetuate the idea that someone who identifies as female and has a muscular body frame cannot be attractive (which is completely untrue, they are beautiful and rock); it opens up a whole host of other problems, like putting woman off sports. Something which still persists, as I personally know women who have stopped sports they were good at, as they were told they had to bulk up and were afraid of looking like a ‘man’. Gender does not have to exist under this binary lines, and putting being a lesbian under this category damages not only lesbian women especially, but everyone.

There is though still hope within the story. Like I mentioned Angelou is a fighter. Within the novel alone she becomes the first black female streetcar conductor in San Fransisco because of her refusal to back down when they repeatedly tell her she cannot have the job. It also shows in the wide range of roles she has played, as USA Today reports: “Angelou has been a memoirist, poet, civil rights activist, actress, director, professor, singer and dancer”.

Maya Angelou also is now Dr. Maya Angelou, as: “Although she never went to college, she has been awarded more than 30 honorary degrees”.

Her birthday also coincides with the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination on the 4th April, 1968. In response, for year she didn’t celebrate her birthday. Instead: “She and King’s widow, Coretta Scott King, who died in 2006, would “meet or talk or send each other flowers” on April 4. Each year, she continues to say a birthday prayer, “a prayer for the country.”

Maya Angelou then refuses to back down, and be defeated. It’s no coincidence that one of her most famous poems is called ‘Still I Rise‘. You need only read her work to see it.

If you’re interested in learning a bit more about Maya Angelou’s life, although I recommend reading her autobiographies first, here are a few articles to read that may provide helpful:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2002/may/25/biography.mayaangelou

(Covers the subjects of some of her later autobiographies)

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/growing-up-maya-angelou-79582387/?no-ist

 

 

Feminist Reading Journey: Helena Kelly ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

First of all I want to apologise for being so behind with posting, as if you look at my Instagram you will find that the actual book I am reading is several posts ahead of this post! April is deadline time (I’m currently studying for a Masters) so I am afraid I won’t be catching up anytime soon, but be prepared for a serious amount of catch up work in May (I am hoping that May is going to be the month I bombard this website with content). This post then is about the third book in my feminist reading journey ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ by Helena Kelly.

This book was actually purchased right at the start of my reading journey when I had not really formulated a plan yet to what I wanted to read, but I actually like how it fits into my journey because of the way it paints the secret feminist history of one of the world’s most famous writers: Jane Austen (and I think before I look forward I need to a certain extent look back). Having been a Jane Austen addict in my youth (both of the novels and the various film and TV adaptations); I instantly gravitated towards this book when I saw it in my local Waterstones.

Jane Austen The Secret RadicalImage: April Wilson 

When I saw this book it reminded me of how I wished when I was doing my literature degree that we studied Jane Austen more, and I also was fascinated to see how the author was going to convince me that Jane Austen was a radical. Though I did by no means position her as a conservative or the alt-right icon that was recently bizarrely attributed to her (and has been frequently attributed to her in the past). I always thought for the time period she was in she had to be different and strong willed. After all, she was a female author when they were sparse/ often censored and she allowed her characters to breach class boundaries, which was radical for the time.

I was also interested in reading this book, as although I have read most of Jane’s novels I have to admit I have never read ‘Persuasion’ or ‘Emma’ (though I have seen a TV adaptation of it) so was interested in learning more about the novels, especially ‘Persuasion’ as I often seen it credited as a bit of a dud in the Jane Austen canon.

What was refreshing when reading was that each chapter had an equal amount of attention and care dedicated to it making me want to go out and read each Austen novel again just as much as the other. I have to admit though that it made me want to read ‘Mansfield Park’ again the most because of the complexities surrounding slavery that Kelly reveals lie within the novel that I had not picked up on (seeing the adaptation on ITV starring Billie Piper before reading the novel I think made my reading of the novel clouded by wanting to compare the two). I think it also didn’t help that Britain’s past concerning slavery is often glossed over in the school curriculum. We learn about the Tudors, the Egyptians, the Romans and then we usually end up skipping a great chunk of history and covering the First and Second World War (or at least that is what I remember from my experience).

I have seen and read a lot about American slavery, but British slavery and the true cost of the luxuries that were in Britain at the time are often overlooked, and not mentioned. I studied the effects of the empire in Victorian Britain but Jane Austen belongs to the point in British history that I think has become lost a little in school education (at least from my experiences in the UK).

I think if you are going to take anything from the book it is the desire to read Austen again. Though that doesn’t mean you will want to devour every work she ever wrote. Despite, the merit her novels have in discussing issues relating to the time she lived in; some are still more enjoyable and well written than others.

I for one plan to read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and ‘Mansfield Park’ again, as well as delve into ‘Emma’ and ‘Persuasion’ for the first time.

Whether Helena Kelly’s findings are new and revolutionary I do not know. I have not studied Austen enough academically to judge, but either way she gives an accessible starting point to both those used to academic scholarship and to those who are not. Whether you agree with everything she says about Jane Austen’s works or not doesn’t matter as she does her job by making you think about them. You end each chapter wanting to read the work she is talking about and see if your reading will now match hers, or if there will be differences.

In this way Helena Kelly certainly achieves what she intended to do:

“I’ve been working quite hard in this book to convince you Jane is an artist, that her work is carefully considered, structured, themed, that she uses her writing to examine the great issues of the day”.

 – Helena Kelly, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ 

That is why the quote I choose and Caroline from The Kawaii Collective very kindly illustrated is one that calls on the reader to read Jane Austen’s novels again, as all Kelly wants is for Jane to have the voice that in her life she was often denied.

Helena Kelly Jane AustenImage: The Kawaii Kollective

This drawing, along with all of my other collaborations with The Kawaii Collective was originally inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post.

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

For all Jane Austen fans, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’ is a great book to read to get you excited about Austen again (though I doubt a lot of people need this encouragement), and a valuable part of my reading journey.

The book I am reading this week is yet to be announced. Be sure to check out my social media channels tomorrow for the announcement!

Last week’s book was Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk and Honey’.

If you have any suggestions for what I should read next please comment below.

If you are interesting in collaborating with me on this project as well please let me know. My inbox is always open!

Feminist Reading Journey: Sady Doyle ‘Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock and Fear…and Why’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

So as mentioned in my last post, this year I set myself the challenge of reading for pleasure again, which quickly turned into what I have termed as a feminist reading journey: a chance for me to explore what I define as feminism and learn more about other women’s experiences instead of limiting myself to my own.

The second book that I read as part of my feminist reading journey was ‘Trainwreck: The Women we Love to Hate, Mock and Fear…And Why’ by Sady Doyle. However, I actually cheated a little with this book as I had already read it, as I received it as a christmas present from my boyfriend’s mum. I did though read it again the week I posted about it on Instagram. In fact, I was actually reading it as it was relevant to the essay I was writing for my Masters course (which I am anxiously waiting for my mark back for).

Sady Doyle TrainwreckImage: April Wilson 

‘Trainwreck’ is a powerhouse of a book. For anyone who has ever read women’s magazines, or was brought up on them (I read everything I could get my hands on) you’ll understand the narratives that Doyle is bringing up that these magazines (along with mainstream media) constantly recycle for famous women.

When I was growing up something always made me uneasy about these magazines, and I always gravitated to the fact that maybe it was because they weren’t deemed as very ‘high culture’, and I was someone who enjoyed literary classics (how could I enjoy both?). First of all, I know now that people should stop making these distinctions. You can enjoy whatever you want. Sometimes, we all need to read and watch something that we aren’t completely thinking about the whole time as well (to cool down our brains if you will). Secondly, I think the reason I was uneasy about these magazines was also how they made me feel. Like no one could ever be good enough. You were either too fat or too thin. Rarely, one of the women would be that perfect ‘size’ where they were just right, but they could easily have a big meal or a light lunch and end up swaying into a different category the next week. As someone who had little to no self confidence with the way they looked, especially regarding their weight, these magazines I know no did nothing to help. Unsurprisingly, they just fuelled my obsession making me more addicted to them (I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been in this cycle).

However, I want to make it clear that Doyle’s book does not blame the media solely for turning women into trainwrecks but our patriarchal society that allows women to only exist as binary opposites: the ‘good’ (silent) woman or the ‘bad’ (mad) woman.

One of the reasons I love ‘Trainwreck’ so much is that it talks about how these women shouldn’t be blamed or ashamed for what happened to them (so many times have I heard that Paris Hilton is a spoiled heiress who leaked her own sex tape for fame- everyone seems to ignore when she says how she felt betrayed when the tape was leaked).

Or as she put in her own words, with an interview with Piers Morgan:

“I didn’t want to be known as that, and now when people look at me they think that I’m something I’m not just because of one incident one night with someone who I was in love with. People assume ‘Oh, she’s a slut’ because of one thing that happened to me and it’s hard because I’ll have to live with that for the rest of my life and explain it to my children. And it’s something that’s changed my life forever and I’ll never be able to erase it.”

She also described it, as,”the most embarrassing, humiliating thing that has ever happened to me in my life.”

I also love the way in which the book uses examples from the past, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, and Bille Holiday to show that this is not a new phenomenon; turning women into spectacles and trainwrecks when they become too vocal is nothing new!

In fact, I love this book so much I’ve actually talked about in an article before, in which I discussed the ways in which I believe Beyoncé by choosing to spread the news that she is pregnant herself on Instagram is showing that she is in control of the way she is viewed- she will not become a part of the media’s narrative- she makes the narrative.

When sharing the article on Twitter I was even lucky enough to get a reply from Sady Doyle who not only tweeted the article, but quoted it (I am beyond honoured she took the time out of her day to read this).

I am also so grateful that the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Collective (who has been providing me with lovely illustrations of the authors I am reading along with my favourite quotation from the book) illustrated this beautiful drawing of Sady Doyle, surrounded by the women she refuses to let the media demonise (how many of these women can you recognise?).

This drawing, along with all of my other collaborations with  The Kawaii Collective was originally inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post!).

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

Sady Doyle

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

So I urge you to read ‘Trainwreck’ and then think about the famous women you have seen that are demonised by the media, and think about if the same narrative would still be in place if they were male?

The book I am reading this week is Maya Angelou’s ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’.

Maya I Know WhyImage: April Wilson 

Next week I will be reading Rupi Kaur’s ‘Milk and Honey’.

If you have any suggestions for what I should read next please comment below.

If you are interesting in collaborating with me on this project as well please let me know. My inbox is always open!

Feminist Reading Journey: Carrie Fisher ‘The Princess Diarist’

Image: Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope/ 20th Century Fox 

This year I set myself the challenge to start reading for pleasure again. After doing a degree in English Literature with Film, I kind of lost the time to simply read books for myself, rather than for a particular module. In fact, I’d lost a lot of the enjoyment that reading had previously brought me and since I am at my core a book worm this was unacceptable for me.

I decided to set myself the challenge of reading a book a week because I’m totally crazy and it seemed like a good idea at the time. The first few books I read had no particular theme to them, but then I started seeing more and more books I wanted to read that had a particular theme to them: equality and feminism. So I thought why not make that my theme? Especially since I already wanted to do some more reading around feminism because I consider myself a novice at best, and I feel like reading is the best education.

Also, I know I have a lot to learn, and there are still so many women that have remained hidden to me for me to discover. I don’t want to just rely on my own very limited experience of being a woman, as everyone’s experience is different depending on where you are from, and unfortunately in the world we live in, what colour your skin is, along with your sexual orientation and a lot of other factors.

I know, for example that I as a white woman have had privilege that I did not even realise I had until I started talking to other women in my Masters class about how they have been treated on holiday, or in the airport compared to the way in which I have been treated (of course the different ways I have/ will be treated is not just limited to this example!).

My sexuality is also important here, as I am heterosexual, so have never faced the prejudice that people who are part of the LGBTQ+ community have (I do consider myself an ally of the community, but it would be wrong to say I have had to deal with the same experiences that people who identify as a lesbian have for example), so I need to read about women from this community too. As well as read about the experiences of trans women as well. I want this community to be accepting, and for all of us to fight for equality together, and how can we do this if we aren’t inclusive?

Now, I know a lot of people are ready to attack me for not mentioning men yet, but of course I do not think they are exempt from the discussion. Men are affected by the patriarchy too, of course they are. It makes them think that have to be a real ‘man’ and confirm to the twisted system that is toxic masculinity, and not be able to express their emotions, their sexuality or truly be themselves. Feminism is about equality not women hating men (that is misandry), so men need to be a part of this dialogue as well.

So I want to learn, and for me reading is for me one of the ways I can learn. I started with Carrie Fisher’s novel ‘Princess Diarist’ not out of any preconceived sort of plan but because I realised when Carrie Fisher died that I never had read any of her books, and that was an injustice that she deserved better than.

Carrie Fisher The Princess DiaristImage: April Wilson 

For each book I read I am also excited to announce that I have teamed up with the lovely Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective who will be providing me with lovely illustrations of the authors I am reading along with my favourite quotation from the book (inspired by Kimothy Joy’s collaboration with The Huffington Post!).

Be sure to also check out Caroline’s Etsy shop if you like what you see and want to purchase her art work!

Kawaii Kollective Carrie FisherImage: The Kawaii Kollective

Since I am a bit behind in posting about this here is a list of the books I’ve read so far:

  • Carrie Fisher, ‘The Princess Diarist’
  • Sady Doyle, ‘Trainwreck’
  • Helena Kelly, ‘Jane Austen: The Secret Radical’

Also, I probably shouldn’t be announcing it yet but I’ll announce it a day early just this once, this week’s book I will be reading is Maya Angelou, ‘I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings’. If you have any suggestions for what I should read next please comment below. At the moment I was thinking of reading ‘Milk and Honey’ by Rupi Kaur next week!

If you are interesting in collaborating with me on this project as well please let me know. My inbox is always open!