*This is not a sponsored post.*
What’s a Girl Gotta Do? is a YA book by the popular author Holly Bourne. It is technically the third book in the “Spinster series” but as each book focuses on a different character you can read it as a standalone like I did. Holly writes about feminism and mental health for a younger audience but if this book is anything to go by there’s no reason why everyone wouldn’t enjoy and benefit from reading all of her books.
I’m a bit sceptical about YA, particularly that it seems to have become the norm for adults to solely read books that are written for teenagers but that’s a discussion for another day. This book was/is absolutely fantastic. I picked up a few YA books to try to get myself out of a reading slump and I know it’s cliché but I couldn’t put it down and it’s a book I really wish I’d had as a teenager.
“What’s a Girl Gotta Do?” follows Lottie as she starts a project to call out every piece of sexism she sees for a whole month and touches on all kinds of issues from cat-calling and body shaming right through to the fact that products made for women cost more than the male equivalent. Being a teenage book it’s not without some friendship dramas and a bit of romance but the theme of feminism runs throughout and even as a woman who sees sexism everywhere and calls it out as much as possible Lottie inspired me so much. It also touched a nerve at times when, as the project runs on, she finds it increasingly draining and difficult to fight everything all the time. Obviously we all know it’s unsustainable for one person to fight every instance of sexism they see whether that’s in school/college/the workplace but if Lottie taught me one thing it’s that we have to try.
Following Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the US election (there is a separate post on that coming) to a man who was completely unqualified, and having read a few opinion pieces analysing the fact that a lot of Americans simply wouldn’t vote for a woman regardless of her opponent, I’ve been feeling more angry at the patriarchal society we live in than normal. This book hit right at the heart of that, as 17-year-old Lottie realises that it’s all the little things we normally let go that build up and allow the bigger issues to exist. It’s this realisation that triggers her project and we can probably learn a lot from that. Not least of all as it’s these smaller instances that are probably easier to call out for example women being referred to as “girls” in the workplace. Bourne also explores the issue of women not supporting feminism whether that’s through not fully understanding what it is, believing the negative stereotypes of what a feminist is, or genuinely just believing the status quo is just fine. This is certainly a problem that I experience on a regular basis, mainly with older women but occasionally with women my own age also. I thought of Lottie and her project the other day when I walked into a meeting and had to explain to a colleague that I had not had a chance to complete my tasks for the meeting only to be asked, by another woman, if this was because I’d spent too long putting on my lipstick. Make up and feminism is another topic discussed in the book as Lottie wears make up and she explains that feminism is about having the choice and that it’s sexist that men can’t wear make up as freely as women. I don’t wear make up everyday, it’s something that I wear for myself and when I feel like it, so when I do wear it to work people often comment on it but to be asked a question like that in a meeting by a female colleague left me livid. Too angry to trust myself to call it out, sorry Lottie.
To any woman, feminist, parent of young women, teenager, person interested in making a difference (or starting a revolution) I couldn’t recommend this book enough. Although since reading it I’ve struggled to call out every instance of sexism I’ve seen, experienced or stumbled across, I’m more annoyed with myself for not doing so and motivated to try my best, where possible to speak up.