Her Young Smile is Radiant in the Spotlight

Only Ever Yours
Louse O'Neill
Quercus
2015

only_ever_yoursImagine a world where women are pitted against each other, forced to comply with nigh unattainable standards of beauty and behaviour, and live their lives entirely according to the whims of men who treat them with nothing but contempt. Oh sorry, you don’t need to imagine. That’s our reality*. Louise O’Neill’s Only Ever Yours** is our reality up to eleven.  I’ll say it now: massive trigger warnings for eating disorders, shaming of women’s sexuality, rape culture, misogyny, domestic violence and toxic masculinity.  As someone who, like most women, has struggled with body image (etc.), I was not terribly affected, but I cannot speak for other readers and potential readers.

freida is entering the final year of School.  She is 16, and with her 29 classmates she has spent the last twelve years of her life in a routine of maintaining stringent beauty standards, learning proper feminine behaviours, and being rated weekly on her appearance by her peers as well as total strangers.  In the future earth of freida’s birth, sex-selective abortion almost led to the extinction of the human race.  It was decided that women must be designed and educated to become the mothers of future generations.  But, since men need more than just wifely companionship, a large number of concubines are also required.  freida’s destiny is to become either one of ten companions, a concubine, or a chastity–a celibate teacher for girls at the School. Continue reading

As a Woman, My Country is the Whole World

HALF THE SKY: TURNING OPPRESSION INTO OPPORTUNITY FOR WOMEN WORLDWIDE

Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn (Vintage Books, 2009) ISBN: 978-307-38709-7 Half the sky

So a couple months ago, giddy with having my first full-time job, but already feeling intellectually understimulated from the lack of university work to avoid doing, I stumbled into that great bookshop on Bourke Street.  Near Parliament House with the very aesthetic black and white sign, and crammed full of various works in a style reminiscent of a secondhand bookshop, but where everything is quite new.  Difficult to navigate, but a joy to lose yourself in.  In my highly suggestible state, one of an armful of books I took home with me was Nicholas D. Kristoff and Sheryl WuDunn’s Half the Sky.  I hesitated over it for some time, worrying that the book might have a white saviour complex and would thus turn out to be a disappointment[*].  In the end, though, I decided it was easy to read and so if I hated it, it would at least be quickly dealt with.

Half the Sky is what will hopefully be a portrait of humanity at the beginning of the 21st century.  Of the world’s people, women are still overwhelmingly more likely to be under-educated, under- or completely unpaid for their work, and face discrimination on every front.  In many parts of the world, girls are less likely to be born in the first place[†], and from the moment of their birth are provided less nutrition and less healthcare than boys.

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      Imagine, if you will, a scene: a crowd of sports fans shocked into silence. A bobsled overturned oh-so-close to the end of the track. Four plucky Jamaicans crawl unharmed out of their upended bobsled, their hopes and dreams for Olympic glory shattered. But what’s this? They’re picking up the bobsled. … Continue reading