In her new book, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, Florence Given challenges everything women have come to accept as the norm.
In her first book, Florence discusses privilege to accountability, boundaries, relationships, and, you guessed it, ‘prettiness’. This part-guide, biography, part- handbook is a good starting point for anyone looking to begin their journey or continuation with feminism.
A social activist, illustrator and now writer, at only 21 years old, Florence has written a book that challenges the patriarchal society. She brings up what some may deem as controversial, otherwise crucial conversations.
From one of the initial chapters “Feminism is going to ruin your life (in the best way possible)”, I knew this book would hold a mirror up to myself and to how I perform my feminity. To put it simply, it’s indoctrinated that prettiness is used to get what we want, to be accepted and liked. Prettiness, in other words, is a transaction that we have been taught to use to our advantage. But this prettiness only caters and exists under the umbrella of thin, able-bodied, cis, white women. Makeup, beauty products and ‘overpriced pink razors’ – there’s a whole industry that profits off the pressure to be pretty and fit in, to be accepted by a society that makes it impossible to exist as a woman.
Prettiness is so ingrained into us that we have developed internalised misogyny. Thinking “I’m not like other girls”, judging other women for casual hook-ups and wearing things that don’t flatter our body types or not participating in traditional gender roles (getting married, having babies). These ideas stem from women having to prove themselves and catering to the male gaze. Women have to be perfect to exist rather than just be. It’s completely unattainable.
I encourage everyone to read it, if not for the ideas and concepts, to challenge ideas – to recognise our privilege and take accountability for what we’ve done and how we’ve taken up space. This is a book for self-reflection and self-love, to recognise the space we take up and how we need to extend it, to speak up and speak out when we can.
Florence goes deeper than the surface level feminist topics. She points out our censorships and how we hide parts of ourselves simply to be accepted and respected by our male counterparts. Hiding tampons, buying contraception and getting taxi’s home from a night simply so we won’t be sexually assaulted, these are all preventions we have to pay for being a woman, yet we’re still paid less.
This book came to me when I needed some inspiration for self-love, and it did not disappoint. Apart from prettiness politics, Florence discusses queerness, being single and marriage, topics that seem to play a part of my own self-worth into my mid-twenties. These pressures that we’ve created to be desired by someone else simply to fit in. How we rarely protect our energy in romantic relationships and which in turn can cause our mental health to become compromised.
One of my favourite quotes “Don’t settle for crumbs, eat the whole damn cake” made me realise how I’ve been settling for less most of my life. Because it’s better to be wanted than be completely alone. This is a harsh but valuable lesson that I think many women need to realise and come to terms with.
Read this book with the utmost attention, take notes and learn – you might become aware of the things you have dismissed in the past. Buy the book here.