Earlier this year I wrote a blog post about how my reading was affected during lockdown and it was in this small list of books that I first mentioned Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given. That was August. Now we’re in October. I’m still obsessing about this book.
Florence Given is a British feminist queer illustrator and social activist, and as of June 2020, an author. Women Don’t Owe You Pretty has taken the country by storm and remained in The Sunday Times Best Seller Top 5 for 12 consecutive weeks after it’s publication! Promoted as an accessible introduction to feminism, this book has been empowering readers, both men and women, and getting them to rethink so-called ‘norms’ in our society. Full of Florence’s illustrations throughout, the book is potentially one of the most physically beautiful books I have ever held, and who doesn’t love an aesthetically pleasing book for the shelf and the bookstagram? The platform Goodreads describes the book: ‘Florence’s book will help you to tackle and challenge the limiting narrative you have been bombarded with your whole life and determine feminism on your own terms. After all, you are the love of your own life.’ This last point was one of the biggest take-aways from the book for me as a reader; this book encouraged me to put my own wants and desires before that of others and to finally think about me for a change. The book made me re-evaluate nearly every decision I’ve ever made, whether that was choosing between which Instagram selfie to post or choosing what to wear on a night out. When I usually make these decisions, I normally think about the opinions of other people and what their perceptions of my choices would be. The worst thing about this is that I wasn’t really ever fully conscious that I was doing this! It didn’t occur to me that even small mundane choices I’d make regularly were so heavily dictated by other people. This book completely changed that for me and it’s so refreshing to think about myself and what I liked and what I wanted without regard for the critical opinions others. Trust me – it is easier said than done and I am aware of this – as a first-class people pleaser myself I can tell you it was HARD! But, saying that, it’s a been a positive process trying to be more confident in myself and in my choices. To quote Florence herself: ‘You are the love of your own life’ so treat yourself like it! Love yourself! Feel good about yourself!
Florence Given herself revealed that this book is full of the lessons which she wishes she had been taught at a younger age and in my opinion, it is a very engaging introduction to intersectional feminism covering a variety of topics, including: the male gaze; heteronormativity and accountability. The narration of the book was one of my favourite features! I felt like me and Florence were close confidantes and she was giving me a friendly pep talk to boost my mood and my confidence. Whilst I found this book an overall positive experience, there are some potentially triggering subjects included and I really appreciated the ‘Content Warning[s]’ at the beginning of each chapter to ensure that readers are prepared and comfortable reading about some of the more difficult subjects that are discussed.
If I had to describe this book in a single word, I think I would definitely struggle, so here’s a few: raw, honest, sexy, empowering. It was so hard to even stop there I loved it so much! I would recommend this book to everyone I know; I really think it’s important that books like this, that make us ask questions and rethink the everyday, are extremely valuable. For me personally, this book reminded me to check myself and my opinions whilst also encouraging me to increase my awareness of the influences that dominate and dictate society, especially for women, and how I can defy those and live however I want to.
If there’s anything to take away from this review, if you do or don’t read the book (though you most definitely should), remember that ‘you are the love of your own life’.
You can purchase Women Don’t Owe You Pretty here.