They told you to wear longer skirts, avoid going out late at night and move in groups - never accept drinks from a stranger, and wear shoes you can run in more easily than heels.
They told you to wear just enough make-up to look presentable but not enough to be a slut; to dress to flatter your apple, pear, hourglass figure, but not to be too tarty.
They warned you that if you try to be strong, or take control, you'll be shrill, bossy, a ballbreaker. Of course it's fine for the boys, but you should know your place.
They told you 'that's not for girls' - 'take it as a compliment' - 'don't rock the boat' - 'that'll go straight to your hips'.
They told you 'beauty is on the inside', but you knew they didn't really mean it.
Well, fuck that. I'm here to tell you something different.
This is the book fourteen-year-old-me really needed. Younger Me never really understood why things were different if you were a boy, why society told me that I had to dress sexy but in the same breath told me to cover up in case I got raped, why when boys argued back they were ‘making a point’ but when me and my friends did we were ‘being shrill’, why boys were assumed to have had lots of sexual partners but not girls. Who were these guys all doing it with? All the same few girls? Those girls must have been sore.
2017’s teenage girls have it worse than my friends and I did in some respects. The slut-shaming and victim-blaming isn’t confined to the school canteen or the local ice rink any more; we now have the whole of the internet as a platform for making girls feel bad about themselves.
Luckily for this year’s teens, though, they also have Laura Bates on their side, pushing a pin in society’s skewed expectations and showing them ways to challenge accepted norms and jolly well fight back.
Girl Up is completely unapologetic. Either you’re a feminist or an arsehole. She’s right, too. If you think that women shouldn’t get the same pay as men, you’re an arsehole. If you think that rape is ever the victim’s fault, you’re an arsehole. If you think that anyone else should have a say over what happens to a girl’s body other than the girl herself, you’re an arsehole.
This book isn’t just for teen girls, although that’s obviously who it is geared towards and who will get the most out of it. It’s equally as useful for parents who want to broach talks about sex and attitudes but who don’t know where to start, or just if parents want to know the pressures that their daughters are under.
Girl Up isn’t always an easy read - it challenges everything we’ve ever been told about ourselves, so why would it be? It’s super sweary (fine by me) and deals with topics that as a society we tend to giggle about, like sex, masturbation and what to call our genitals. It is also full of compassion and humour (dancing vaginas, anyone?) and zero patronisation.
This is an absolute gem of a book.
Read it. Read it now.