I’ve come across Florence Given’s book by accident and since it’s presented as a feminist nonfiction, I had to give it a go. I always enjoy a good nonfiction book, especially when it gives me a lot of insight into a new topic or idea, or simply deepens my knowledge in a topic I’m already familiar with. Feminist literature has been my go-to genre for a very long time, so Women Don’t Owe You Pretty was an obvious choice. However, did it meet my expectations?
But remember that anyone who tells you you’re “too” anything is using the word because they are threatened by your capacity to grow, evolve and express your emotions.Florence Given, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty
The book explores the topic of modern feminism, with a lot of references to problems of identity, sexuality, racism, homophobia, sexual assualts and relationships, and it is supported with Given’s illustrations. It is said to be an introduction and a “leap” into feminism, and it’s supposed to re-shape our deeply enrooted values of toxic traits and patriarchy.
Florence Given’s book is a very personal and empowering story of modern women that I did relate to on some levels. There were quite a few inspirational passages, especially regarding social and political issues, social media use and beauty standards in the modern world, and the book is in general a big self-help story to all those insecure women who want to change their lives for the better. The writing is easy-to-follow with clear messages, the book is well-designed and there are a lot of explanations of different basic terms (also thanks to the glossary at the end of the book). Unfortunately, this is where the positives of the book end for me.
In overall, I feel very dissapointed with the book. It seemed fairly unoriginal and while it could succeed as a basic self-help and introductory book into feminism, it did not meet my expectations as a book that was meant to be a “milestone” in feminist literature. There is nothing really in there that hasn’t been said before by much more qualified and/or experienced feminist activists, and the content is very repetitive at times, focusing solely on the author’s personal experiences with dissapointments in her adult life. While most of the views are fairly empowering, the majority of them do not enhance the story in any way and rather, they made me roll my eyes (simply because they all seem to circulate between the sayings “men are trash” and “be your own love of your life”). I also did not agree with most of the theories and ideas in the book. For example, I did not fully grasp the idea behind sexuality as presented from Given’s perspective (surely the only reason why women go for men isn’t because they seek external validation from them?).
Florence Given talks a lot about privileges, queerness, love and body positivity, but for me, the way she shaped her views is filled with spite and bitterness. She refers a lot to her own personal trauma, and while it is okay to include references like that, it is not okay not to include other women’s perspectives on the matter (especially when she mentions diversity so often). Maybe it’s my very subjective feeling after the last chapters of the book, but it did not get a whole-heartedly positive outlook on the life as presented by Given. If the book was meant to encourage me to live a liberated life as a woman, it unfortunately failed to do that.
Women Don’t Owe You Pretty would have helped me if I had read it 5 to 10 years ago. It is informative, but only to a small extent. Maybe it would fit someone else’s expectations more, but sadly, the only part of the book I really enjoyed were occasional empowering sayings, the design and the easiness in terms of the writing. Do not get completely discouraged though, because I do hope the book can be enjoyed! But maybe only by people who just start their journey with modern feminism.
I have been given a copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My opinions here are my own.