Monday, August 27, 2012

Attention Young Women!

wonderful books we recommend to inspire creativity, health and good old fashioned self-lovin’

(photo from Anna Barnes' blog Julia Bluhm (middle) is an 8th grader from the USA who led a protest with her friends against unrealistic images in magazines).

As you will be well aware of, we are constantly surrounded by ads, images, slogans, magazines and yes, even books, that love to tell us all the things we’re doing wrong, what is not quite right about us; what is considered ‘beautiful’ and what a ‘real’ woman looks like, and how that is so not us.

These messages affect everyone, but they often seem to target young women in particular. Sometimes they’re obvious messages, such as magazine articles about how to ‘get that guy and keep him’, that enforce rules about how you should think about and behave in certain situations.  Other times they’re more subtle, for example when was the last time you saw a woman in a magazine who was not super-skinny, super-stylish with perfect hair and make-up? You might look at one such image and know that it is unrealistic and superficial, but the repetition can really wear you down over time and keep you focussed on the things you don’t have, instead of celebrating the things you do have.

The information we receive is also often confusing and conflicted. Are you supposed to be a proactive modern woman, or hold out til the cute guy you have a crush on texts you? Are you supposed to love-your-body-just-the-way-it-is, or be-the-best-you-be by eating nothing but grapefruits? What about if you don't want to wear make up at all? Or hook up with a guy at all?  Are you skanky if you wear short skirts or are you just expressing how free and empowered you are?

Magazine editors assume a lot about us that just may not be true, and they often try to answer these questions for us, based on their assumptions. I believe however,  the more important questions for us women to be asking is who decides the answers to these questions for us? Is it us? Our friends? Our mums? Or Cosmo? What do we/they hope to gain from one answer versus another? Should we just ignore them?

Although we young women are smart, savvy people who can clearly spot the bullc**p and make up our own minds about these things, sometimes we need our fears and anxieties acknowledged, to feel like we’re attractive, to fit in with the crowd we identify with. We need to see our own experiences reflected, without judgement.

We also need good information. Growing up has a lot of challenges and it can be hard to negotiate the world of fad-diets, the pressure to have sex, the weird things our bodies surprise us with and friendships that are constantly shifting-and all this on top of making your mum happy and finishing your homework!

So here are some books we’ve picked out from our shop that offer down-to-earth advice to women of all ages, that celebrate diversity, that are full of DIY ideas to inspire creativity, reassure you, make you think about the world outside your neighbourhood or just lay down the 'facts of life'.

1. Things My Daughter Needs to Know: Dilvin Yasa: Aged 16+

Written in a series of letters to her daughter, Dilvin Yasa provides a totally unpretentious and mostly hilarious version of growing up, making mistakes and sorting out what really matters to you. With solid advice such as “in case you do need to take a walk of shame, keep a spare change of clothes and a toothbrush at work so you can clean up before anyone sees you...” you can’t go wrong!

2. Secret Girls’ Business: Maggie Hamilton: Aged 13+

This book has just about everything. Filled with DIY fashion and design ideas, amazing recipes and advice on dealing with everything from boys to bullying, to grief and body image. Along the way many women share their stories of following their dreams, overcoming challenges and forging new paths.

3. Girl! The Ultimate Guide to Being You: Anna Barnes: Aged 12+

What is feminism? What are human rights? Climate whhaaa? This book deals with these issues and more in a clear and accessible way for young women, emphasising that getting along with your friends and family is just as important as social justice or world peace. It’s full of fun DIY activities from writing letters to the editor and caring for the environment, to making your ‘zines’ and preparing home-made skin care. 

For those who are keen to know more about this particular one, author Anna Barnes has a FANTASTIC BLOG (as seen above with the first photo in this post) you can check out, that continues on from the book, with tonnes of new stuff as well! 

4. Girl Stuff: Kaz Cooke: Aged 13+

It’s been around a few years now but we still love it. Hilarious cartoons, plenty of facts based on thorough research, down-to-earth advice and a solid section dedicated to queer issues, which, unfortunately, is rare in most mainstream puberty and sex-education books. Drugs and their effects, the pressure to have sex, money, shopping, pregnancy, post traumatic stress disorder; there’s almost nowhere this book does not go, but it’s sensitive, and probably informative for almost all young women-and some older ones too!

5. One In Every Crows: Ivan E Coyote: Aged 14+

Now unlike the previous books, this one isn't a non-fiction guidebook, but hitherto the queer youth have been missing out, so this one for them. Prefaced with a letter the author wrote to their teenage self, it offers fictional short stories about queer or questioning kids, addressing some big issues that are often ignored at best, and at worst prohibited. We therefore consider it up there with the best guides for teens, recognising that we all have really different experiences and that when we talk about 'young women' we're talking about a seriously diverse group of people! 

We hope you find something interesting here, and you can always pop in for a visit to check the books out for yourselves! Also, Like us on facebook to keep up with all our latest news! 

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