Why I love “The Guilty Feminist” by Deborah Frances-White

I’ve never been one for non-fiction books; all through my childhood I would have my head buried in another world and happily run alongside the fictional characters in my daydreams as I pretended I was part of the story.

Of course, at university I read countless research papers, but since Microbiology wasn’t a career I wanted, reading those papers was just a chore and a means to an end. It was only when I started studying for my Science Communication MSc that I considered reading non-fiction.

Fast forward two years and I have read precisely two and a half non-fiction books; the half being “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre (never finished even after 2 years), “This is Going to Hurt” by Adam Kay being one, and “The Guilty Feminist” by Deborah Frances-White being the other one.

This last book is the one I want to talk about and also happens to be the one that I finished about 10 minutes ago. Before reading the book, I was quite familiar with Deborah’s podcast “The Guilty Feminist” and I knew that I was going to love her book.

I’ve always said that I’m a feminist and was under the assumption that you have to be a feminist if you are a woman. Despite being a woman and being sexually harassed in the past, I didn’t know how to be a feminist or even what feminism actually stood for. I’ve even written blog posts on here that I read through and cringe at how naive and uniformed I was.

This book has opened my eyes and amongst countless other things, taught me that feminism is about fighting inequality in all its forms. It made me realise how much we still have to fight for as women and that as a straight, white, middle- class, able bodied woman, I have a privilege that makes me complacent and blind to the struggles faced by people of colour, people in the LGBTQ+ community, people with disabilities, people facing crippling poverty and many others other groups that I don’t have an insight into.

With my privileges I have the ability to include those who aren’t included or even considered in some environments, but this seems like a humongous task for just one person to undertake. That’s what I like about this book; Deborah breaks actions that you can take down to the simplest thing like recognising what your privileges are. A next step could be, how can you draw on these privileges and actively include others, for example, recognising where there are no people of colour in a working environment.

This book has ultimately empowered me and made me want to use what I have to benefit others and help make changes. Making changes could be having the courage to approach someone either in person or on social media about something they have said or done that is clearly wrong or misinformed. Another important lesson of this book is that the enemy isn’t men, it’s the patriarchy.

I also love this book because it has interviews with women from all different backgrounds and adds different voices and opinions. There are campaigns out there that I didn’t know existed, but am interested to know how they are doing.

Throughout the book, Deborah acknowledges that people can never be perfect feminists and traditional feminist stereotypes definitely don’t apply to everyone. At the beginning of each section she includes “I’m a feminist but…” which highlights the guilty that many women feel about some of their actions but are afraid to admit because they seemingly go against the grain of what feminism is.

A great example of this is:

I’m a feminist but one time I went on a Women’s March and popped into a department store to use the loo and on the way back, I got distracted trying out face creams and when I came out, the march was gone

p267, “There is No Try”

This book is balanced, witty and filled with real experiences that Deborah and her guests have gone through to make them the activists they are today. I really can’t recommend this book enough; it is informative for everyone and might make you realise some things about yourself that you never thought to question.

Ultimately, we can’t fight every battle we come across, but everyone should learn that change will only happen if we all stand up for justice rather than hoping someone else will do it.

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