Because revolutions don’t launch themselves, let alone feminist ones in this patriarchal world.
In Holly Bourne’s What’s a girl gotta do?, Lottie is determined to succeed where NATO (no action talk only) feminist like yours truly, fail. She wants to change the world. Our fearless activist reasons that society’s treatment of women can be allegorised into a pyramid.
At the tip of the condensed structure are “honour killings, FGM, women dying in illegal abortions, worldwide structural inequalities…” (Pg 79). Happenings that make us wanna scream foul and punch the perpetrators in the gut.
However, we fail to realise at the base of this pyramid, are layers and layers of seemingly unimportant mindsets and habits. “Silly sexism”, if you will. Things like slut-shaming, or misogynistic lyrics of a rap song (Pg 79). These unknowingly set a foundation for practices that violate women rights to the very core.
In an effort to combat this tendency, Lottie and gang sets afloat a month long Project #vagilante to call out every act of sexism or gender inequality that surfaces.
Below are my favourite moments from What’s a girl gotta do?:
a) Showing male scum who’s boss.
The story kickstarts with a couple of blue collared workers. Lottie is dressed in jeans and a modest jumper (note 1). Her sole mistake? Red lipstick. *gasp*
These men harass her. They corner her so she’s wedged between two hormonal males. “Shy, are you? Shy girls don’t wear lipstick like that.”
The encounter shakes her. She runs aways silently, at first…
… But later returns dressed as a “child prostitute” (not the wisest, I admit. But my fictional heroine, nevertheless).
The perverted male scum naturally took the bait. So she reports them to their superiors, and threatens to call the police. “(What you did) was sexual harassment. I should be allowed to walk down a road without some men… letting me know I’m attractive… to wear whatever I want and walk wherever I want without being threatened or objectified, or even bothered.” (Pg 56)
You go, sista!
Note 1: Her outfit, although irrelevant to the subject at hand, is mentioned because of the public notion that a girl’s dressing is to blame for any bad thing that happens to her. Fun fact: It. Does. Not.
A micro-mini that screams “check out my butt cheeks!” might warrant a couple of glances, but is absolutely NOT a harassment invitation. And unless she literally verbalises “please rape me”, NOTHING else, certainly not her choice of attire or red lipstick, is an “invitation to rape”.
b) Lottie stops shaving.
Cognitive dissonance, she explains. For example, liking cute piglet pictures on Instagram but eating bacon; or rushing to yoga class.
In line with that, why watch rom coms yet shun the idea of Prince Charming? Or wear make up, when we girls rely on substance rather than sheer looks?
“Wearing makeup,” Lottie concludes, “don’t make me feel oppressed.” She doesn’t wear it to up attractiveness points with the guys. She just simply, well, love makeup.
Shaving, on the other hand, makes her feel like a hypocrite. Which is how the decision was made to lay off the shaver for a whole month. (Pg 152-156).
Salute, salute, salute.
I have ALOT of body hair for an ethnic Chinese girl. As a kid, it was the constant focal point of my self-consciousness. There came a point when I wore stockings to school in the intense Malaysian heat, just to hide my leg hair.
The public’s concept of how a woman (or man) should look is the culprit here. If I were a boy,
even just for a day, I probably wouldn’t give two hoots about all that unshaven glory (lack of, maybe).
Do we allow society’s perception to shape our actions? Furthermore, ones based on a mere social construct like gender (story for another day)?
c) My pubes are cheaper than yours.
Or maybe, it’s marketing. Marketing that exploits the public’s willingness to pay more for products *dramatic pause* in pink.
Today I Found Out compared men and women’s shaving utensils. They concluded that besides slight design features, there is virtually no difference between the two. Other than the colour, of course.
Lottie and friends will have no such thing. They marched into a local drugstore (pharmacy) and created a diversion while the rest of the gang stick posters on the razor shelf. These posters say “identical cheaper razors that way- just be a man”. The sign is complete with a cartoon dick and speech bubble: “my pubes are cheaper than yours” (Pg 190).
Poor minimum wage drugstore employees though.
d) I’m too thin to menstruate.
Once again, public perception is king.
“Not on our watch,” says Lottie and friends. They dress skinny mannequins at the clothes store in T-shirts that say “#vagilante” and “I’m too thin to menstruate” (Pg 193).
The unhealthy body image media and culture shaft down our throats is disgusting, to say the least. Size negative (because zero doesn’t cut it) models plastered all over magazines and billboards. And apparently, the antonym to “hot” is “fat”. True story.
What’s even more revolting, is the young age when brain washing begins.
Fun fact: it is anatomically impossible for a woman with Barbie’s proportions to walk on two limbs or carry anything heavy. In fact, she is so tragically underweight, that she can’t menstruate. *a million shudders*
Girls, muscles are the new sexy.
e) Lottie and Will’s first kiss. (Pg 233)
Because, I live for ships.
And also, cognitive dissonance.
Bourne, H. (2016). What’s a girl gotta do? London: Usborne Publishing Ltd.