Girl Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole

Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently
Author: Emer O'Toole
Publisher: Orion
Publication Date: 5th February 2015
Buy: Amazon | Book Depository | Wordery
Emer O'Toole once caused a media sensation by growing her body hair and singing 'Get Your Pits Out For The Lads' on national TV. You might think she's crazy - but she has lessons for us all. Protesting against the 'makey-uppy-bulls**t' of gender conditioning, Emer takes us on a hilarious, honest and probing journey through her life - from cross-dressing and head shaving, to pube growing and full-body waxing - exploring the performance of femininity to which we are confined.

Funny, provocative and underpinned with rigorous academic intelligence, this book shows us why and how we should all begin gently to break out of gender stereotypes. Read this book, open up your mind and, hopefully, free your body. GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS is a must-read wake-up call for all young women (and men).

Overall I enjoyed this look at gender roles by Emer O'Toole and I learnt a few things. I mean it turns out I am pretty ignorant to the inner construction of the clitoris and Freud's opinion on an 'immature orgasm.' He was clearly just jealous. But Girls Will Be Girls wasn't quite as insightful as I'd hoped for, and been led to believe, by all the glowing reviews. What I will say is that Emer O'Toole is so incredibly articulate that even though the ideas and theories she put forward weren't that new to me, I kept thinking 'I wish I could put my thoughts together like this'.

I found myself nodding along to her opinions on female bodily freedom compared to men, and the media's role in portraying the perfect female body. This got me thinking (because I'm obsessed) about this year's Love Island. Jack and Dani have just been voted 'sexiest couple' and I think it's fair to say that Jack hasn't got as visible abs as the other boys in the villa. Yet there isn't a single girl in there who could be described as having a 'dad bod'. Mum bod? You know what I mean. Dad bods are cute and cuddly, squidgy bits on a lady are not.

She discusses her body hair in great detail and I'm glad she does. It was great to hear about her discomfort when baring her hairy legs, it's easy to assume that ladies who don't shave have all the confidence in the world. We're culturally conditioned to find hairless female bodies attractive. I personally like a bit of bush and can never understand why all the ladies are bald as a coot down there on Naked Attraction, but there you go. But when we wear feminine clothing we're expected to bare feminine body parts - smooth, hairless skin and flat abs. I can't deny that I'd do a double take if I saw hairy legs in a dress and I like it when books make you question and analyse your own biases and opinions. My problem with Girls Will Be Girls was that I was about 3 hours into a 7 hour audiobook before I felt I was getting anything from it. I'm an instant gratification kinda gal.

There's also a section in the book about a sexual encounter Emer had that, well to be blunt, was very rapey. I was shocked by it, her female friend's were not and her male friend was kinda rebuked for being appalled and shocked by the man's behaviour. I get what Emer was trying to point out, this happens to women all of the time. But by describing her friend's laughing and nodding knowingly and not acknowledging that, actually, we should be shocked and appalled, made me feel quite uncomfortable. If anyone has read the book and has thoughts on this I would love to hear them. I'm thinking that the emphasis should have been less on 'men learn their sex moves from porn and don't understand what's actually pleasurable for a women' and more a conversation around no meaning no and that we should be able to tell a sexual partner what we want, without the fear that we'll be accused of being 'shit in bed'. I think this is what she was trying to say, but it was the one section in the book that I felt was poorly done. And although it came with a trigger warning, it was perhaps the one bit of the book you'd want to get right considering the sensitive nature of the topic.
'Girls can change the world with the way they choose to be girls.'

Emer ends the book by saying that she hopes her readers can take away something from the book that they can use or play with. To emulate the things she has done in her life - growing body hair, 'gender bending' and dressing up as a boy. I can't see me giving it a go myself, but I have questioned the female role in society and my own personal biases. I can highly recommend The Gender Games by Juno Dawson if you would like to read a great book on gender.

I've realised, now I've come to write this review, that my scoring system doesn't really work for non-fiction, so instead of a 'character' score I'm giving an insight score. And when I say 'Story' for non-fiction I guess I mean the depth of the topic covered and how well it is executed.


Story - 3/5

Writing - 4/5

Insight - 3/5

Enjoyment - 3/5

Overall - 3.5


The Bookcast Club // Episode 9

Welcome to episode 9, where Alice and I chat recent and current reads, and share our thoughts on chick lit, diets and our experience at the Hay-on-Wye Literary Festival. I use the word bullshit a lot. BMI makes me angry. Soz. If you have any questions or ideas for future episodes please contact us on Twitter @bookcastclub or by email.


Listen in iTunes | Listen on Soundcloud

Books mentioned in this episode:

We Need to Talk About Kevin - Lionel Shriver

The Time Traveler's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger

Double Fault - Lionel Shriver

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud - Anne Helen Petersen

Little Fires Everywhere - Celeste Ng

Body Positive Power - Megan Jayne Crabbe

About Grace - Anthony Doerr

Everything I Know About Love - Dolly Alderton

Belonging: The Story of the Jews 1492–1900 - Simon Schama

Brit(ish): On Race, Identity and Belonging - Afua Hirsch

The Century Girls: The Final Word from the Women Who've Lived the Past Hundred Years of British History - Tessa Dunlop

The Bletchley Girls - Tessa Dunlop

Links mentioned in this episode:

The Best Life Advice from 20 Fearless Women - The Pool

Hay Festival Player - access Hay talks and content. £10 for a year's subscription.

Dolly Alderton at Hay - subscription required.

Afua Hirsch at Hay - interviewed by Amy Ansell. Subscription required.

Tessa Dunlop at Hay - subscription required.

Laura Thomas - nutritionist, specialising in intuitive eating.

The High Low Podcast

Love Stories Podcast


Maybe we'll meet again somewhere

'Accept each day as a gift without expectations and ... just enjoy the delight of being alive on this earth and all the precious miracles that come with it.' ~ Emmeline Bramble

It's hard to know how to start this post. Do I ease you in gently or just hit you with it. Currently I'm just typing whatever comes into my head. Maybe I'll go with that. Sometimes stream of consciousness is best, I'll edit afterwards. Or maybe not.

On the 19th April I had a miscarriage. It was a missed miscarriage. Ben and I had gone for our 12 week scan the day before, just to be told those dreaded words - 'I'm really sorry to tell you but there's no heartbeat.' I had no signs that I was about to miscarry until the morning of my scan. That morning I noticed a very slight brown discharge. Not enough to overly worry, especially as I was having a scan that morning. But it was clearly sign enough to put doubt in my mind, because as soon as the sonographer started my ultrasound, I knew. I know what a 12 week old baby should look like. He said baby was still quite small but not to worry as I may have just got my dates wrong. I didn't have my dates wrong. Let's just say I'm not the most regular of ovulators and I knew exactly when we had conceived. So, after an internal scan they confirmed what I already knew. Baby had passed away. The little bean was 8.5 weeks old. At my 'booking-in appointment' with my midwife, there was no heartbeat. When I was celebrating with my besties in London, there was no heartbeat. I felt okay. Sad, but okay. What broke my heart was Ben's little face. Pure heartbreak. That's the moment I'll never forget.

So it was over. My brief encounter with motherhood was at an end. We were whisked away into a little room and given our 'options' on a piece of paper. This makes it all sound very cold, but all the nurses in the Early Pregnancy Unit at the N&N were wonderful, as was the sonographer. I didn't expect the level of compassion, love and warmth I received from strangers that day or the week that followed. They must deliver this news every day but I never felt like I was just another number. I want to write the following for both cathartic reasons and in the hope that someone who needs to hear this, finds this post. But if you'd rather not read from this point onward I won't be offended. If you know me personally and don't fancy hearing all about my undercarriage this may be TMI.

Basically I was given three options - let things happen naturally, medical intervention (pills and the like) or surgery. This is where I felt completely lost and very naive. I knew miscarriage was common. My mum went through it more than once. What I didn't know is what happens next. We were due to go on holiday the Friday, even if I'd wanted the surgery they couldn't fit me in until a week later. I could take the pills that day. I'd been very calm and collected until this point and externally I know I stayed calm, but my mind was all over the place. I couldn't take all the information in that the nurse had given us to read. I decided that I wanted to leave it. I hadn't miscarried after 3 weeks of baby passing away so figured the chances of me miscarrying any time soon were fairly slim. I booked a follow up appointment to discuss my 'options' when we got back from holiday. I miscarried the next day.

I don't want to be too graphic, but I figure if you've read this far then perhaps you want to know. I woke up the next morning feeling a little crampy. Ben went to work and I plopped myself in front of the TV, text my mum to let her know how I was feeling but generally just felt a bit sad and tired. Did lots of Googling, read lots of horror stories about what happens next, how painful it is, how people had to be rushed into hospital by ambulance, how long I should expect to wait, what the surgery was like. How lots of women opt for surgery rather than go through the trauma of miscarrying naturally. At this point I was basically terrified and decided during that Googling sesh that I didn't want to go through it naturally and would book the surgery for when I got home from holiday. However, my body had other plans and when I stood up to make a cup of tea I could tell it was about to kick off. All I can describe the feeling as is similar to when you know your period has started. So I rushed to the toilet and everything gushed out of me. Google had warned me this might happen. The 'options' paperwork suggested I'd experience a heavy period. Yeh right, if a heavy period is like your insides falling out of you, then that's what was happening. I rang Ben and told him to come home so I wasn't alone. Every 15 minutes I'd have to go to the loo to let more of my insides fall out. I felt bits and pieces passing and generally made a right old mess. I was on and off the phone to the EPU during all of this, slightly concerned by how much I was bleeding. Their guidance suggests that if you're filling a super heavy night pad in under an hour then you should go to hospital. No pad could have coped with all that. The nurses at the EPU were so very lovely. They said if I could cope with it at home then it would be much nicer for me than going through it at hospital. They warned me I would pass the baby at some point and I could take it into them if I wanted. After that conversation everything happened to come to a stop. I'd clearly already passed little one. My actual miscarriage was over within a couple of hours.

I didn't feel much pain at all. Mild cramping and back ache. We decided to go on holiday on the Friday. The nurses said that it sounded like the worst was over, to keep an eye on my temperature, pain levels and bleeding and watch out for any foul smells. Vom. I was pretty achey the day after and needed a hot water bottle but we made it to the Lake District in one piece. We knew where the nearest EPU was and I was very glad that I didn't actually miscarry on holiday. I felt pretty shitty all week, like I was recovering from flu. And I did experience a heavy period the whole time. Things also started to smell a bit off. Not foul or like decay as some described it. Just ever so slightly... fishy. TMI! Told you. When we got back home I passed one last bit of tissue and then everything slowed right down to pretty much a stop. I think the smell must have been that last bit of 'stuff.' Grim.

I went back to the EPU this morning for a follow up scan, to check that my body had cleared everything by itself. I really didn't want to have surgery after going through it all anyway, but it does happen. I've been given the all clear. My body had done what it needed to do. I had a celebratory muffin and coffee. Who'd have thought I'd be celebrating my womb emptying itself eh? 'Life is a rich tapestry,' to quote my mother.

I'm okay. We're okay. The majority of the time I'm my usual happy self. I can hold it together as long as someone isn't too nice to me. Don't be nice. I do well on tough love. As you can probably tell I'm pretty matter of fact about things. It just wasn't meant to be. Hopefully next time it will. I can still look at pregnant ladies and smile. I'm surrounded by them, on Instagram (the curse of the algorithm and cookies I expect) and in real life, so I'm glad I genuinely feel happy for them. It's not an act. The things that are difficult are the firsts, the should have beens, the could have beens. The first coffee. The first glass of prosecco. Okay bottle. The rare steak. The Instagram announcement photo I'd planned, up a mountain with Ben and Pip. The Beatrix Potter baby toy I was going to buy. The trousers I bought that are now too big for me. The wedding outfits I was planning because I was going to be oh so pregnant. Our first Christmas. Baby making is fucking hard. Women are fucking heroes.

We were having a listen to lovely Harry Styles on the way to the Lakes. I had full control over the stereo. Obviously! Sign of the Times may not have been the best song choice for holding it together but it's the song I needed.

'Just stop your crying
Have the time of your life
Breaking through the atmosphere
And things are pretty good from here
Remember everything will be alright
We can meet again somewhere
Somewhere far away from here' - Harry Styles

These lines and this post by Emmeline Bramble on Instagram, reminded me to be present. The only thing that is real right now is that I am here. Healthy and loved. I am enough. And anything the future brings, at this moment, is based on pure assumption and anxiety.

Everyone experiences miscarriage and loss differently. It is okay to feel how you're feeling. It's your reality, no one elses. It's okay to be devastated. It's okay not to be. It's okay to cry. It's okay to keep laughing. I am happy to talk about my experience and if you want to get in contact, please do. I'm going to keep talking about my 'journey' whatever that ends up being. Underneath the sadness and tears I had a lot of anger about how taboo miscarriage is. How taboo fertility is in general. Life isn't all rainbows and unicorns, glitter and candyfloss, that would be nice though. It's important to talk about these things or we end up feeling lost and alone at times where we need to feel supported.

I was lucky enough to get a picture of our little bean. It's my proof that it was real. That we were parents, if only for a little while. We made a baby, that feels like a miracle in itself. And maybe we will meet again somewhere. Thanks Harry.


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