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.

Verdict: Story - 3/5
Writing - 4/5
Insight - 3/5
Enjoyment - 3/5
Overall - 3.5

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