What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan

Girls are sick and tired because sexism surrounds us.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a feminist manifesto that denounces the discrimination and unfairness felt by women from childhood to adulthood. The graphic novel, illustrated in a strikingly minimalist style with images of girls in multiple moods and shapes, invites teenagers to question the sexism that surrounds us, in ways that are obvious and hidden, simple and complex. Its beginnings as a fanzine shine through in its honesty and directness, confronting the inequalities faced by women, everyday. And it ends with a line of hope, that with solidarity, girls hurt less, as they hold each other up with support and encouragement.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired by Lucile de Pesloüan

(Note: this is a review of the text. I can’t review the artwork, because I read it on my little black-and-white Kindle.)

I didn’t know what to expect from this one. It’s marketed as young adult nonfiction, but – with some parental/teacher guidance, I think it’s appropriate for slightly younger readers, too.

I also didn’t know it was a Canadian publication until I read it, and so a few of the sections reference Canadian society (and racial groups) in particular. That isn’t a complaint; it’s just an observation.

What Makes Girls Sick and Tired is a short read that won’t tell you many things about gender inequality you don’t already know. However, I thought it was a good compilation of facts that could start some meaningful discussions. One of the things that impressed me the most was the way the creators took seemingly “smaller/minor” feminist issues and mixed them in with the “bigger” things.

One argument misogynists and conservative women make about feminism is: ‘You’ve got it great where you live. Look at women in Saudi Arabia!’

(In fact, I recently had an otherwise progressive man tell me Saudi Arabia is great for women…!)

This book makes feminism a global issue, and illustrates that there are issues in every country. The fact little girls are sold into marriage in rural India and Yemen and many other countries doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight against catcalling or the marked-up prices of women’s products and services in the West (“the pink tax”). One injustice doesn’t cancel out another.

I started highlighting lines in What Makes Girls Sick and Tired to share, and then gave up, because I’d highlighted about 90% of the text!

This is a book I think would be invaluable in classrooms for the 12-18-year-olds, but only if it’s presented to male students, too.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

In Defence of the Unlikeable Heroine

I Kissed a Rogue  (Covent Garden Cubs #3) by Shana Galen

No commentary; just an article from a few weeks ago that I thought I’d share. I chose the cover above because Galen’s book features a heroine who fits this theme perfectly.

In Defence of the Unlikeable Heroine

If you meander through the reviews of most romance novels, you’ll find certain terms showing up again and again in relation to the heroine. Unsympathetic. Bitchy. Slutty. Not good enough for the hero. Unlikeable.

The very traits that we so love in heroes—bold, uncompromising, dominant, sexually experienced—are the exact same ones that we pick apart in the heroines we read. We will forgive the hero many sins, but the heroine must stay inside of very specific parameters in order to gain our love. Or at least our tolerance.

(Read on at the link above.)

The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

First love is always the sweetest.

For years, Abigail Linton devoted herself to caring for her ageing parents and the children of her siblings. Now, eager to make her own life, she takes a position as governess on the neighbouring estate. It shouldn’t matter that her absentee employer is Maxwell Bryce, the Duke of Rothwell, the infamous rake who once broke her youthful heart. Surely he’s forgotten her, for he hasn’t set foot on his estate for fifteen years. At least, that is, until he arrives unexpectedly.

Max is incensed to meet his sister’s new governess. But why does Abby appear just as displeased to see him when it was she who’d rejected him all those years ago? Why is he so drawn to the independent spinster she has become? And why is there a sparkle in her beautiful blue eyes that suggests they might have a second chance at love?

The Duke I Once Knew (Unlikely Duchesses #1) by Olivia Drake

The Duke I Once Knew is fifty percent lovely reunion romance – and fifty percent misogynistic stereotyping nightmare. It seems fitting that what will probably be my last review of 2018 is for a book that features the themes I hope to not read about in 2019 – or ever again:

 

To make matters worse, he was tramping through the woods with a prissy female who squealed at the sight of caterpillars and played dumb…

Women. Aren’t. Like. That.

 

Firstly: what I liked.

This book combines two of my absolute favourite things: a reunion romance, and the Regency era. It also features another theme I love to pieces: the slightly older heroine who’s waking up to the fact life is passing her by (sort of like Jane Austen’s Persuasion).

Olivia Drake has a wonderful writing style that keeps you turning the pages, and it’s an easy style that works well with the light themes of the book.

On the other hand…

Firstly, in 2019 I want to see no more books where the hero thinks, ‘she was not like other women’. Insulting all other women to praise the heroine is sexist, not good.

Additionally, people negatively stereotyping blonde women? Sexist. People negatively stereotyping attractive women? Sexist. Putting the two together? Something I wish authors gave up years ago, but too many readers still eat it up.

It’s especially infuriating when an “other woman” character jealous enough to try and cause another woman physical harm is created to illustrate how virtuous (read: a virgin), intelligent – and non-“blonde” – the heroine is.

 

It didn’t help that Elise kept up a continuous brainless chatter in his ears, so that he couldn’t enjoy a moment’s peace. Or that she kept trying in that gratingly sultry tone to convince him to stop and rest when it was obvious she was angling for a kiss. Refusing to think about why the prospect held such little appeal, he forged onward.

‘Oh! Forgive me. Your Grace, there must have been a rock in the path. I daresay you saved my life!’

As she flapped her lashes in coquettish distress, Max suspected he’d been hoodwinked.

 

Because I was enjoying the writing, I was willing to overlook the first little misogynistic jibes here and there. I kept telling myself it didn’t matter that much, even though it’s my #1 pet hate in books.

However, as the story went on it became worse and worse, to the point it was the main theme.

By the end I couldn’t take it anymore. I was pretty furious.

Your mileage may vary, but I sure hope more women – writers and readers – will develop a zero-tolerance policy for this sort of thing in the coming year.

 

Review copy provided by NetGalley.

The Week: 8th – 14th October

Sunny spring days in Canberra.

This week started out gorgeous, had some weird weather in the middle, and involved a trip to the city to pick up my passport for my next trip!

Plus, there was a gorgeous (and very sweet) royal wedding to watch on Friday night (our time). I’m not into the royals usually, but this one…

How is October already half over? It’s nearly time to start thinking about Christmas!

Most of my posts this week were about sexual assault, and how the topic is handled (or dismissed in some quarters) in romance publishing. I’m utterly disgusted by recent events in the United States, and by how these things have an effect on women the world over.

Romance authors, misogyny, and conservative conversations about men.

Russian Orthodoxy – GONE!

China…

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Easy by Tammara Webber

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breakable by Tammara Webber

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

No, I’m not American, but the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – and the subsequent misogynistic victim-blaming movement emerging out of it – is reverberating around the world.

So, I’ve moved all my scheduled posts for the week, and instead will be recommending some books that deal with the reality of what women are up against when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

Whispering Rock by Robyn Carr

Whispering Rock (Virgin River #3) by Robyn Carr

A decorated U.S. Marine reservist, LAPD officer Mike Valenzuela was badly wounded in the line of duty, but has found hope and healing in Virgin River. When he agrees to become the town’s first cop, he does so knowing it’s time he settled down. Twice divorced and the lover of too many women, he secretly longs for the kind of commitment and happiness his marine buddies have found—a woman who can tie up his heart forever.

He finds that woman in Brie Sheridan, a Sacramento prosecutor who understands his drive to protect and serve. Virgin River becomes a safe haven for Brie after nearly losing her life at the hands of a crazed criminal. Though tough and courageous, she’s got some fears she can’t escape—but now she has someone who will show her just what it means to trust again. Mike will do anything to help Brie free herself from painful memories. Passionate, strong and gentle, he vows to give back to her what she’s so selflessly given him—her heart, and with it, a new beginning.

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breakable by Tammara Webber

No, I’m not American, but the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – and the subsequent misogynistic victim-blaming movement emerging out of it – is reverberating around the world.

So, I’ve moved all my scheduled posts for the week, and instead will be recommending some books that deal with the reality of what women are up against when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

Breakable by Tammara Webber

Breakable (Contours of the Heart, #2) by Tammara Webber

Breakable is a retelling of Easy. Here is the blurb for Easy:

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life. Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound. When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – the Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs

No, I’m not American, but the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – and the subsequent misogynistic victim-blaming movement emerging out of it – is reverberating around the world.

So, I’ve moved all my scheduled posts for the week, and instead will be recommending some books that deal with the reality of what women are up against when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

Silver Borne by Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs’ Mercy Thompson series is an urban fantasy series that – a few books in – begins to deal sensitively with the aftermath of sexual assault. There is a great deal more to the series than that storyline, but Briggs’ handling of that plot really impressed me.

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

No, I’m not American, but the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – and the subsequent misogynistic victim-blaming movement emerging out of it – is reverberating around the world.

So, I’ve moved all my scheduled posts for the week, and instead will be recommending some books that deal with the reality of what women are up against when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Breaking the Silence by Katie Allen

Don’t be deceived by the cover. When this book came out a decade ago it was considered pretty groundbreaking in its sensitive plotline involving sexual assault.

Unfortunately, with the collapse of the original publisher, I’m not sure how easy it is to get your hands on a copy of this one now.

Here’s what it’s about:

After enduring a horrific childhood, William Jackson lives a solitary existence working as a computer programmer from his Minnesota home. His safe routine is blown to pieces when the daily sight of an unknown woman walking her dog sends his heart into a tailspin.

Jenny Fitzgerald’s love life is at a definite low. Her only potential date in sight is her annoying and creepy coworker, Evan—until a stunning man appears before her like a gift from some kindly sex god. Who is she to turn down what’s offered to her on a hunky blond platter?

Will and Jenny’s friendship develops as their hunger grows into love. Meanwhile, a jealous Evan watches, his rage building until it explodes in a brutal act of violence that tears Jenny’s life apart. Will struggles to help her rebuild her courage and sense of self as his own demons and fragile memories threaten their chance at happiness—but perhaps they can learn to heal each other.

Reader Advisory: This book contains a realistic, violent near-rape scene.

Books to Counter Kavanaugh – Easy by Tammara Webber

No, I’m not American, but the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Brett Kavanaugh – and the subsequent misogynistic victim-blaming movement emerging out of it – is reverberating around the world.

So, I’ve moved all my scheduled posts for the week, and instead will be recommending some books that deal with the reality of what women are up against when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.

Firstly: Easy by Tammara Webber

Easy by Tammara Webber

When Jacqueline follows her longtime boyfriend to the college of his choice, the last thing she expects is a breakup two months into sophomore year. After two weeks in shock, she wakes up to her new reality: she’s single, attending a state university instead of a music conservatory, ignored by her former circle of friends, and failing a class for the first time in her life. Leaving a party alone, Jacqueline is assaulted by her ex’s frat brother. Rescued by a stranger who seems to be in the right place at the right time, she wants nothing more than to forget the attack and that night – but her savior, Lucas, sits on the back row of her econ class, sketching in a notebook and staring at her. Her friends nominate him to be the perfect rebound. When her attacker turns stalker, Jacqueline has a choice: crumple in defeat or learn to fight back. Lucas remains protective, but he’s hiding secrets of his own. Suddenly appearances are everything, and knowing who to trust is anything but easy.

 

Romance authors, misogyny, and conservative conversations about men.

In light of recent developments in the US (which are being reported in real time across the world), I have a request.

Everyone read the Twitter thread below. Everyone, but especially men and conservative women. Read it, memorise it:

Jeremy C. Young

(Alternate link.)

And then, if you’re still having doubts, read this article, too:

The Anatomy of a Lie: Reflections on the Enduring Myth of Women Who Cry Rape

Yes, of course men are also sexually assaulted, but right now? Conservative politicians have turned this into a men versus women thing, and so that’s what I’m running with.

I’ve written – and deleted – seventy million versions of this post, and now I’ve decided to keep it shortish. I have to say something here, especially when a former favourite author of mine is currently plastering Facebook with far-right memes in support of sex abusers.

I know multiple women who have been raped, and I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t been groped and/or harassed in their lifetime.

The only attacker I know of who suffered any consequences for his actions was the man who also murdered his victim – a woman I grew up with, a woman I’d known since I was eight.

Men claiming they’re the real victims these days (and the women who support that lie) disgust me.

Some points:

  • The rise of Donald Trump (and his equivalents in other countries) has, generally, inspired the romance writing (and reading) community to become stronger, more resistant to misogyny, and to create better books. E.g. Sarah MacLean.
  • However, extremist politics are polarising, and certain authors – including one of my all-time favourites – have gone the other way.
  • It has only got worse in the past few weeks, with the narrative from the far-right turning its focus to women who have been sexually assaulted. The new narrative: all women lie about assault to destroy men’s lives. It’s working. I’m sickened by how many men are jumping on that bandwagon and using it as yet another excuse to hate women.
  • This particular author I’m thinking of – a woman who in the past wrote about rape survivors in a positive way – has taken to posting Facebook memes about how girls are looking to destroy boys’ lives with false accusations.
  • It makes me sad. Yes, her politics have leaked into her books for years and years, but never before has she been so publicly open with it. I’ve lost an author I know I’ll never be able to read again.

One final point: if you support an avowed misogynist and self-confessed sex abuser, and if you’ve chosen to hate your own gender because your President told you to, then you have no business being in the romance industry, an industry that not only touts itself as feminist, but as being “by women, for women”.