by Laura Jones & Heather McDaid, eds., 2017
Leave it to Book Riot to not only force me to read outside of my typical bounds, but also to lead me right to the perfect books at the perfect times. When I read their article extolling British indie publisher 404 Ink‘s Nasty Women: A Collection of Essays & Accounts on What It Is Like to Be a Woman in the 21st Century, I jumped at the chance to use it to fulfill the “read a book published by a micropress” challenge task. While the book went immediately out of print on the day of its release – International Women’s Day – I was pleased to receive notice the very next day that the ebook was available for immediate download. Download I did and not only am I glad to have crossed off this difficult task, I’m happy to have done it while also providing support to the authors speaking on these very necessary subjects.
The title is, of course, in response to Hillary Clinton being deemed as such and, accordingly, the essays herein depict numerous ways in which women in the 21st century are refusing to be docile and silent, thereby being nasty in their own ways. The book is commendable simply for the sheer variety of subjects tackled within. There are, of course, many responses to the gut-wrenching news of our 45th president, but there are also many portrayals of the diversity of women’s lives that are so important to the overall discussion of feminism. I am female and biracial, but that does not mean my experience is not limited – I don’t know what it’s like to be Muslim or transgender or have a physical impairment and, thus, these are topics I need to be schooled on, too.
While I was familiar with many of the topics broached in the book, I was equally impressed by how a writer’s specific experience was able to open my eyes. Jen McGregor’s “Lament: Living with the Consequences of Contraception,” was not just your oft heard rant against those who would criticize the childless by choice, but a disturbing account of how birth control and women’s lack of agency over their own bodies can wreak very serious medical havoc. In “The Nastiness of Survival,” Mel Reeve speaks on the performance of the rape survivor and how damaging the notions of the “perfect survivor” and the “bad survivor” are for all those who experience sexual assault. And in “Resisting by Existing: Carving Out Accessible Spaces,” Belle Owen proclaims that “success to me is no longer ‘passing,’ but standing out.” Owen is referring to her use of a wheelchair, something that allows her a freedom that others would seek to take away by denying her access to numerous places. In doing so Owen offers a fitting metaphor for many on the wrong side of an oppressive regime: “Prejudice lies at the heart of segregation. My greatest act for change is not retiring to the spaces designated to me by society or, worse yet, retreating or resigning when there are none.”
“Sometimes, it feels like rebellion to claim our space without apology,” Sim Bajwa writes in “Go Home,” an essay on being a first generation British-Indian. Truly, that’s what this book is about. It should be not be too much to ask to exist without threat of recourse, to tell our experiences without being discredited, to receive the same rights and privileges theoretically granted to all citizens, and yet, somehow, that is considered rebellious. Well, if that must be so, we need more women telling their experiences and more readers and listeners willing to accept what they say as truth. Kudos to 404 Ink and the authors in this book for helping to forge that path.
[Book Riot Read Harder Challenge: read a book published by a micropress.]