Alida Nugent wasn’t always a feminist. There was a time when she was much more interested in being cool. Not Like Others Girls was a prized label and she was aiming for it. She considered herself a Guy’s Girl. I think most of us know at least one woman who sees herself that way. The question that led Alida to eventually realise that One of the Guys wasn’t a prize she needed to be aiming for, was this: Why do you hate being a woman so much?
I mean, it’s kind of understandable. We live in a culture where women are considered less than. There’s the serious, if you leave the house after dark there’s a genuine possibility you might be raped/murdered issue. But in addition to that there’s also the blatant derision that exists toward anything that is created by women, for women. Just to use an appropriately bookish example, rather than being simply, writers, women who write books aimed toward women produce ‘chick lit’, a title that has intrinsically less value than literary or genre fiction. What’s the massive difference? Usually that it’s written by a woman and the romantic relationship comes from the woman’s perspective (rather than her simply being the sexy catalyst for the character development of a white guy who’s sad about the quality of his art – that’s literary.).
‘Calling yourself a feminist is like making a comment on the Internet in real life: there’s always somebody who is going to disagree with your beliefs, and that person is going to express their disagreement with great passion and little digs at your life choices.’
With all this in mind, it’s not difficult to see why girls want to distance themselves from their female-ness. Everything that they create, enjoy, and – let’s face it – are, is considered somehow less. That Alida Nugent used this perspective to explore the discomfort that she felt about feminism when she was younger was really refreshing to read. She talks about how this anti-women attitude can lead to committing what she refers to as ‘crimes.’ A lot of these ‘crimes’ have to do with language choices. For her, part of growing up and finding feminism was realising the harm the words she had used about other women – slut, crazy, bitch – were doing. Sometimes we only learn the damage words can do when we’ve already said them, but that doesn’t make it too late to change.
‘Ah, to be the kind of person who declares that she just doesn’t get along with many women. What this can also be translated to is, “I don’t get along with half the entire world.” That is most definitely a “you problem.”’
What I like most about this part of the book is the demonstration that a person’s entire worldview can change. We can get so stuck in our beliefs that we totally shut down the possibility of being wrong, and in doing that the chance to learn gets lost. Nugent shows that it doesn’t have to. We can grow and change – even when doing so means we’re left cringing at the person we used to be. Whether you’re a feminist or not, I think that’s a pretty great message.
Alida Nugent writes with an intent that reminded me of Roxanne Gay’s book, Bad Feminist – that declaring oneself a feminist is by no means and mistake-free process.
You Don’t Have To Like Me takes the challenges that a woman faces during her teens and early twenties, and studies them through a feminist lens. Nugent covers female friendships, eating disorders, unwanted pregnancy, bonding with women in club bathrooms and the amount of thought a girl puts into the five minute walk from her subway station to her door. A lot of thought goes into that 5 minute walk.
I would like to give this book to all the girls I know who say they aren’t feminists ‘because of all the radical stuff.’
‘There are three truths you need to remember as a feminist: (1) You are allowed to shift beliefs and be wrong and learn. There are times you will realise you were part of the problem, and the best you can do is correct your behaviour and acknowledge that. (2) If you were so strict that you never did anything problematic or watched anything problematic or listened to anything problematic ever again, you would have to sit in a room with yellow wallpaper for the rest of your life. We live in a patriarchal society, babies. This stuff is everywhere. (3) There is no one singular kind of woman.’