You Don’t Have To Like Me

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.’

Feminist TBR

For anyone who hasn’t noticed, lately I have got even more obsessed with women’s writing, specifically, women writing about feminist issues. I put this renewed obsession down to Lena Dunham’s Women of the Hour podcast and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists. It also relates to a minor incident a few weeks ago, when I was walking home by myself, late-ish at night and a random guy decided to shove his drunk friend into me, for, as far as I can tell no reason other than to frighten me. This is far from the worst creeperie I’ve experienced, but it has me angrier than usual. I suppose it’s because in an ideal world I should be to complete a less than ten minute walk from a concert venue to a youth hostel alone without incident.

I feel like reading books about feminism is a healthy way to channel the frustration.

Summaries all from Goodreads.

Men Explain Things To Me – Rebecca Solnit

41edjJkb2DL__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_‘In her comic, scathing essay “Men Explain Things to Me,” Rebecca Solnit took on what often goes wrong in conversations between men and women. She wrote about men who wrongly assume they know things and wrongly assume women don’t, about why this arises, and how this aspect of the gender wars works, airing some of her own hilariously awful encounters…This book features that now-classic essay with six perfect complements, including an examination of the great feminist writer Virginia Woolf ’s embrace of mystery, of not knowing, of doubt and ambiguity, a highly original inquiry into marriage equality, and a terrifying survey of the scope of contemporary violence against women.’

You Don’t Have to Like Me: Essays on Growing Up, Speaking Out and Finding Feminism – Alida Nugent

24611657‘Alida Nugent’s first book, Don’t Worry It Gets Worse, received terrific reviews, and her self-deprecating “everygirl” approach continues to win the Internet-savvy writer and blogger new fans. Now, she takes on one of today’s hottest cultural topics: feminism.

Nugent is a proud feminist—and she’s not afraid to say it. From the “scarlet F” thrust upon you if you declare yourself a feminist at a party to how to handle judgmental store clerks when you buy Plan B, You Don’t Have to Like Me skewers a range of cultural issues, and confirms Nugent as a star on the rise.’


The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats and Ex-Countries – Jessa Crispin

9780226278452‘When Jessa Crispin was thirty, she burned her settled Chicago life to the ground and took off for Berlin with a pair of suitcases and no plan beyond leaving. Half a decade later, she’s still on the road, in search not so much of a home as of understanding, a way of being in the world that demands neither constant struggle nor complete surrender.’

I heard about this book on Stuff Mom Never Told You. I really recommend listening to the episode. Jessa is a fascinating lady.

Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love and So Much More – Janet Mock

janet-mock-book-cover.jpg‘In 2011, Marie Claire magazine published a profile of Janet Mock in which she stepped forward for the first time as a trans woman. Those twenty-three hundred words were life-altering for the editor, turning her into an influential and outspoken public figure and a desperately needed voice for an often voiceless community. In these pages, she offers a bold and inspiring perspective on being young, multicultural, economically challenged, and transgender in America.’ 

Americanah – Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

51KOK64918L__SY344_BO1,204,203,200_‘As teenagers in a Lagos secondary school, Ifemelu and Obinze fall in love. Their Nigeria is under military dictatorship, and people are leaving the country if they can. Ifemelu—beautiful, self-assured—departs for America to study. She suffers defeats and triumphs, finds and loses relationships and friendships, all the while feeling the weight of something she never thought of back home: race. Obinze—the quiet, thoughtful son of a professor—had hoped to join her, but post-9/11 America will not let him in, and he plunges into a dangerous, undocumented life in London.

Years later, Obinze is a wealthy man in a newly democratic Nigeria, while Ifemelu has achieved success as a writer of an eye-opening blog about race in America. But when Ifemelu returns to Nigeria, and she and Obinze reignite their shared passion—for their homeland and for each other—they will face the toughest decisions of their lives.’

My Life on the Road – Gloria Steinem

9780679456209‘Gloria Steinem—writer, activist, organizer, and one of the most inspiring leaders in the world—now tells a story she has never told before, a candid account of how her early years led her to live an on-the-road kind of life, traveling, listening to people, learning, and creating change. She reveals the story of her own growth in tandem with the growth of an ongoing movement for equality.’

Amazing review by Ann Friedman here.