Feminist Essay Book Reviews

Nasty Women

It was really cool to get to see the world through the eyes of women coming from walks of life entirely removed from my own. There were many whose struggles I couldn’t even begin to imagine dealing with, while others I found comfort that I wasn’t alone in the issues that I have faced. The anthology really does cover a wide range of topics by authors from drastically different backgrounds.

The one essay that stood out the most to me was “Choices” by Rowan C. Clarke, which discussed the author’s difficult relationship with her mother and that never ending struggle to please. While the underlying messages in all of the stories were political and feminist, they were also very personal and down to earth which is what made this collection pretty emotional.

I did have a few issues with the anthology, however, that I need to address. The first was that the quality of each essay varied pretty wildly. The version I read was an ARC so it’s difficult for me to judge the final product, but there were several that weren’t well structured or were rife with grammatical and formatting errors. There were citations (I love citations!) that weren’t formatted all that well (cutting into the middle of paragraphs) that perhaps would’ve been better placed at the end. As for the actual content, most were incredibly well written and heartfelt, a few felt like angry rants that were more alienating than empowering, then there was one that just felt stiff and spent more time with the preface rather than the story.

“Being able to be myself was like being able to exhale for the first time after holding my breath for years. It’s only when you taste freedom that you can see how tight your bonds were.”

While on the subject of alienation, despite the rather diverse sets of authors and essays, I feel like there were some missing pieces still. It’s obvious from the title what many of the authors thought about the last election and I didn’t like how black and white things were with barely any room in-between. In cases like this, I’m sure most of the readers would be those looking for confirmation of beliefs that they already share, which is fine except that it closes the door on discussion with the other side which is truly unfortunate.

Don’t get me wrong, I think that what was already here was pretty great. I see what they were going for and I appreciated it. I love to see discussion about politics and social issues, but I worry when the tone leans too far toward one extreme it only invites backlash from the other extreme. It’s a difficult balancing act between maintaining one’s own core beliefs while also trying to open things up to the other side so that perhaps they could engage in the conversation and, ideally, listen and have their own perceptions changed.

But I digress, despite the complaints I had about the book, I found it to be a pretty quick and enjoyable read. It gives a voice to groups of women that aren’t often heard in the greater narrative of the feminist movement. The experiences of these many women enrich that narrative and there’s a lot we can all learn from each other especially in these troubling times.

Title: Nasty Women
Editor: 404 Ink
Authors: Laura Lam, Ren Aldridge, Nadine Aisha Jassat, Sasha De Buyl-Pisco, Elise Hines, Alice Tarbuck, Jonatha Kottler, Chitra Ramaswamy, Christina Neuwirth, Belle Owen, Zeba Talkhani, Katie Muriel, Joelle A. Owusu, Kaite Welsh, Claire L. Heuchan, Jen McGregor, Mel Reeve, Sim Bajwa, Becca Inglis, Rowan C. Clarke, Kristy Diaz
Publisher: 404 Ink
Publication Date: March 8, 2017
Pages: 240
Format: ARC / Ebook
Source: NetGalley

With intolerance and inequality increasingly normalised by the day, it’s more important than ever for women to share their experiences. We must hold the truth to account in the midst of sensationalism and international political turmoil. Nasty Women is a collection of essays, interviews and accounts on what it is to be a woman in the 21st century.

People, politics, pressure, punk – From working class experience to racial divides in Trump’s America, being a child of immigrants, to sexual assault, Brexit, pregnancy, contraception, identity, family, finding a voice online, role models and more, Laura Jane Grace of Against Me!, Zeba Talkhani, Chitra Ramaswamy are just a few of the incredible women who share their experience here.

Keep telling your stories, and tell them loud.

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