Sunday, 17 July 2016

Girls will be Girls...

Girls Will be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act DifferentlyGirls Will be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O'Toole
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

O'Toole makes some very interesting, thought-provoking arguments about what it means to be a "girl" (basically, "feminine" - and "masculine" - traits are learnt behaviours that have nothing to do with actual biological sex). While I don't think I could bring myself to not conform to female gender norms by not shaving my armpits (as O'Toole has done), I am inspired to be more comfortable about not conforming to gender norms in other ways. For example, I've never been one for fashion or wearing lots of make-up - something that I've always felt a bit embarrassed about because I felt I was somehow failing to be a proper "girl". But according to O'Toole's argument, the traditional concept of a girl is just a social construct anyway and damaging for gender equality if it is rigidly adhered to. That's not to say she's against being a "girly girl" but more women need to be aware that it's a performance - and they can choose to perform in a different way should they wish to (O'Toole is much better explaining this than I am).

However, I did find her arguments a bit OTT at time and bordering on the preaching. She lost me completely when talking about sexual identity. I thought her argument that heterosexuality, homosexuality, bisexuality etc. are social constructs (just as "male" and "female" are social constructs") wasn't that convincing; she seems to be suggesting we're all "queer"(which, as far as I understand it, means fancying people because of the person they are; independent of their anatomy) and it's society that makes us think otherwise. We probably all are on a spectrum but it's down to the individual to decide where they fall on the spectrum. If someone only wants to have same-sex relationships or only opposite-sex relationships,* that's up to them (just as it's perfectly OK to identify as queer). It's a tad patronising to suggest that they are being 100% straight (for want of a better word) or 100% gay because of the binary society that they are in (again, O'Toole is much better explaining her arguments than I am).

I discovered this book through the Reads and Daydreams BookTube channel:

* = I mean a relationship with someone who has a different gender identity from you - not necessarily a "boy/girl" relationship.

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