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Palatable Feminism Doesn’t Owe You Accountability

At the start of December 2020, social media influencer, writer and artist Florence Given came under fire for seeming to have replicated the work and message of Chidera Eggerue (whose online moniker is The Slumflower). The initial accusation came from Eggerue herself, who posted a series of Instagram stories talking through what she perceived to be similarities in their books (Given’s Women Don’t Owe You Pretty and Eggerue’s What a Time to Be Alone and How to Get Over a Boy). These included the cover style, some of the snappy phrases Given utilises (most notably “Dump Him”), and the self-illustrated, ‘coffee-table’ vibe of the book. Eggerue called for accountability from Given, and some redistribution of profits both to her and the other Black women Given credited in the afterword of her book, stating “Black women’s ideas generate wealth for white people. But that wealth doesn’t go to our community.” Radio silence followed from Given’s usually very active Instagram, until a few days later when she posted a statement via her Instagram, attempting to explain her side of the story. She pointed out that Eggerue had “ethusiastically” endorsed Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, and that it would have been impossible for her to read How to Get Over a Boy before handing in her manuscript for her own book. She cited her own previous work and drawing style, as well as her long-term interest in feminist thinking and the ways in which it has inspired her art. She also said she had donated a chunk of her advance to Black Minds Matter, a UK charity aiming to provide Black people with free care from Black therapists. Black Minds Matter has refused an offer of a further donation. Continue reading Palatable Feminism Doesn’t Owe You Accountability

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Reading Corner: Daddy by Emma Cline

I’ve found that there is a curse amongst English students. We have chosen to study an activity one usually conducts for pleasure and as a result, too often the joy of reading is drained from us. Just as I am falling into a novel which has sat patiently on my to read pile, I spot The Odyssey or Othello glaring at me, and the guilt of neglecting the reading list for my module pulls the book from my grasp. Continue reading Reading Corner: Daddy by Emma Cline

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Harry Potter and the Author Who Won’t Stop Tweeting

During lockdown, a time already fraught with fear, anxiety, and literal and emotional isolation (particularly for members of the LGBTQ+ community who may have found themselves locked down with families who don’t accept their identity), J.K. Rowling wrote an essay about her notorious anti-trans views. In the article, published on her own blog (but summed up much better on other sites, so you do not have to give her page clicks that she presumably profits from), Rowling explains her defence of tax specialist Maya Forstater, a woman who’d claimed that a distinguished non-binary CEO was “a white man who likes to dress in women’s clothes”, and later lost a tribunal debating whether the philosophical belief that sex is determined by biology is protected by the law. She then went on to similarly defend her support of Scottish activist Magdalen Burns, who had compared being transgender to being in blackface. In the rest of the essay she uses tired, offensive arguments to defend what Andrew J. Carter called her ‘half-truths and transphobic dogwhistles’. These statements included pointing out the risk trans activists apparently pose to children who may be questioning their identity (‘I have deep concerns about the effect the trans rights movement is having on education and safeguarding’), the risk trans women apparently pose to cisgender women, (‘When you throw open the doors of bathrooms and changing rooms to any man who believes or feels he’s a woman, then you open the door to any and all men who wish to come inside’), and the erasure of free speech that apparently occurs when laws are enshrined to protect trans people. Continue reading Harry Potter and the Author Who Won’t Stop Tweeting

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Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

Nick Hornby’s A Long Way Down may be one of his less well-known novels, but for me it is his best. It combines all of the essential qualities of Hornby’s work: the dark comedy of About A Boy, the subtle humour of How To Be Good, and the characteristic literary style seen in his first novel, High Fidelity. I was left thinking about this book a long time after I had finished the last page, so much so that it even inspired one of my undergraduate creative writing pieces (but maybe don’t tell that to my tutors). Continue reading Review: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby

How to Capture an Individual in Words: The Benefits and Limitations of Life-Writing

Life-writing, that is biographies and autobiographies, are not a recent phenomenon. However, now more than ever these works of literature dominate the bestsellers list with the writing of Barack Obama, Steve Jobs, and more selling millions of copies. But what makes these books so appealing to a modern audience? Is it the mere explosion of ‘celebrity’ admiration or is there something more complex than this at hand? Continue reading How to Capture an Individual in Words: The Benefits and Limitations of Life-Writing

Review: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Dolly Alderton’s long-awaited debut novel is a perceptive and entertaining reflection on modern romance, female friendship and growing older. Acting almost as a fictional companion to her non-fiction memoir, Everything I Know About Love, released in 2018 to critical acclaim, Ghosts contemplates many of the themes which have earned Alderton her status as ‘the voice of the millennial generation’. Continue reading Review: Ghosts by Dolly Alderton

Review: Beneath the Waves

As the mornings grow colder, the nights longer, and it feels like there are perpetual grey skies threatening months of rain, sometimes all you can do is put on your most threadbare pyjamas and snuggle up with a good book. However, with deadlines looming and online University being weirdly more stressful than the real thing, considering I’m attending in said pyjamas, what I really need is a slither of a good story. A short story, so to speak. Sculpting a believable and captivating world in a handful of pages is a difficult thing to get right, but fellow Exeter student Daisy Ella does just that in her first self-published story, Beneath the Waves. Continue reading Review: Beneath the Waves

Reviews in Retrospect: All About Love by bell hooks

“Without justice there can be no love.” There’s something incredibly special about a book that is both politically powerful yet therapeutic, both critical and healing. bell hooks’ 1999 book All About Love: New Visions is one of these. Exploring the psychological and social complexities of love in the modern world, bell hooks offers “a hopeful, joyous vision of love’s transformative power.” She shares incredible critical insight about a wide range of topics: the patriarchal values that shape relationships, the harmful connotations of the ideal family, and how male-written self-help books often feed into women’s insecurities, rather than boosting their confidence. All About Love is a genuinely helpful read — one that can revolutionise your thinking about the wider world and give realistic advice about caring for yourself and others in everyday life. Continue reading Reviews in Retrospect: All About Love by bell hooks

Reviews in Retrospect: Outlaw Culture by bell hooks

I first heard about intersectional feminist writer bell hooks in a Media Studies classroom during sixth form. We were taught that bell hooks challenges the “ideology of domination” that perpetuates misogyny, racism and classism. Our teacher also told us that hooks deliberately refused to punctuate her name with capital letters, to symbolically shed the tools of power that regulate personal identity. Before I ever read bell hooks, the idea of a writer powerful enough to escape the confines of language fascinated me. The first of hooks’ writing I read, her 1994 collection of essays and interviews Outlaw Culture, asserts that popular culture is never “apolitical”, and representation always matters. Unpretentious, piercingly insightful, and funny, Outlaw Culture is as fascinating as hooks herself. Continue reading Reviews in Retrospect: Outlaw Culture by bell hooks

Reading Corner: Magazines

Having spent the beginning of lockdown blasting my way through novel after novel to occupy my sudden abundance of free time, I’d recently found my attention span gradually waning as the endless hours of isolation wore on. With lockdown boredom making me increasingly fidgety, the focus required to sit down and immerse myself in the depths of a book became harder to grasp. Continue reading Reading Corner: Magazines