I picked up this book at the library without knowing anything about Erin Gibson. I thought the title was hilarious, so I couldn’t resist. And indeed – it’s a very sarcastic book!
Later I learned that Erin Gibson co-hosts the podcast “Throwing Shade”, a weekly podcast on women’s rights, LGBTQ rights and progressive politics.
Now upfront – some of it was enlightening. I mean there’s so many details in this book, it’s packed with information (e.g. only twelve states in the US ban conversion therapy). But claiming to be a guide on surviving patriarchy, I don’t think the book did enough for that. It certainly does empower women and it will set your thinking up to go further down the right path. But I did find it a bit hard to read. I’m obviously not American, so I guess a lot of references just went above my head. Even worse I’m German, and we’re not known to be or even understand funny!
The book is a collection of essays on different topics, to name a few: Mike Pence, whom she identifies as a privileged white Christian zealot whose ambition to terrorise women comes from the threat they allegedly pose to his religion. The #metoo movement obviously to definitely deliver the message that women are finally being listened to, when they open up about sexual harassment. Doctors! Yes, the creatures who are meant to have studied our bodies, know them and how to fix them. But alas, there’s not much studying going on around the female body. In one of the more interesting essays, Erin recounts her experience with doctors, specifically gynaecologists who are supposed to be experts on female physique. Shockingly, many medical textbooks do not even contain illustrations of the female body. Only since 1993 women have been allowed to take part in clinical trials, so there isn’t much data out there on what medicine does in women. Medical negligence is even worse if you’re a black woman. All of us have heard of the higher maternal mortality rate and how black women suffer from not being taken seriously (e.g. Serena Williams’ story). Even though this isn’t so new either, it was fun to read her perspective and experience there.
And I guess this is where I felt the book just didn’t go far enough. There wasn’t anything ground-breaking. It’s really a collection of stories of how shitty a woman’s life can be. And with the freedom of choice being taken away in big heavy steps, it looks like the future is getting even more bleak. While reading it, I caught myself turning the pages faster hoping we’d get to something I hadn’t read before.
I did really like the essay on makeup brands. Most of them are, unsurprisingly, owned by men. Erin did do some research and came up with a list of alternatives to man-owned traditional makeup businesses. That was really helpful and eye-opening because I certainly have never thought it through. My approach goes more towards “what’s as close to being as natural as possible”? Even though not new as such, I did also like her observations on how adult women are being referred to as girls so much. Whether it’s the Spice Girls, Girl Power or an It Girl, it’s everywhere while men are always men unless they’re bad boys! It gets tiring, being infantilized all the time. And certainly, if we want to stop bad behaviour and misogyny altogether, it does make sense to think the language through that we’re using.
Unfortunately, this book wasn’t for me. I didn’t appreciate Erin’s humour as much as other women do. And I think that might have lifted the experience a notch. Even though it had some good ideas, I wouldn’t read it again. And if you’re looking for a book on how hard a woman’s life can be, there’s more interesting literature out there. Books which will also deliver a more different perspective, e.g. mentor you on some intersectional experiences. Also, if you’re looking for a guide on how to survive patriarchy, there’s a simple thing you can do: Have power over yourself! Erin Gibson’s message does ring that bell and will encourage you to do that.
I do like the dedication, “To women. You are not my competition.”