Women Don’t Owe You Pretty by Florence Given has taken the book world by storm this summer with Given breaking records as the youngest author to ever hold a spot in the Top 5 of the Sunday Times Bestsellers for 10 consecutive weeks. At just 21 years old, Given is a key feminist of the 21st century with her debut novel providing an informative and empowering introduction to feminism. Constantly challenging societies outdated narratives, questioning the nature of the patriarchy, revealing the sadly unspoken truths of rape culture – the book covers so much ground and is inclusive throughout, considering how race, sexuality and body shape all influence people’s place in society. As well as being packed with content, Given’s colourful illustrations beautifully highlight her key messages and, just as the blurb states, reminds us that “women owe men nothing least of all pretty.”
Here I have collated and summarised my top ten favourite ideas and messages from the book:
1. “Don’t be a passenger in your own life.” – Isn’t this such an amazing quote to live by?! (cheesy as that sounds). I can fully see this being printed on a t-shirt or poster very soon, if it isn’t already. You are the driving force in your own life, and even though life is not perfect and you might experience some difficulties along the way, you’ll be so much better for experiencing them, than staying in your comfortable lane and being a passenger. “Temporary discomfort is an investment in your future self”.
2. “You do not have to shrink yourself down to make other feel better about themselves” – this may sound selfish at first but it is true. If someone isn’t comfortable with your confidence, level of self-worth, sensitivity etc it is usually because they feel they are lacking in those areas. Don’t become a different version of yourself to make others feel better, be your authentic self and have friends who support you, but can also hold you accountable if you make a mistake.
3. Being single is not a “tragic fate”- I’ve seen a lot of bits recently about ‘taking yourself on a date’ and I love it. I think that particularly among my generation there is a big fear over going out alone, and god forbid being seen on your own! Society has convinced us that if you are single you are in the period where you must be looking, or are waiting on the next relationship, but being single is a choice. You are choosing to put yourself first and not settle for any relationship purely for the satisfaction of being in one. Take yourself on a date – no one else actually cares if you’re on your own.
4. “STOP SETTLING FOR CRUMBS, YOU DESERVE THE WHOLE DAMN CAKE”- possibly my favourite metaphor of the entire book. When someone is using you, their feeding you crumbs. Do they cancel plans? Do they lean on you for emotional support but not reciprocate in return? Do they ghost you on social media, then hit you up when they have nothing better to do? These are just some of the ways we receive crumbs. Don’t settle for crumbs, you deserve the cake. They may not realise they are giving you crumbs, so talk to them and if they don’t change – stop eating the crumbs.
5. “PEOPLE-PLEASING- STOP WANTING TO BE LIKED”- this is one that loads of us struggle with as it is so natural to want to people to like us. I always find myself thinking “oh do they like me or not? I just don’t think they like me.” But at the end of the day who cares?! Not everyone can like you, in the same way you won’t like everyone. Better to be liked for your authentic self, then run after someone changing who you are for their validation.
6. “Anyone who wants to be a part of your life must be an addition to your wholeness.”- It’s time to break down the narrative that your partner is your “other half”- you are not half a person if you don’t have a partner, you are whole. And you need to be whole before you enter a relationship, because if you use someone else to feel whole, you will begin to base your worth on how they treat you and could end up losing your sense of identity. People often settle in relationships because they are scared of what being single will feel like, but if you know you are enough and that you have your own identity, then being single is a new opportunity to focus and develop yourself. The better you feel within yourself, the more attractive you’ll come across and (to use a previous phrase) you won’t settle for the crumbs, because you know you deserve the whole cake.
7. Set boundaries on your social media usage- Again, we ALL struggle with this one but it’s so important. During lockdown especially I have found social media has had quite a negative effect on me, and whilst its great, like anything its good in doses and having too much of it has negative impacts. Social media is designed to be addictive, your feed doesn’t have an ending, so you can literally scroll forever. We live in a world of fast consumption and sometimes you need to slow down. Take time off social media and decide what you want to use it for.
8. Treat your energy like the currency of your business- how much of your energy are you giving others? Are you receiving the same back? Are you giving yourself enough time to recharge your energy? Give to others, but make sure you’re receiving too. Don’t be a doormat.
9. Society has brainwashed us- big statement from Given here, I know, but this idea comes up often in the book and it really made me think. The book really encourages you to question everything and understand when we are utilising our subconscious bias. For example: why do we find certain features attractive? Most probably because society has told us tanned, unblemished skin and a defined jawbone with a nose that isn’t too big or too small equals desirable. When meeting a man for a first time: Am I not interesting enough, or too interesting, do I look desirable, but not too desirable? We try second guess what someone will think of us based on the stereotype’s society has created. Why do we think it is “different” or “abnormal” to be gay? Because society feeds us a heteronormative narrative from birth, so we think this must be the ‘right’ path. Why can men brag about sex, but women can’t?The answer to all these questions lie in what society has taught us to think. It is a hard habit to begin, but when judging someone, or assuming something think – why do I think this? What is influencing these thoughts?
10. Boundaries – setting boundaries is how we look after ourselves and maintain the best relationships with others. I definitely think it is a British thing, but as a culture I think we are reluctant to voice our boundaries for fear of upsetting someone, but by telling people our boundaries we will actually improve our relationship with them. Similarly, this works the opposite way round, we usually become defensive when people try to set their boundaries with us, but actually its them telling us how to get along with them better and respect them. Boundaries also protect us from toxic relationships, if we have boundaries in place before a relationship starts its easier to spot red flags and hold yourself accountable to how you’re allowing yourself to be treated. Boundaries are key to practicing self-worth and self-love.
This is just a snippet of my reflections from the book, so I urge you to read the entire thing and challenge yourself to actively change the way society has programmed us to think.