top of page
  • Writer's picturePhoebe Barker

Book review: Feminists don’t wear pink (and other lies). Curated by Scarlett Curtis.

Feminists don’t wear pink (and other lies): Amazing women on what the F-word means to them is a selection of opinion pieces written by 50 women discussing feminism on their own terms.

The F-word can be a difficult one for people to digest. Feminism has been known to make the odd person or two nervous, and certainly generates a sizeable amount of controversy. With this book however, expect a no-mess approach, because it sure as hell sets the record straight on all things equality.

The book is curated by Scarlett Curtis, a prolific writer and activist who you might know as the daughter of Richard Curtis (screenwriter of Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and Love Actually, among many others), and a descendant of Sigmund Freud.

Contributors include mainstream actors such as Saoirse Ronan, on the small events that built her feminism, and Keira Knightly, on the irony of being considered the weaker sex after enduring the trauma of childbirth. There are in-depth essays from prevalent activists such as Jameela Jamil, on bringing up a boy in a feminist world, and Trisha Shetty on being fuelled by anger and a desperation for equality. As well as all this we hear from doctors, journalists, comedians, authors, designers, models and founders of successful enterprises.

“The lies we have been told about feminism have been fed to us to hold us back from a movement that is actually for everyone.” Scarlett Curtis, page 4.

Feminists don’t wear pink covers a wide basis: gender equality, sexual abuse and harassment, ‘slut’ and body-shaming, economic inequality, gender wage gap, workplace inequality, objectification, domestic abuse, child marriage, sexual slavery and prostitution, disability, ‘likeability’ and underrepresentation, particularly in politics, just to name a few. The female sex and sexuality takes centre stage, as well as equal standards across the board.

The stories are personal and persuasive, sometimes uncomfortable and often upsetting. But this should by no means be an excuse to put off reading this book. The language is accessible, the content agreeable and the messages clear and informative. The book is, above all, welcoming. The writers support the reader in opening up difficult conversations in a safe environment.

“Feminism is a verb, not a noun. The ‘radical notion that women are people’ requires that one upholds the humanity of women at every opportunity.” Feminism is a verb, not a noun, Alicia Garza, page 238.

The book advocates good feminism being practiced through listening, supporting and believing. Nothing too taxing. It is a stark reminder to always check your privilege at the door. The content is modern and inclusive too, feminism is not exclusive to gender issues anymore; it its directly connected to issues of race, ethnicity, faith, sexuality and class.

Feminists don’t wear pink teaches readers to never become complacent. 2018 may have celebrated 100 years since British women were given the right to vote, but the fight for equality is far from over. In many countries oppression is still openly practiced and women across the globe are still refused the most basic of rights.

“Tell him this is still going on in many countries around the world today. We [women] are still second-rate citizens in many places.” Tell Him, Jameela Jamil, page 124.

Curtis reminds us not to forget injustices happening in countries stuck in tradition, where the patriarchy is still celebrated even now: male-only votes, underage and/or forced marriage, FGM, period poverty, education restrictions, reproductive rights, prejudice and violence against the LGBT+ community, among a shocking number of others. All prevalent issues that feminists in more privileged positions must be careful not to forget.

“Because periods don’t affect men and we live in a deeply patriarchal world, they are shrouded in shame and apology. Put simply, if men had periods, bleeding would be an Olympic sport and there would be free menstrual cups given out on the tube.” The Power of the Period, Amika George, page 276.

The book is educational, charmed and hopeful. Reading the words of such powerful feminist activists, ones who push for change everyday through their writing and their art, is as inspiring as it is important.

As a reader I think the book could have benefitted from more discussion on the education of future generations. Where do we go from here? Let’s hear from the teachers and students: how do we address complex issues of feminism and culture? How do we transform the sex ed curriculum so it becomes inclusive to all types of sexuality? How do we better educate issues of consent? How do we raise a new generation and secure a prejudice free future, eradicating abuse, inequality and toxic masculinity?

Conclusively prejudice has no place in this book: feminism is about universal equality. Exclusive, white-female feminism is an outdated concept: feminism is for everyone. Everyone deserves equality, inclusivity, support and kindness. What it should all boil down to is the most fundamental fact of life, we are all thinking, feeling, breathing humans, none with greater or more deserved power than any other. If nothing else, this book teaches us that.

bottom of page