For my birthday this year, I was given a book, but not just any book, I was given the book. By ‘the book’, I mean that one that changes everything for you, the book that wakes you up to the truth of the world. You often hear people speak about how Gloria Steinem did it for them, or even The Vagina Monologues. For me, it was Florence Given, and her incredible book “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”.
I’ve always considered myself feminist, but the difference is that this book made me realise that I had looked at the limited garden of my feminism, rather than the wild, untamed forest than ran behind it. I was a feminist for the easy truths, the minor battles, but not the bigger picture. I was a feminist for every woman but myself.
I devoured this book within days, unable to put it down every evening as I read before bed. I urge everyone to read this book, no matter your gender or orientation, as it holds so much for us to learn from. It explores fundamental truths but strips them back. There are so many things that we know to be wrong, but we don’t really know why, and this book provides those missing answers.
I think the back sums it up pretty clearly in this one line situated after the blurb:
Warning: Contains explicit content (and a lot of uncomfortable truths)
This book confronted me; it made me feel both understood but also uncomfortable because the truth holds a lot of discomforts. Once you know about things, you can’t pretend to be blind to them. Read this book, and if I haven’t convinced you yet, here are 13 of the best quotes from “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”. This is a tiny chip of the iceberg of wealth in the book, so if you’re tempted, be sure to check it out.
Already read the book? You’ll love revisiting these moments even more!
All of the following quotes are from “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” by Florence Given.
Florence’s first chapter explores how uncomfortable it is to become a feminist because, in truth, it can feel less comfortable than merely following the patriarchal flow. It’s uncomfortable to acknowledge your actions, the thoughts and behaviours that contribute to the way things are. It’s also awkward to change them, to be the one speaking up and going against the group norm. But it’s worth it, and your future self will be so grateful for it. You’ll feel peace within yourself, and that will provide you with more comfort and clarity than compliance ever did.
I always downplayed my achievements to ensure others feel threatened. I was modest to the point of self-deprecating. Every time I got something, I felt like it was my responsibility to make sure others did too. But you don’t owe anyone that, in fact, they owe you recognition for what you achieve. Be your big, bright, beautiful self.
This is something that I became aware of this year, as people started using social media platforms to spread information and awareness more. I liked this, and I appreciated the opportunity to learn and grow, but I felt torn about the cancel culture and negativity that accompanied it. I would see people write scathing messages and tear down others for actions that I saw them do until mere weeks ago. Give people time to grow, give them an opportunity to. It’s comforting that despite all of Florence’s lessons and teachings, she still understands that it is a journey that takes time and we should be considerate of that. As long as someone wants to get better, give them the chance to.
I wasted so much time hating myself and putting myself down. I spent years unhappy in my body, unhappy in my identity. And for what? It didn’t make me grow, and it didn’t make anyone like me more; all I received was misery. If you don’t love yourself, why should anyone else? You’ve got to be your biggest supporter, as you are the only constant you’ll have during life. This body is going to carry you for years to come, so treat it right and give it the appreciation it deserves.
It’s not easy; it’s not a quick fix. But it’s step by step, day by day, working towards loving yourself. Life is so short, so don’t waste it being your own enemy.
This was such a wake-up call to me and a forgotten aspect of feminism. We can swing the other way far too quickly, from feeling that we have to wear makeup to judging women who do—feeling that we have to shave to labelling women who do as ‘oppressed’. Many groups of women do not have the luxury to reject patriarchal ideals as they’re already treated as ‘less than’. Think of fat women, women of colour and queer women, who already have their femininity questioned and are rejected for who they are. Florence taught me so much about all groups of women and how differently each path may be.
When I dress ‘cute’, I feel like I am less heard, by colleagues, students and more. When I don’t, and I aim to replicate what they consider to be professional or less feminine, it’s like my voice magically rings through. I also have been led to believe that I can either be desired by others or like myself, that I must change who I am to achieve this. I’m fortunate enough to fit into many of the ideals placed on women, but even then I wonder how differently I’d be treated if I was skinny, if I was what the magazines looked for. I feel like I’m always fighting to be desired or respected, and a lot of that fight happens internally, in trying to decide which I genuinely want.
You deserve everything you want. It couldn’t be put more straightforward than that. You deserve your dreams, ambitions and more. If you recognise that, if you realise that putting in the work will get you there, then anything can happen. Don’t settle for what others think you should want or do, as settling is the hurdle to success. Go after what you want and accept nothing less.
There is no point hating who you were; you gain nothing from it. Resenting the old, you simply traps you from moving forward. But acknowledging who you were and why isn’t enough, you then need to make the conscious choice to be better, to become better. Are you ready to say goodbye to the things holding you back and move on?
I already knew that it was wrong for me to hate and want to change my flaws, but only after reading this did I realise that they’re not even flaws, they’re just traits we chose to be wrong. Why is a big nose worse than a smaller nose? Why is longer hair more feminine? Why is skinny better than fat? Because someone decided so, and that someone is a man. People shouldn’t love you despite your flaws, because they’re not flaws to start with.
I was working on not caring that I’m not the skinny ideal, being unbothered by the fact that I’m less attractive. But after reading this, I realised that skinny doesn’t have to be better or beautiful; it’s simply what we were taught. So let’s teach people something different.
We’re not in competition with every woman that we meet; we’re allies in this patriarchal society, so keep that in mind. Just because she does things differently to how you would doesn’t mean that either of you is wrong. She spends a lot of money and time on makeup, and you don’t wear it at all, that’s fine. She doesn’t shave, but you prefer waxing everything off, that’s your choice. The choice of another doesn’t undermine your own. We have enough crap thrown at us without turning on each other. Support fellow women, support fellow creatives, support fellow humans. Don’t tear someone down to get a leg up, as that doesn’t make you worthy of your success.
Your time and energy are so valuable, and you don’t owe it to anybody. Don’t waste time on people that you wouldn’t spend money on. Your time is the most important commodity you have, as it leads to income, and it can’t be replaced. So savour your time and energy, use them wisely, but also use them on yourself. An evening spent on your couch with Netflix can be more valuable than a night out with friends because it allows you to regain your energy and make tomorrow a kick-ass day!
As someone with BPD, I’ve spent the majority of my life feeling like I’m not good enough for people. I explained it to my therapist as being five steps behind everyone and having to work harder to catch up. I owed friends more than they owed me. I’ve worked on this since, but reading this line was a revelation. Not only are people not better than me… but maybe I could be better? Could I deserve more than someone is giving me? I don’t have to be worried about everyone leaving me, but instead, I could actually leave them. It hit like rocket science. Don’t assume that people deserve to be in your life; question the spot they hold.
If anyone was still confused about consent, let Florence fix that in one rule. Live by this rule. It shows that there is no ‘grey area’; there is consent and non-consent. This is an essential section of the book and one that should reaffirm any doubts that you may have.
But also let this sentence guide you in all aspects of life. If you’re invited to see friends and feeling iffy about it, it’s a no. If you’re unsure whether you like your job anymore, it’s already a no. Live your life by ‘fuck yes’ and ‘no’. Live your life by all of these lessons and more. It comes down to choosing yourself first, and part of that is giving yourself the tools you need to do so, tools like this book. Whether it’s “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”, or something else, give yourself everything you need to become the person that you deserve to be.
What book provided you with that life-changing lesson?
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Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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