I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how books can affect us and inspire us. I’ve just finished reading Holly Bourne’s marvellous Spinster Club series, and while reading the concluding novel in the series, What’s A Girl Gotta Do, I kept thinking, ‘I wish this book had been around when I was in school!’
The entire series is so inspiring, that I know, had it been around ten years ago, it would’ve brought about my “feminist awakening” a whole lot sooner than actually happened in reality. I would’ve loved to have been inspired to start a Feminist Society or Spinster Club at my own school, which, despite being an all girls school with a focus on producing young women who could hold their own in any boardroom, was still full of an awful lot of ingrained sexism; by the time I left, I had lost count of the number of times I’d been told how to act like a “proper young lady”.
I think that’s the best thing about this series though. It really opens your eyes to the everyday sexism that goes on all around us, from the man always being offered to try the wine in a restaurant, to a society that repeatedly pits women against each other. After seven years in an all-girls grammar school, I can personally attest to how badly we need to eradicate the latter. In fact, I can actually remember walking into my school common room one lunchtime and finding two girls literally fighting, as in physically fighting! Not only that, but they were being egged on by other girls around them, and no one was doing anything to stop it. Thankfully, a teacher arrived along with us, and broke it up, but that’s what happens when you live in a society where boys are brought up to believe “cat fighting” is sexy, and girls are brought up to never trust another girl in case she steals your man!
It is through books like The Spinster Club series, which actively promotes female friendships, that society can be inspired to change.
We may not have had this series when I was in school, but we did have books by the Goddess-of-all-things, Jacqueline Wilson, and her books were the ones that inspired me.
I remember reading her Girls in Love series and just being so affected by it, because here there were girls struggling to fit in, struggling to cope with the pressures of society, and I’d never seen those characters in books before. Looking back on it now, I think that series had more of an impact on me than I realised at the time. It made me feel okay about the fact that I didn’t always like the same things other people did. It made me feel less alone in worrying about how I looked, because it showed me that everyone was worrying about that as well. Simply put, it made me feel happy to be me.
Being a teenager is really hard, and some days it feels like the whole world has got it easier than you do, but having books like Girls in Love and The Spinster Club reminds us that no one feels like they’re normal, and that being normal is overrated anyway.