„Women Don’t Owe You Pretty“ by Florence Given
„Women Don’t Owe You Pretty“ by Florence Given was on my radar long before ist translation into German. A bestseller that is so successful and deals witha topic that interests me (Feminism!) can hardly be ignored when one is part of the online book community.
Maybe it was the fault of my endless TBR list or because of the sad truth that my day only has 24 hours that it took me until 2022 to finally read “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”. All the better because it this year that the German translation by Eva Horn and Kathrin Weßling is published by Kiepenheuer & Witsch.
In “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” the British author and artist Florence Given talks about feminism and all the questions and issues that necessarily arise when one begins to tackle the topic of feminism. She writes about slut shaming, self love, the male gaze, dating, misogyny, queerness and gender roles.
While doing that Given directly addresses her readers which at times makes the book feel like an instruction manual. But it is exactly this direct address and the personal perspective with which Given introduces feminist topics that make “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” so accessible and easy to read. In that way Given gives a funny, intimate and vulnerable insight into feminism and how she found her own path.
Personally I am not a big fan of self-help literature because it often gives me the impression that its books (or authors) want to patronize me. Because of that was Given’s outspoken and direct approach of addressing her readers not quite my taste. Nevertheless I found many of her tips and observations very smart and correct.
For me a personal highlight of “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” was its graphic design! I especially liked the illustrations and the colourful layout of the book. It was such a pleasure to turn over the pages and discover which drawings, quotes and art are on the next page!
“Feminism will ruin your life (in the best possible way)”
“Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” gives a good insight into different aspects of feminism and invites its readers to reflect their own behaviour and internalized ideas of gender. While doing so the book is never too complicated and always stays on one level with its (probably young) audience.
For me personally the book occasionally lacked some depth. Some topics and ideas were dealt with on a too shallow level and would have deserved a more precise discussion (fo example sex work or the male gaze). However, that critique is also founded in my individual perspective as a reader.
As a person that studies Gender Studies and has been invested in feminist discourses for years I have more background knowledge than other readers for whom “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” might be the first contact with feminist literature If I read this book for the first time with 16 or 18 or even 20, “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” probably would’ve been an impactful and eye-opening read!
All in all the translation by Eva Horn and Kathrin Weßling is well-done. To match an author’s wit, humour and personal voice is always a challenge. And to additionally translate different theoretical terms correctly is an impressive achievement! However, there were a few instances were I thought another translation would have been more fitting (gender roles as “Genderollen” and not the more common term “Geschlechterrollen”).
I especially notices the use of “Transpersonen” (transpeople). This way of writing is critized by people of the community because it reduces trans people to one characteristic (see “Ich bin Linus” by Linus Giese for example). In the German media sphere there are several way of writing trans people in circulation such as “trans*people” and “transpeople”. However, trans just like cis is an adjective in German because it only describes one of many characteristics of a person. It would be great if this term could be corrected in future editions.
A topic that I don’t want to ignore in this review are the accusations of plagiarism that were made against Given. The British-Nigerian author Chidera Eggerue, known as The Slumflower, accused Given of copying significantly from her own books. I haven’t read Eggerue’s books and can therefore not form an opinion on this matter. But if you want to learn about this I can recommend this article about the issue.
Women Don’t Owe You Anything!
Overall “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” was an entertaining, informative and interesting read for me. Although I was already familiar with many of its arguments and topics I enjoyed viewing them through a new lens with Given’s candid point of view.
For people who already know a lot about feminism and feminist literature this book might be too basic. But for its core audience (young, white, female) it gives a lively insight into the core ideas of feminism and invites them to question patriarchal expectations and ideas. It is the type of book that I would’ve liked to give my 16-year old me and that I will now probably keep on recommending to my younger relatives.
Have you read “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty”? If yes, what did you think about it?