Here at 4th Estate we’ve been celebrating International Women’s Day, which comes as no surprise considering the wonderful array of female writers we publish. And so, to mark this momentous occasion, we wanted to share insightful snippets of what it’s like to be a woman by a selection of these revered writers – from being a feminist, and telling our stories, to gender bias in the way we eat, tropes in films, and the stereotypes attached to beauty. Gender preconceptions creep up in aspects of our lives we rarely consider, to the point of finding them normal. And so, today, it felt only right to give you pearls of wisdom that deal with a real variety of subjects from a woman’s perspective.
‘We spend too much time teaching girls to worry about what boys think of them. But the reverse is not the case. We don’t teach boys to care about being likeable… All over the world, there are so many magazine articles and books telling women what to do, how to be and not to be, in order to attract or please men. There are far fewer guides for men about pleasing women… Gender matters everywhere in the world. And I would like today to ask that we should begin to dream about and plan for a different world. A fairer world. A world of happier men and happier women who are truer to themselves. And this is how to start: we must raise our daughters differently. We must also raise our sons differently.’ We Should All Be Feminists
‘There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told, especially if that person is a woman. As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come, there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren’t needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up.
But I want to tell my stories and, more than that, I have to in order to stay sane: stories about waking up to my adult female body and being disgusted and terrified. About getting my butt touched at an internship, having to prove myself in a meeting full of fifty-year-old men, and going to a black-tie event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw.’ Not That Kind of Girl
‘Many girls pick up the message at home that their appetite is a problem, something that must be curtailed. We speak of “growing boys”, praising them for their manliness, but almost never of “growing girls”. Maybe it is because we are fearful and embarrassed by the way girls’ bodies grow – outwards as well as upwards… almost no one speak of building up girls – these delicate soufflé-nibbling creatures who ought to be able to survive on air and compliments. Instead, great focus is placed on building up their brothers, stoking them with dangerous delusions about how much food they need. In the current food environment, the overfeeding of boys is no more helpful than the underfeeding of girls’ First Bite
‘I believe looking good to be an important and valid pursuit. All too often, women with an interest in their appearance are assumed to be stupid, shallow or unintelligent. Even traitors to feminism. But I see good grooming and feminism to be entirely complementary. For some, beauty is a matter of pride and self-respect, of feeling your best and worthy of attention. While a man with an interest in football, wine, Formula 1 or even paintballing would never see his intelligence called into question, a woman with an interest in surface is perceived to have no depth. I believe it’s perfectly normal to love both lipstick and literature, to be a woman who paints her nails while shouting at Question Time… It’s an act of love, self-care and, crucially, self-expression. Make-up is such a powerful tool of creativity. I genuinely pity men for not having it.’ Pretty Honest
‘Reduced interest in female audiences has led to the rise of that dreaded stock (read: lazy) female film character whose presence has become such a given in certain types of films aimed at young people that she was eventually given a name. The Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a “bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imagination of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures”, as journalist Nathan Rabin, who coined the term, put it. Many successful teen films very much feature the trope, such as 2009’s (500) Days of Summer and 2012’s The Perks of Being a Wallflower in which, respectively, Zooey Deschanel and Emma Watson play attractively damaged pixies whose eyeliner and spontaneity rejuvenate their male leads while they themselves apparently have no inner lives… Most of all, they are not the star of their movie.
Stories serve as guides about how to live and what to expect from life, and if you’re a girl who grows up believing that the most you can expect is to be a supporting character to a man, that’s all you’ll ever ask for.’ Life Moves Pretty Fast
Words from Emilie Chambeyron