I received an Uncorrected Proof of this book. All opinions are my own.
We tell girls that they can be anything they want to be. But is this really true? Are they truly going through life with the same opportunities as their male peers or is the system itself (be it politics, economics, or social) geared against them?
In No More Nice Girls, journalist Lauren McKeon explores this question. In the age of “girl power”, have things really changed for women? McKeon might have said yes at one point but in a post-Trump world, things seem a lot murkier.
To be a #GirlBoss, women must walk a tightrope: they must be a boss, but not bossy; authentic, but Insta-trendy; real, but not harsh; beautiful, but effortless; killin’ it, but not thirsty; busy, but glowing with Goop-ified self-care; vulnerable, but just the right amount; tough, but just the right amount; confident, but not extra; arm, but not weak; decisive, but not rude; your bitch, but not bitchy.Lauren McKeon, No More Nice Girls (ARC, pg. 6)
McKeon is a Canadian journalist and as such she delves into a lot of Canadian politics and culture. Being Canadian, I greatly appreciated this. For Canadians, we can too easily shrug our shoulders at the ills of our country and think, “Well, we’re doing better than our neighbours!” After all, our prime minister is hailed by many as a feminist hero. When asked why gender equality was important to him, he famously replied, “Because it’s 2015.” But now it’s 2020 and he’s not looking quite so shiny. McKeon certainly doesn’t spare Trudeau, particularly surrounding the SNC-Lavalin affair. As McKeon says when talking about Trudeau and Jody Wilson-Raybould, “What good is gender parity if women have no power to do their jobs?”
But the book isn’t just for Canadians and while it does delve into Canadian politics, it also covers economics, physical safety, and motherhood. It’s about the fact that the very structures in which we exist are created to benefit men, usually white, middle class men. McKeon describes it like this: “It is about asking: If the game doesn’t work for women and people of colour at the top, then what is it we are all striving for? And who really benefits from keeping us stuck in the game?”
McKeon does an excellent job of consistently reminding the reader that while women struggle, people of colour also face many of the same struggles (and sometimes worse). And thus, instead of attempting to succeed within a structure that doesn’t really want or expect us to succeed, we need to begin to rewrite the script.
Good intentions do not erase racism. That’s true for individuals — and it’s also true for companies, organizations, and other groups that claim they want to do better. Unless they’re truly ready to reckon with what it means to reallocate power, their diversity initiatives are nothing more than feel-good optics, invested not in inclusion, but in ultimately maintaining the status quo.Lauren McKeon, No More Nice Girls (ARC, pg. 214)
The book provides many examples of women and organizations who are working to restructure businesses, economics, and relationships. Who are examining what women need and beginning there, working to support other women. She delves into the idea of male allies and what place, if any, they might have. And at the end, she looks at what needs to change for young girls in order for them to truly be able to grow up believing they can do anything.
As I sat reading this book, poolside, watching my oldest daughter’s swim class, my younger daughter snacking on goldfish crackers next to me, this was the part of the book I found most compelling. In many ways, I’m not exactly living the feminist dream. I’m primarily a stay-at-home mom and my husband makes (and probably always will) more money than me. But it’s important to me that we model equality in our marriage and it’s important to me that when my five-year-old tells me she wants to be an astronaut when she grows up, that that dream is treated seriously. (It’s also important that people not refer to my decisive firstborn as “bossy” because have you ever noticed that little boys don’t get that label?) I appreciated McKeon’s detailing of what’s being done and her emphasis on how even the little things can matter.