Book Review: No More Nice Girls by Lauren McKeon

No More Nice Girls – Lauren McKeon (Anansi, 2020)

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.

18 thoughts on “Book Review: No More Nice Girls by Lauren McKeon”

    1. Yes, I think she does a good job of continually reminding the reader that other minorities face many of the same difficulties. And then if they are also women they carry a double burden. She’s very aware of her own privilege (and the privilege of white women in general) even if she’s not as privileged as a man would be in her situation.

    2. Agreed! There’s definitely more than she was able to delve into deeply here but I was glad that she was consistent in reminding the reader that these systems don’t work for a lot of groups.

  1. You are SO right! Little boys are never accused of being bossy! I’ve got this one on my shelf and really want to read it. I reviewed her last book and really enjoyed it, it was about women who are actively fighting against the feminist movement…

    1. It’s one of my pet peeves and one of the few things I will straight up correct people on! My oldest can be very particular and, yes, bossy but I hate it as a label so much.

      I haven’t read her other book. I didn’t realize there were enough women out there fighting against feminism to write a book about but I guess I can believe it.

    2. I think the conversation gets confusing when women who believe in equity say they are not feminists, so they start arguing AGAINST feminism for their right to choose to stay home with children. They sometimes believe feminism has hurt families and feminists want them to separate from their children to go work and be constantly busy. Then there are the women who straight up believe they should serve their man and do everything for their children, because that’s their purpose. Ew.

    3. Yes, you’re so right! I’ve talked to women who say they aren’t feminists but when you delve into it they actually do believe in equality and rights to choose. It’s the “angry feminist” stereotype that they want to distance themselves from. I’m a stay-at-home mom AND a feminist and I believe that those are not incompatible. Unfortunately, the attitude of women being subservient or belonging in the home is still far too prevalent among Christians. (Not so much my personal circles but it’s around.)

    4. It’s in a number of communities, and sexism crops up all over. I think the fact that you are raising two girls to be so strong now is amazing, and a very feminist thing to do.

    5. Aw, thanks! It’s an important thing and I’m lucky to do it. Pearl now also wants to be an artist because she’s “already really good at art” and she also wants to work at a library that allows in friendly animals.

  2. I’m afraid I think one of feminism’s biggest failures is to make women who choose to stay at home and bring up their children feel as if they’re not living a feminist lifestyle. Given the importance of child-rearing to the whole of society, it’s time that it was recognised as being at least as important a role as being an astronaut. It was men who made motherhood and domestic work seem secondary to “important” male roles originally. I’m not suggesting girls (or indeed, boys) should be brought up believing that they must stay within the domestic sphere, but I hope we reach a point soon where no one of either gender who chooses to take on the vital role of homemaker and child-rearer is made to feel that their work contributes less to society or is less true to the ideals of feminism and equality than any other role. For me and, I think, most of my generation, feminism was about women having free agency and equal opportunity – these days the feminist movement often feels as autocratic and limiting as the patriarchy they resent so badly.

    *jumps down from hobby horse* 😉

  3. Great review! I’m glad you posted about this book, I’ve heard so little about it among book bloggers. Patriarchal rules for “how to be a woman” have been re-branded as the “new feminism” (as you mentioned before: being a boss, but not bossy etc) and it upsets me so much. I have hopes for the new generation being less duped by fake feminism than ours were! 🙂 your being a stay-at-home is absolutely a feminist dream – it’s you choosing to do what you think is best and being free to do it. I am sure your daughters are proud to have a mom like you!

    1. Thank you so much! I’m very fortunate to have the freedom to make the choices I have. And I’m glad that my girls can grow up seeing that variety of choice – whether it’s other moms who work or dads who stay home or whatever. I also hope that the next generations can grow up freer from these stereotypes. I haven’t heard much about this one elsewhere either but it’s very worthwhile. I’m not sure if it’s getting much distribution outside of Canada yet but I hope it will.

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