Book Review: Louis and Louise

Book Review: Louis & Louise – Julie Cohen

One life, two realities. 

Born on the same day, to the same family and named after the same ancestor Louis & Louise are the same person. However, cries of ‘it’s a boy’, or ‘it’s a girl’ change everything. Seen through the eyes of  ‘Lou’ in both realities this is Julie Cohen’s most impressive novel yet. 

Wow, wow, wow. I’ve been a fan of Julie Cohen’s since reading Dear Thing a few years ago, but this was something else. I’m not sure what I expected going into this and it was truly flawless. Seeing life and how different it could be simply due to gender was so interesting. 

It’s worth pointing out that it can take a little bit of time to get used to the differences in Louis and Louise’s life and who’s who. For the first few chapters I had to really concentrate on what was going on to make sure I was following the right timeline within the novel. 

This novel will make you think about what the characters are going through and, more importantly, why these lives are so different simply because of gender. That’s one of the best parts of the novel for me – it’s taking a wider question and slipping it into a story you can get lost in. 

It’s not a surprise that I gave this 5 stars. This is a novel that has enormous heart but I think this is going to break boundaries. A huge thank you to the author, publisher and Netgalley for an advance copy. 

Book Review: How Not To Be A Boy – Robert Webb

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I’d heard Robert speaking on the radio about his new book, mentioning gender, depression and coping with loss, something I didn’t expect. I’d watched him in various TV shows and not really thought about Robert the man, rather than the actor.

The autobiography covers a large span of Webb’s life in detail and has the wit and humor that he brings to the television that he creates so well. I would thoroughly recommend getting the audiobook as possible as it makes the whole book come alive, particularly with the impressions of Webb’s family and friend.

This is a man who readily opens up about his faults. He candidly talks about failing his exams at 18, about how he felt he mistreated women in his youth and the fear of turning into his father. This brutal honesty is what makes Webb’s book. There’s no hiding, no excuses from him. That said, we know that there is a lot going on for him as a late teen, such as losing his mother.

Most interestingly, the book focuses heavily on gender expectations, something that Webb didn’t feel he could fit into. While his brothers were loud and boisterous, he preferred to be quiet and play. He found himself lost in what he ‘should’ be, rather than what he was, a sensitive young man who felt a little lost. He speaks candidly about how he didn’t feel he could show emotion openly he was on the cusp of being a man and men didn’t share feelings and talk. Something that lead Webb to a deep depression and almost cost him his place at Cambridge.

In this Webb lays out the ways in which these gender expectations affect both men and women and how toxic they can be to all of us. It was absolutely fascinating to read. Webb talks about his own experiences of having feelings for another boy at a young age and struggling with this and wondering what it meant. Again speaking about what it meant to be a boy, and later a man, and in his background that did not mean falling in love with another boy.

To put it simply this is a story that will promote change. Of course, it’s a very entertaining read, I laughed so much while getting through it but at the same time Webb has managed to bring in big questions about society, while making you feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend. From sexuality, gender norms and mental illness to falling in love, Webb has put his signature twist on the world and made it into, hopefully, an easier conversation to have.

I adored this book and gave it 4.5 stars! If I could change anything I’d want to know a little bit more about his relationship with David Mitchell as we all usually think of Mitchell and Webb together! That said it’s an inspiring and thought provoking read, I’d recommend it to anyone!

Feminist Friday: We need to talk about gendered dress codes.

If you live in the UK you can’t have missed the heatwave that hit this month. It was ridiculously hot and obviously that comes with health concerns for people. Naturally, you want to wear less clothing to cool down. This got me thinking about dress codes and how unfair they can be on both sexes.

Now, we’ve all seen sexism in the media about women being required to wear heels or encouraging short skirts in some job, while not being taken seriously in a suit in others. It’s not anything new and, of course, it’s incredibly unfair and annoying. That said, as soon as it got hot most of the women I new switched to dresses to get a little relief from the heat. The guys were under strict instruction though, no shorts and shirts still needed to be warm…despite it being 36 degrees!

Here in the UK a group of teenage boys decided that in sweltering heat they had enough of their schools no shorts policy and so turned up in skirts. I completely agree with them! There was no logical reason that shorts could not be worn in extreme heat. It was absolutely rediculous that the boys were being singled out because of their gender. There’s no point!

On both sides, there are so many issues with expectations in regards to gendered dress codes. Wearing a stuffy suit and tie doesn’t instantly mean respect, in fact, I’d rather meet with someone who is comfortable rather than boiling hot and feeling ill from heat, I think we all would!

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Sexy Potato? Ana-Rexia? What’s happened to Halloween!

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Tomorrow is Halloween and after an invite to a party I went on a mission for a costume and I was let down, a lot. After searching I realised that any costume that was for a woman was ‘sexy’ or even if it didn’t have that label it was a lot shorter or showed a lot more skin. I was even sent the above picture of…a sexy potato. Now I know this is a joke but it kind of shows the extremes of what people are willing to promote as ‘sexy’, which leads me to my next costume.

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This is the ‘Ana-Rexia’ costume, yup just like the other mental health costumes that have shocked the world, this is the one that some idiots came up with this year. As I read earlier an anorexia survivor said ‘why not dress as a vampire or a zombie because two thirds of us will end up dead’. I felt sick when I saw this was a costume, especially the way it’s presented with a measuring tape a super thin model and again she’s trying to be sexy.

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So I moved away from anything traditional too because I couldn’t be a vampire, devil, witch, zombie or anything without getting my legs and or boobs out. I couldn’t even buy a vicars costume for a party without it being 2 sizes too big because it was ‘for men’. So I moved on, I’d been invited different things over the weekend so I thought I’d look up some great movie inspired costumes. Male Ghostbuster, just like the movie something you could, you know, bust ghosts with. Then I looked at the women’s…just skims the bum and boobs are fully out oh and an adorable little backpack, no. The Princess Leia costume was similar to the film, oh apart from the giant slit up the side which nobody would be fighting the Empire in. Every princess outfit that wasn’t over £50 was the same model, boobs out, butt out.

I don’t know what’s happened to halloween but I can assure you that I won’t be a ‘sexy’ anything this year. I’ve got a makeshift costume on hand and I don’t feel like I need to get anything out to feel good about myself or to have fun at Halloween. I hope you guys also have a great Halloween and dress up however YOU feel comfortable!

My Big Mouth: ‘Boy or Girl?’

While out with my sister today I was really surprised by a gender division issue when shopping for the most ridiculous things. When trying to buy a birthday badge we were asked oh is it for a male or female, after saying female we were given a pink badge instead of being told colours (never mind the fact this girl is a tomboy). Then again later in the day going for a bite to eat I ordered my sister a kids meal and was asked is the meal for a boy or a girl, again I answered girl and was given an incredibly feminine toy instead of a much cooler car/plane toy which actually did things.

I’m not going on a feminist rant here but it seems really trivial to give girls pink and boys blue. As a kid I may have had a barbie bedroom but I wanted action men too and while the boys played Army in the woods, I was the leader of that army. Even now, it’s only in the last year I’ve been considered ‘one of the girls’ instead of ‘one of the lads’.

I’ve known this divide exists for a long time but twice in one day? Oh and my little cousin saying he wanted a ‘boys colour’ not a ‘girls colour’, I thought that in 2014 we could let kids be what they wanted to be. I’m not saying get rid of all pink and blue and pretend all toys are gender neutral, they’re not. Most, not all, of the time boys will go for Nerf guns over a doll but then girls also became interested and now there are pink ones. With flowers on. I’m sorry what? Another example I saw via Facebook was of a 5 year old boys Frozen themed party, he loved it but other parents thought it was wrong for him to have the theme, deeming it girly. Since when? There isn’t a little kid I know that hasn’t watch Frozen and there are guys in it, Olaf the Snowman is supposedly male…well for a snowman. So why the hell are these kids being told what to like?

I’m hoping that by the time I have kids, way into the future (sorry Mum) people will respect my wishes to let them play with whatever they want. I don’t want to have a girl and smother her in pink or a boy who is only given blue, maybe I won’t tell people at all so I wont get things that are ‘suitable’ for either. I respect parents who let their kids play with what they want and what makes them happy because isn’t that all kids want, to be happy?