Ever since the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements began gaining ground, you might have noticed a major increase in the visibility of women in the arts, and the presence of female issues at the fore of editorial, literature, film, and even popular music.
While there has been a lack of closure in actual cases of sexual misconduct and maltreatment of women across various industries, at the very least an increase in female visibility in business and the arts serves to get female voices out there, instilling better confidence in a new generation of women to enjoy equal rights.
And just because we’re only noticing this pro-female flux now, doesn’t mean women haven’t been out there championing rights and issues from the get-go. Indeed, as far back as 61 BC, or CE (depending if you want Christ in the picture or not), there’ve been riot girls such as legendary chief of the Iceni tribe, Boudicca, and – to go even further back to 610 BC, writers like Sappho stating their feminist case.
Two modern-day literary warriors in E. Foley and B. Coates* have taken on the task (and a joyful one at that, I’m sure) of collating a book packed with female icons who have helped shape femininity and promoted the feminist cause, and whose awesomeness just might help solve some of your everyday problems. What Would Boudicca Do? is an enjoyable history lesson packed with clever hack offerings.
Where compendiums of this sort often end up reading like cheaply slapped-together Wikipedia-pilfered prose, Foley and Coates (no first names given on the book jacket; very e.e. cummings and J.K. Rowling) have done an excellent job in delivering fresh prose on each icon they’ve picked to represent kick-ass womankind.
Forget the bevy of modern-day pop culture queens whom we too often look up to for the wrong reasons (Kim Kardashian? What has she really done for the good of women?); this book highlights the greater tasks done by real queens, genuine heroines, and absolute trailblazers throughout history. Like Hypatia of Alexandria who chose career over sex and family life circa 400 BC. Or Rosa Parks who stood up for bullies on a bus in the midst of a segregated America in 1955. Or Mekatilili wa Menza who used the power of dance to protest and get the public’s attention in 1913 Eastern Kenya – way before ravers of the 1990s had their hands in the air in the name of love. Or Catherine the Great in the late 18th Century who proved a woman can get important jobs done despite being gossiped about and put down.
Each entry in Foley and Coates beautifully illustrated book sums up the life of an icon nicely while ending with a modern-day reference, providing tips and tricks for girls to cope better in a world so far run by bullies and braindead dickwads.
Indeed, to give you an idea of how closely aligned this book is with the feminist cause, it includes an entry for Queen Elizabeth (for Punchy Public Speaking) but denies a pass for her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots – most likely because Mary figuratively (well, okay then, literally) tried to stab her cuz in the back, and a girl doesn’t do that to her cousin, or sister, as the case may be.
A must-read for every woman, and for lads who like to consider themselves just as feminist as their ardent siblings. Antonino Tati
‘What Would Boudicca Do?’ by Elizabeth Foley and Beth Coates is published by Faber through Allen & Unwin, RRP $22.99, available in quality bookstores, physical and online.