Girlhood

Melissa Febos

Nonfiction Biography, 2021 | 320 pages

two-hearts

I certainly have earned my wings as a Feminist.  About 50 years ago and ever since.  However, some of you might want to banish them (or me!) when you read this post.

I struggled to finish this book (though I enjoyed her use of the language). I simply could not believe the truth of this biography, and I checked numerous times to confirm it was a biography and not fiction.

Febos talks about the difficulties and trauma associated with developing breasts and hips before her contemporaries, and how she was treated, what she was subjected to, and challenges to her own evolving sense of self.  She writes about events that occurred when she was 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14, as well as events as a young woman. Now, I know I do not have the best memory.  But the manner in which she replays these stories … with extreme detail, emotional understanding and maturity that could not have possibly existed at 12, intellectual understanding that I believe can only come with considerable time … caused me to doubt her veracity. I did not believe her stories.  I DO believe these stories exist; I DO believe she could have presented them as examples of experiences, if she was quoting a woman or girl who was just a few years from the experiences, but as biographical truth, I could not convince myself.

Further, and this makes me angry, later in the book she discusses “empty” consent versus “affirmative" consent versus “enthusiastic” consent.  Her very small sample of interviews confirms in her mind that every young woman has given empty consent to sexual experiences she did not want.  I believe she lets women off the hook and, more damaging, seems to make it “okay” for young women to use empty consent because everyone does it or did it.  (In simple words, “empty” consent means allowing a boy or man to do what he wants to your body rather than expressing your wishes, setting boundaries, saying no, angering the male, or, god forbid, embarrassing him).  To me, this is irresponsible, and likely the opposite of what she was writing to accomplish.

Finally, I do not have a prudish bone on my body.  I enjoy reading (and more!) about sex.  Girlhood, however is about sex, sex, and more sex. Though this enticed me early in, I became quite tired of it.

I do not recommend Girlhood.

July 2021

 

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