That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa
I knew as soon as I opened the cover that I was going to love That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa. I knew it would make me angry and fired up. Author Lizzie Marvelly dedicates this book to “every woman who has ever been called 'bossy' or 'stroppy.'” Well that’s me in a nutshell, and the empowerment doesn’t stop there.
Marvelly is the creator of the websiteVillainesse. She was the Canon Media Awards 2017 Best Blog winner and created the global campaign #mybodymyterms. In That F Word, Marvelly discusses inequality in New Zealand through her own personal experience, interviews with prominent Kiwis, and rather thorough research.
The back of the book is full of reference material. Some will argue she is pushing “the women’s” agenda. In my experience, it's an agenda that needs to be pushed, and the book is called That F Word after all. But let's get one thing straight. She's pushing the agenda for the betterment of us all.
It seems strange to say that I identify with this successful singer/writer/activist since we definitely haven’t moved in the same circles nor had the same upbringing. But so many of Marvelly’s stories could have been mine. I could have said, "The difference between being a girl and being a woman is that now no one has the authority to shut me up."
Marvelly’s world is intense. She is a massive overachiever. She began early by signing an international record deal at 18. We may not have the same life, but oh we share experiences. The way people tried to take her choice and voice away. The words that were used against her. The way people tried to silence her, making her louder.
That F Word is loosely written around the chronology of Marvelly’s life, but it’s not a straight-up memoir. Yes, she ties many things back to her own experiences, however each chapter opens a discussion on certain aspects of equality, looking through a feminist lens. There are chapters on identity in childhood, and the social conditioning that insists we "choose" a gender for our children. Newsflash, they're kids, let them be. She discusses New Zealand’s rape history, full of terrifying facts including that marital rape was legal until 1985.
No aspect of our society is left untouched. Marvelly has an uncanny ability to expose strong issues in an enlightening way such as social media trolling, and "pornification" – a term to describe how porn has become an unrealistic ideal and normalized for teens.
Just when I thought I’d had about as much as I could swallow, she touched on some of the amazing things that have happened and can still happen when we treat each other equally, and support and stand up for each other.
Before anyone starts going on about how she's a man-hater and this book is full of misandry, (I'm looking at you troll-littered internet-land) you must only make it to chapter two to find her pointing out how the pressures put on boys in New Zealand are phenomenal. Boys are conditioned from a young age to be strong and manly, and tough and aggressive, and not show an ounce of weakness. It's completely unrealistic and unfair.
My copy of That F Word is littered with Post It notes and pencil marks in the margins, mostly to say “WTF” or “OMG YES”. It’s hard NOT to connect with Marvelly. It’s hard NOT to find her honest and refreshing. Get reading. And then we can have a cup of tea and a solid discussion about that F word.