Thursday, September 17, 2015

Review: The Vagenda by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

The Vagenda by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
Publisher: Random House
Release date: 2014
Genre: Feminist Writing
Source: Bought
HAVE YOU EVER...Obsessed over your body's 'problem areas'? Killed an hour on the Sidebar of Shame? Wondered whether to try '50 Sex Tips to Please Your Man'? Felt worse after doing any of the above? Holly and Rhiannon grew up reading glossy mags and, like most women, thought of them as just a bit of fun. But over time they started to feel uneasy - not just about magazines, but about music videos, page 3, and women being labelled frigid, princesses or tramps. So, following the amazing success of their Vagenda blog, they wrote this book. Welcome to your indispensable guide to the madness of women's media.

I have a love-hate relationship with the media. To me, it's that friend that drives you utterly insane and who's always there, invited or not. But then somedays, they'll do something wonderful and will remind you why you love them so much. But mostly, I really hate the media. So when I first heard of the release of The Vagenda, I knew I needed a copy. 

I never bought into the world of Fashion or Women's magazines. I like looking at the images of models photoshopped within an inch of their life, holding or wearing this season's 'must have' items, but that's about it. At fourteen, I wasn't interested in '105 ways to keep your man entertained' or '10 ways to get the perfect work hair.' At the slightly older age of 19, I care even less. But after years of white women baring it all with headlines such as "Did she really say that!?," it left a bitter taste in my mouth. The idea that women are constantly attacked in the media - regardless of the platform too - enraged me, and still does. The Vagenda is the book I wish somebody had given fourteen year old me. 

The Vagenda is a great book to read if you're just starting to read feminist writing. The book is full of informality - as if it's a conversation between friends who are bored of sexism.  Because of the tone, the book doesn't feel serious and doesn't come across as 'heavy'; a blessing and a curse in the same breath. In the same way I love how it comes across, the writing can also make me flinch from how Blasé it can sound over issues which are serious, 
frightening and should not be used to get a cheap laugh. 

In some ways, I wished I had read this before I read books such as Laura Bates' Everyday Sexism because I think I would have praised it higher than what I actually do. There was a review in The Independent that concluded that "The whole thing reads like a media studies dissertation rather than a book" which I agree with. Although there are parts which are hilarious and insightful, the majority of the books reads like frustration. Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett have created both a website and a book with the same platform: a way to moan. After reading books such as Girls Will Be Girls by Emer O'Toole, I'd rather read books with writers who are inspiring and living their life how they want to while making a difference. 

The Vagenda has been one of my most anticipated reads since it came out, but it mostly left me disappointed and wishing I had read it five years earlier, hence why this review reads like a huge oxymoron. I do believe that The Vagenda has a place in contemporary feminist writing, but for an audience fresh-faced and pissed with the media they're surrounded by. 

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