Sadly this isn’t a guide from me to you on ‘how to be awesome’. But if you’re looking for one, look no further than Hadley Freeman’s latest book.
A piece of trivia for you: the reason I am a writer is because of Hadley. In fact, it was because I wrote to her in the style of her ‘Ask Hadley’ column in my last year of university that I managed to get work experience at The Guardian, which led to a conviction that I could a) could write for a living and b) could talk about fashion for a living, which in turn led to months of unpaid internships and feelings of self-pity, before landing my writing job at a luxury fashion brand where I still work today. Hadley was the first person in a long list of journalists I contacted to actually write back, so clearly she’s pretty awesome herself. You won’t remember me Hadley, but thank you!
Aside from my personal gratitude, I feel women can more generally thank Hadley for her smart, witty advice in How To Be Awesome, which manages to tread the dangerous waters of sex, body image, work and the media without appearing preachy or pessimistic. As someone that has often felt a sense of unease that ‘feminism’ has become such an uncomfortable word to women of my generation, I think Hadley is spot on with her ‘if you have a vagina, you’re a feminist, and if not you’re not deserving of said vagina.’ The book also helps my own argument and positioning against the so-called ‘true feminist’ point of view, which says the fact that I write about handbags for a living perpetuates the myth that women are silly and shallow and therefore it’s ‘no wonder they’re taken seriously.’ Yes I like handbags. And straightening my hair. And watching Bridget Jones in my pyjamas while eating my bodyweight in Minstrels, but I’m also in position of a pretty good brain, some sense of humour and life successes that I don’t for one moment judge ill-favourably against men, or other women for that matter, and don’t expect to be judged in return.
How To Be Awesome teaches us that standing up for what you believe in (and not letting the Daily Mail suck your soul, optimism or general wellbeing), believing in yourself in a way that doesn’t mean you need to change yourself to be better, and admitting to a love of Jane Austen without worrying it might undermine your feminist credentials, can all contribute to a women’s general awesomeness – and that sometimes if you need to shout from your own soap box to make yourself heard, then damn well do it, and leave the anxiety about sounding like a ‘feminist’ behind – because you are one, and that’s just awesome.
[disclaimer: if you’re reading the section on Hadley’s sex seminar visit on a train, be prepared to both snigger, and if you’re on a particularly busy (and pervy) section of the Circle Line, ready to share the book with the man reading it wide-eyed over your shoulder.]