Gemma Cairney's beginner's guide to feminism

Gemma Cairney's beginner's guide to feminism, an exclusive extract from her book, Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be.

07/03/2017
4 minutes to read

Gemma Cairney's beginner's guide to feminism, including a recommended reading list. This is an exclusive extract from her book, Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be.

A lot of people think it’s a little grumpy, but feminism is pretty awesome. It’s essentially a powerful belief that we live in a patriarchal society (a society essentially run and governed by men) and that this ain’t cool.

To be a feminist in the most basic of terms means to believe in equality. Some feminists campaign for it societally, domestically and professionally in a number of ways. Feminists believe that the objectification of women, which has very much been ingrained in us, is damaging, disturbing and undermining.

Feminists do not believe that men are evil or that women are better than men. They believe that women are equally as valuable and important in society as men and should be treated as such, and not be valued or judged by their looks – or feel that they have to dress any particular way – or judged by their ability to reproduce, but by their equal contribution to the workplace and beyond.

Feminism makes sense. Calling yourself a feminist does not tag you as a man-hater or someone who does not like to be feminine – it tags you as someone who believes in equality. Women can be beautiful and powerful, they can be leaders and carers, they can be loud and wild if they choose or just one or none of those things if they choose. Women are almightily dynamic. Being a feminist means you are a champion of the rights of other women to achieve all that they are capable of. Many men are feminists too.

There is a fascinating and rich tapestry of feminist movements out there, not one size fits all. We all have different reference points and experiences. There so many sections of feminism for this reason. Research them for yourself and enjoy finding out which thread of activism/campaign/literature works for you. Once you start to look, there will be thousands of entry points to a wonderful and fulfilling feminism that appeals to you.

I warn you, though, it can be overwhelming. Don’t exhaust yourself thinking you are the only warrior having to think about it all, all the time. There isn’t enough time in a lifetime to right all the wrongs. Feminism isn’t about one person being the saviour, it’s about respect and togetherness and fairness. Don’t forget to have some fun too.


Great books on feminism

Girl Up

by Laura Bates

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Discover the book here.

How To Be a Woman

by Caitlin Moran

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Discover the book here.

What's a Girl Gotta Do?

by Holly Bourne

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Discover the book here.

What is Feminism? Why do we need It? And Other Big Questions

by Bea Appleby and Louise Spilsbury

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Discover the book here.

Bad Feminist

by Roxane Gay

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My Life on the Road

by Gloria Steinem

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Discover the book here.

We Should All Be Feminists

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

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Discover the book here.


Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be

by Gemma Cairney

Book cover for 9781509836116

Open: A Toolkit for How Magic and Messed Up Life Can Be is full of honest advice about the big, bad and beautiful things that growing up is all about: from mental health to families to first love, and everything in between.

Gemma Cairney is an important advocate for young people and between her life experiences and her personal insight from her time as Radio 1's resident agony aunt on The Surgery, she is perfectly placed to offer hope and a huge comforting cuddle to young people questioning what life's all about or dealing with hard times.

Along with practical help and advice from a range of experts and gorgeous illustrations, this bright and colourful book also has a ribbon marker and plenty of space for readers to personalize and make it their own, making Open a treasured resource to return to whenever advice is needed.