Book Review: Asking For It – Kate Harding

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Title: Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture – and What We Can Do About It

Author: Kate Harding

Genre: Non-fiction, feminist

Publisher: Da Capo Press

Pushlishing Date: 2015

My rating: ⋆⋆⋆⋆

Asking For It is an incredibly in-depth look at what ‘rape culture‘ is, how it is perpetuated, and the consequences of it. The book is split into three main sections: the first goes into depth about what rape is, clearing up any ideas about ‘grey areas’ that readers might have, and looks at the many myths surrounding incidents of rape. It also looks at the issues with stigma, backlash, blame, and discusses how the general population seems to view rape.

The second section goes into detail about rape and the law, from research carried out with police officers (for example, the study on 11 police and sheriff’s departments in the USA which found that 22.7% of the officers agreed with the statement: ‘any victim can resist a rapist if he or she really wants to’), to discussing the laws surrounding rape, and how rape cases are dealt with at trial – if they ever get there. The final section explores the more ‘pop culture’ or everyday side of rape culture and how it affects our everyday lives, and discusses subjects like online gaming, trolling, and examples of backlash when celebrities have been accused of sexual assault.

This book is essentially about two things: the issues surrounding masculinity as an identity and as a goal (which encourages violence and dominance, often sexually), and the issues within our culture and within our legal system that mean that most rapes go unreported or unpunished.

Now, after that extremely serious synopsis, the first thing I want to point out is the writing style: it’s fantastic. Kate Harding has such a strong and relatable voice which comes through clearly in her writing, so it feels like we’re being informed of all this by a friend. She manages to keep the tone light with sarcastic jokes (because, unfortunately, some people are so horrendous all you can do is laugh at their stupidity)(Note: I don’t mean I’m laughing at rapists, I mean I’m laughing at the guy who said that if a woman gets pregnant by her rapist then it wasn’t a real rape, as women have ways of ‘shutting that whole thing down.’ You can’t help but laugh at that ridiculous stupidity.) Yet, of course, the tone is always appropriate and doesn’t make light of anything that shouldn’t be.

Another thing I love about this book is its heavy usage of facts and statistics from actual, scientific research. Much feminist literature is purely anecdotal, and, while I love a lot of those books as they are good in their own way, I feel like the persistent and frequent use of real numbers in this book really hammered home the point. Don’t let that fact scare you off, they’re explained in completely simple and understandable ways, this book never felt like a chore to read.

The author shares her own rape story right at the end, which I think was a great choice and I applaud her for it. I feel like waiting until the end to share her story meant that I could put everything I’d just learned into practice – in a sense. When she described feelings of guilt, I knew why. When she described how others reacted, I knew why. When she described why she didn’t report, I knew why. It kind of showed me just how informed this book had made me.

The reason I didn’t give this book 5 stars is because of the editing, not at all because of the content. Sometimes the writing felt a little sloppy, with long sentences and multiple clauses which sometimes made it difficult to understand. It’s not too much of a major thing, and I certainly wouldn’t want that to put anyone off reading it as mostly it was fine, but I do feel like it should have been better edited.

Ultimately, the problem with a book like this is that everyone needs to read it – but not many people will. For me personally, I feel so much better informed of this issue, everything that goes into creating this issue, and the consequences of it. The book is more than just about rape, it’s also about masculinity and femininity and how that’s presented to us by our culture, which I feel is relevant for a general understanding of feminism. If you’re interested in expanding your knowledge of feminism and of rape culture I would definitely pick this up. Even if you feel like you’re a little lacking in knowledge, this book works for total beginners even if you’ve never read a feminist text before.

This book took an extremely difficult and important topic and managed to expertly inform of the facts from so many different angles, while keeping the entire book easy to read and – well, as enjoyable as a book on rape culture can be.

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My Non-Fiction TBR

 

Non-fiction is a genre that I’ve been getting more and more into over the past year or two, and I’m also seeing it become more popular on booktube! So today I thought I’d share some of the non-fiction books I really want to get around to reading soon. This is definitely not all of the non-fiction books I own, and I’m also currently reading one, but these are the ones I’m most keen to read.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat – Oliver Sacks

I own a few books by Oliver Sacks but this is probably his most famous – plus it’s the shortest. I started this a few years ago when  Iborrowed a copy from a friend and really enjoyed it, so I’ve since bought my own copy to read myself. Oliver Sacks was a neurologist who worked with patients who had unique conditions, so each chapter of this book is a case study on a different patients. Many of his other books have a common theme running through them, like how Musicophilia is about patients with neurological conditions regarding music and sounds, but this book is a more general introduction to his work and a range of some of his most interesting and odd cases. One of the patients cannot recognise objects for what they are, which gives the book its title. Another patient has a sort of amnesia where he has no memories past a certain point, so he’s an elderly man who wakes up every day thinking he’s in his early twenties, and another is about a patients with extreme mathematical abilities. I remember from reading this book the first time that some of the cases are quite sad, but Oliver Sacks always does whatever he can to give the patient the best quality of life can. I can’t wait to reread the start of this and finish it off.

Power Systems – Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky is an interesting person for me, as he’s a linguist that I’ve studied throughout my degree as well as a political activist and writer. Chomsky has a lot of books I want to read but this is one of his most recent. The book is a collection of conversations and interviews discussing some important modern issues, such as the dynamics between big business and the working class, the rise of the far right, and the breakdown of some traditional and mainstream political institutions. I really enjoy politics but it’s never something I studied, so I have quite a few political non-fiction books I want to work my way through!

The Establishment – Owen Jones

This is another political book, the subtitle of which is ‘and how they get away with it.’ This book is marketed as a kind of exposure of the secret goings-on within the UK government, as well as the press and big businesses, and how they’re all connected. I believe the general argument of the book is that the people at the top are using their power to help themselves while spinning lies about how they’re realling helping the people. As someone with a very opinionated and liberal family this view is nothing new to be, but I’ve never really read anything that tries to put some kind of tangible arguments behind these ideas, so it’ll be interesting to see what Owen Jones has to say about it.

Sapiens – Yuval Noah Harari

This one is a chunker and at around 460 pages I think I’m going to have to take my time with this one. The subtitle of this book is ‘A brief history of humankind’, so I’m sure it’s going to be jam packed with information. I really enjoy history, but I also really enjoy sociology, politics and anthropology, so this book seems great for that. Rather than just relaying facts about the progression of our species, it asks questions about how we went from being foragers to having whole kingdoms, where religion comes from, and what our world might be like in the future. It sounds absolutely fascinating, but I think it’ll take me a good few months to get through.

Prisoners of Geography – Tim Marshall

The subtitle of this one is ‘Ten maps that tell you everything you need to know about global politics.’ So, this books takes a bit of a different stance on politics, and it uses the geography of the world to explain things. The blurb says that it answers questions about why the USA was ‘destined to be a global superpower’ and why China’s power continue to expand, and stresses the important of geography when trying to understand the full picture. I’ve never thought too much about geography, and in fact I have another non-fiction book that argues that geography is mostly irrelevant when it comes to how successful a country is, so it’ll be good to compare their ideas!

I Am Malala – Malala Yousafzai

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Malala and her book but in case you haven’t, this subtitle should sum it all up: ‘The girl who stood up for education and was shot by the Taliban.’ When the Taliban took control of her village, Malala stood up for her right to an education and was shot in the head. She managed to survive, and is now an ambassador and an activist fighting for education and equal rights for women across the world. I know her story will be difficult to read, but I also think it’ll be inspiring and I think I’ll learn a lot from it.

Have you read any of these? Let me know what you think! If you have any non-fiction recommendations please do let me know because I’m always looking for more!

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Reading Goals – Mid-Year Check In

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I did a video about this a little while ago but I wanted to go into some more depth about what I’ve read so far this year, and what I want to read for the rest of the year. I wasn’t really doing anything with my channel or this blog at the beginning of 2016, as I was focusing on my work and my degree, so I didn’t actually set any goals. However, I do have my goodreads goal, and I’ve formed some ideas on what I’d like to get read by the end of the year, and I also have a big goal left over from 2015. Let’s start with that one.

My 2015 TBR

At the beginning of 2015, I made a shelf on goodreads filled with all the books I really wanted to read by the end of the year. I don’t really remember why some books made the list and some didn’t, but it was probably either because I was just really excited to read them or I’d owned them for a while so wanted to get them read. Since then I’ve managed to read around half, but there are quite a few left! I think it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll get them all finished by the end of my year, some of them I’m just not really that interested in anymore and I have other goals that’ll take priority, but it would be great to be able to tick some more off of this list! So here are all of the ones left…

Water for Elephants – Sara Gruen

Sally Heathcote: Suffragette – Mary Talbot

We – Yevgeny Zamyatin

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender – Leslye Walton

Midwinterblood – Marcus Sedgwick

The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August – Claire North

Rebecca – Daphne DuMaurier

Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

The Mayor of Casterbridge – Thomas Hardy

The Ocean at the End of the Lane – Neil Gaiman

California – Edan Lepucki

Hollow City – Ransom Riggs

Wither – Lauren Destefano

The Sparrow – Mary Doria Russell

My Goodreads Goal

Last year my goal was 50 books and I just about managed this, I think I ended up reading 51 or 52 books. I decided not to up my goal for 2016, but I have changed the way I think about it. This year I want to read 50 full-length novels, not including short stories or graphic novels (which, as far as I can tell, there isn’t a way to do this on goodreads??). So although the number isn’t higher, I do want to read more this year! So goodreads tells me that I’ve already achieved this goal, but if I go through and count I’ve actually only read 36 books – though this still puts me ahead on the goal!

New mid-year goals

Halfway through the year, I reflected back on my reading and set a few new goals that I want to achieve by the end of the year:

Read at least 5 books per month: I set this as my goal as I think it’s pretty realistic. Generally the only way I’ll read less than 5 books a month is if I’m being pretty lazy with reading, so this goal is basically saying ‘don’t get lazy!’

Finish 2 series: Specifically, I want to finish the Winner’s trilogy (at the time of making this goal I’d only read the first one, now I’ve read the sequel too) and the Forsaken trilogy (I’ve only got the last one to go). I am reading maybe one or two other series (the Miss Peregrine series is the only one that comes to mind) but I didn’t include them as I’m just not super passionate about the series.

Read 2 historical fiction books: Since making this goal I’ve read one, The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan. This goal should be super easy for me as I adore historical fiction and I’m reading more and more of it. I will probably complete this goal this month!

Read 2 non-fiction books: Again, since making this goal I’ve read a non0fiction book, In Order To Live by Yeonmi Park. This is another one that should be easy since I love non-ficiton, but I buy non-fiction books at a much faster rate than I read them! I’m partway through another non-ficiton book right now so should have this goal finished pretty soon, too.

Read 2 classics: This one is going to be the hardest. I never read a lot of classics, but I used to read a lot more than I do now and I want to change that. I’ve enjoyed every classic I’ve ever read and quite a few are my favourite books of all time! I don’t tend to pick them up any more purely out of laziness, young adult and even a lot of general fiction is just easier to read than classics. I own so many classics I’m excited to read – at the moment I’m most excited about The Mayor of Casterbridge and The Scarlett Letter – so I need to read at least two by the end of the year!

So those are all of the goals I want to achieve by the end of the year – did any of you have a check-in with your goals halfway through the year? Let me know how you’re doing with your goals!

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My Book: When Summers End

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Today I’m sharing the first part of the book I’m working on: When Summers End. It’s not a firm title, I think it might sound a little too cheesy, but it kind of fits with the content of the book so that’s what I’ve got for now.

I’ve just uploaded the Prologue so far, which is pretty short, but hopefully it’s a nice introduction. Personally I’m never really too keen on prologues, but I think it works with the story. Throughout the book I’m trying to foreshadow what happens without giving too much away, and I hope the prologue starts that off well.

I’ve uploaded it to Wattpad and that’ll be where I upload the chapters as I finish them. I’m embedding the story below, but if you want to read it on the Wattpad site you can click here. I’d love to know your thoughts – hope you enjoy!

Oh, and please do ignore the synopsis. I am terrible at summarising my book. The synopsis sounds rubbish, but it’s the best I can do!

 

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Currently reading – Thoughts #1

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I thought I’d start a little series where I share my thoughts on some of the books I’m currently reading. Sometimes I’ll have so many things to say about certain books that I either forget half of it, or I’ll cut half of it out of my monthly wrapup videos because I just end up rambling. I usually read multiple books at once, from different genres, so that whatever mood I’m in I’ll have something on the go that suits it. Let’s see how this goes!

Bad Feminist – Roxane Gay

This is the book I’ve started reading most recently, I’m 234 pages in and it’s 320 pages long. I can’t quite decide if I’m enjoying this or not. It’s turning out to be a very different book to what I thought it was, so at first I flew through this because I was really excited about it, but the more I’ve read the slower I’ve read it and now I just kind of want to get it finished.

This is a collection of essays by Roxane Gay, who’s an American professor, author, a black woman, and a daughter of Haitian immigrants. The book is essentially about her perspective and experience of life. There have been a few essays I’ve really enjoyed, I really liked ‘Typical First Year Professor’ which is about, as the title says, what it’s like starting out as a professor. I loved hearing all about that because that’s the kind of career I hope to have, I’m just about to start my master’s. I also really enjoyed ‘The Careless Language of Sexual Violence’, which is about the way sexual violence is reported in the media and portrayed on television, and how we as a society have become sort of numb to the horrors of these acts. There’s also a pretty good discussion on the Fifty Shades books.

There is one particular essay that I really had a problem with, though, and that’s 1960s Mississippi: Thoughts on The Help. This was quite a coincidence for me because literally the day before I read this chapter, I’d watched The Help – not for the first time, I love that film. So I was quite interested to hear what she had to say about it, and very disappointed when she ripped it apart. I feel a little awkward discussing this as a white person, but I do feel that I’m still entitled to talk about my interpretation, I’m just very conscious about offending someone.

Warning: The following 2 paragraphs contain spoilers for the book/movie. I don’t consider them huge ones, more subplots, but if you don’t want to hear anything about the storyline then skip the next couple of paragraphs 🙂

I felt like she very specifically picked and chose which bits of the movie to discuss, and left out anything redeeming about it, for the sake of criticizing it. It felt extremely biased. For example, she mentions how, at the end of the film, Celia and her husband tell Minny ‘You have a job here for the rest of your life,’ because they’re so grateful for all she’s helped them with. Roxane Gay writes ‘Minny, of course, beams gratefully because a lifetime of servitude to a white family, doing backbreaking work for terrible pay, is like winning the lottery and the best a black woman could hope for in the alternate science fiction universe of The Help.’ My first issue with that is that actually, during that time period surely that was a pretty good position to be in for a black woman, considering that many of the struggles these black maids have experienced or discussed in the movie revolve around losing their jobs. But my main problem with this point is that Roxane Gay has deliberately only included part of the sentence. Celia’s husband actually says ‘You have a job here for the rest of your life. If you want it.‘ That, I feel, is a crucial point, because he’s telling Minny that it’s up to her, that it’s her choice, she could go on to do these bigger and better things that Roxane Gay implies are available to her, but if she chooses, she can work for them for as long as she wants. When you exclude that last part of his line, as Roxane Gay did, it completely changes the meaning so that it fits with her argument. I was quite frustrated with that.

The other big problem I had with her argument was how she discusses the fact that Minny is a victim of domestic abuse. Minny is physically abused by her husband, and in one scene the woman she works for, Celia, sees the bruises on her face and encourages her to hit him back. Later in the movie, Minny leaves her husband. Now, I didn’t interpret these things as related, as she leaves him after the book The Help has been published, so I assumed that that’s what gave her the strength and courage to do it, rather than her boss telling her to hit him back a few months ago. Roxane Gay writes ‘the narrative leads you to believe that Celia indirectly empowers Minny to leave her abusive husband, as if a woman of Minny’s strength and character couldn’t do that on her own.‘ I actually found this interpretation to be quite offensive to women who are victims of domestic abuse. Roxane Gay’s statement here implies that if you’re a strong person you should be able to leave your husband when he becomes abusive, but the truth is that even if you are a strong woman, you can become trapped in that relationship. I don’t think this scene was about race, I think it was about women. I interpreted the scene to be saying that women need to help and support each other, no matter their race. That’s just my interpretation, but I think it’s ridiculous to say ‘as if a woman of Minny’s strength and character couldn’t do that on her own.’ I really think that’s quite offensive.

This essay kind of tarnished my whole reading experience, because it opened my eyes to just how easily she is able to construct a compelling argument through deliberately picking and choosing what to include and what not to include, and stating her interpretation as fact. I really enjoy, appreciate, and agree with a lot of what she says, but it’s made me question the entire book and left me with little enthusiasm to finish the rest of it. Luckily this essay was in the last third of the book so I don’t have much left!

Wow, that turned out to be super long.

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

I’m one chapter into this book, I picked it up because I didn’t really fancy reading any of the other books I’m currently reading. I’m not totally sure what this book is about because the blurb and first chapter are very vague, but it’s about some kind of apocalypse where everyone who looks outside goes blind – I think. It sounded exciting and creepy, and I’ve heard really good things about it, but the first chapter hasn’t really done anything for me.

The first line of this book wasn’t great. First lines don’t have to be good, a book can have a boring first line and go on to be great, but a good first line really helps. The first line of this book is ‘Malorie stands in the kitchen, thinking.’ Meh.

The main problem I have so far is it hasn’t told me anything! It’s four years after whatever happened happened, and this woman, Malorie, has two four year old children, who for some reason she calls Boy and Girl. This makes me kind of not like Malorie, as that seems like a really cold and unloving thing to do, not name her children. Maybe that’ll be explained later, though.

The book alludes to the fact that certain things have happened in the past and there are certain dangers outside, but it’s all just so vague that it’s started to bore me. I think there’s a fine line between a thrilling, need-to-know-more vague, and just a dull, I-don’t-know-what’s-going-on-vague. So far, this book is the latter.

But I’m only a chapter in, hopefully it’ll get better!

Noughts and Crosses – Malorie Blackman

This one I’m rereading, I’m 89 pages in. I read it when I was about 14/15 and I loved it. I also read the second one, then I got about halfway through the third one before giving up because I found the plotline too confusing, and I never even bought the fourth one. I wanted to revisit this series because I really enjoyed the first two books, and now that I’m older and (hopefully!) more able to keep up with the storyline, I think I’ll really enjoy the third and fourth books too. This is a pretty well known and well loved series so I’d love to get it read.

It’s set in a world similar to ours, where the ‘crosses’ are black, and they have the power and wealth in society, while ‘noughts’ are white, and they’re poor, lower in society, mostly work for the crosses. They’re sort of going through integration, an elite school has just this year allowed noughts to apply, and a lot of crosses are very, well, cross, (ha ha) about this. It’s essentially a book about race and hate and terrorism, and turns our actual history on its head.

The problem is, it feels a little childish. It has two perspectives, a 14 year old girl and a 16 year old boy (I think those are the right ages!) and I can really hear their youth, particularly in the girl’s chapters. I know it’s something I just have to read past though, because if I remember correctly, the rest of the books are narrated by older characters.

Also I feel like there are an excessive number of exclamation points.

Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty – Daron Acemoglu & James A. Robinson

I’ve been reading this book since December. I’m 115 pages in, it’s 462 pages long. It’s non-fiction, and is looks at the reasons behind why some countries are rich and some are poor, when they can be so similar – like why the United States is so rich and powerful while some of its neighbouring countries aren’t. It essentially argues that it has nothing to do with geography, or culture, as other people have argued – they argue that it’s due to the different political systems put in place throughout history.

This book combines two topics I love: politics and history. I found this book brilliant at first, it was so interesting, it discusses things I’ve never heard discussed before and made some excellent points. But then it got kind of repetitive. I feel like I have to get through this (large) chapter in order to get onto a slightly different topic, but I can’t bring myself to do that for the moment because it really feels like they’re making the same points over and over!

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Sharing My Writing

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Writing is something that is difficult for me. In theory, I really enjoy it, but the reality is that as I’ve gotten older I’ve become so critical of myself and the things that I create that writing ends up being difficult. I’ll start writing, then I’ll worry it sounds childish, I’ll worry it’s boring, repetitive, that I could have phrased that last sentence better. So in recent years I haven’t written much at all.

When I was a child it was easy for me to write, I hadn’t developed the insane idea that everything I write is just rubbish. I wrote anything and everything I wanted to and wanted my whole family to read it. I don’t think I’m alone in this, I think developing a self-criticism is something that happens to a lot of people as we get older and it’s not necessarily a bad thing unless you let it be.

I don’t write because I worry it sucks. I go over and over my writing to the point where I’m so wrapped up in the negatives that I can’t see anything good about it. I’m working on using self-criticism to improve my writing and make it better, rather than stopping me from writing completely.

I don’t write because I worry it’s a waste of time. What’s the end purpose of my writing? It’s like singing. I really love singing but, again, I’m so self-critical that I cannot sing in front of others. So I don’t join in in choirs or take part in shows, all I do is sing by myself when everyone else in the house is out. I don’t intend to publish anything that I write, mostly because of this annoying self-critical thing I’ve got going on where I feel like there’s no point trying because no one will like it anyway. And because to me it feels too big headed to say ‘look at what I’ve written, it’s good enough to be published, I’m going to send it off to agencies’ – though I know that, of course, that’s not big headed and I applaud anyone who has the bravery to put themselves out there like that. But since I’m not writing with the intention of doing anything with that writing it feels a little bit like a waste of time. But then, is spending my time doing something I enjoy a waste of time?

Here’s a weird one, I don’t write because I worry I won’t do my ideas justice. I have so many ideas and characters swimming around in my head. In my mind, they’re perfect, beautiful, fun, exciting, nuanced stories with compelling, realistic characters. I worry that if I start trying to actually put these stories down on paper, I won’t be able to make them as good as they are in my mind. How can I put a huge, complex, intricate concept into words – the idea of putting something so abstract into something so finite and distinct as words is slightly terrifying.

But – I’ve realised recently that I need to get over myself. Writing might be difficult, it might not always be fulfilling, I might be faced with the fact that I’m not as good a writer as I’d like to be, but here’s the thing:

Not writing is certainly not making me happy.

So why not write, despite these worries? My writing might suck, but I’ll enjoy it in the meantime. I might never intend on publishing it, but engaging with a hobby is something that most people do, a hobby doesn’t need to have a bigger purpose than just fun. And I might not be able to do my ideas justice, but surely getting them out in any form, even a rough one, is better than not getting them out at all?

So, I’ve decided I’m going to make writing for fun a priority, and I’m going to challenge myself to publish it online. So here’s my Wattpad profile:

https://www.wattpad.com/user/harrietrosie

There’s not a ton of stuff up there yet, but I plan on adding to it. Maybe no one will read it and that’s fine, but adding stuff to Wattpad provides me with a kind of end goal with my writing that I like.

Do you ever experience any of these doubts about your writing? What do you do to deal with them? Leave a comment or tweet me and let’s discuss together and support each other!

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