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Louise O’Neill Discusses “Asking For It”


By Sophia Simon-Bashall

CN: Discussion of r*pe culture and victim blaming

In the summer, I was lucky enough to hear the Irish author Louise O’Neill talk about her ground-breaking novel, Asking For It, at my local bookshop. It was an incredible evening, and Louise made some very poignant points. I feel it would be selfish of me not to share some of them…


“There’s always a big debate on whether or not my books are YA. I’ve been told that they’re too dark and bleak for YA. I mean, have these people ever been teenagers? When I was 16, I genuinely thought that Sylvia Plath was the only person who understood me.”


“I set out to write the truth, to be authentic, and if that makes people uncomfortable, maybe that’s a good thing. I can understand discomfort when reading about rape, you SHOULD be uncomfortable with it. It was especially important to me in writing Asking For It because there is such a culture of shame that silences victims. It’s ‘what were you doing?’, ‘what were you wearing?’, ‘how much did you have to drink?’, ‘why did you go back to his house?’. You just hear ‘your fault’, ‘your fault’, ‘your fault’, ‘your fault’. Victims are being made to feel ashamed, but that’s wrong. It’s the rapists, they’re the ones who should feel ashamed.”


“It’s interesting to me that Emma (Asking For It protagonist) is described as ‘unlikable’, because who says she has to be likable? That was never my goal. Male characters are never treated in the same way – the male antihero is well established in literature, but with women it’s shocking. People are shocked by women who are not ‘nice’. But female characters need to be compelling, not necessarily ‘likable’.”

Louise on ENDINGS (*spoiler alert!*):

“I definitely resist neat endings, I don’t like them and I don’t write them because they don’t feel real, they are not true to life.

Of course I wanted Emma to take the case further, but it doesn’t matter what I wanted her to do. It’s about what she would do. Also, my research showed that conviction rates with these cases are very low, especially in Ireland. I wanted the book to reflect the reality in which she lived. That’s why it ends the way it does.”

(you can pick up Asking For It here)

other people feel this too


By Bex Dudley

I have been living in London for just over a week, now.

It has been a busy one. Perhaps busy is an understatement. In the last week alone, there has been tea, introductions, lots of walking, registration, induction, welcome events, a ghost bus tour, more introductions, library visits, ice skating, exploring London, a study tour, more introductions, more walking, the Tate Modern, charity fundraising, Freshers Fair, a rugby taster session, more introductions… I do not think that is even nearly comprehensive. It has been busier than busy, the type of week where you reach the end of each day and think back over it, then think that could not really have been this morning!

Freshers week, or at least, Freshers week as I have experienced it, has been a weird one. Full of people and socialising, above anything else- meeting people, chatting, the same conversations over and over as you try to navigate what seems to be a whole city of new people. What’s your name? Are you an undergrad? First year? What course? Halls? Which ones? Where are you from? It has also been full of a lot of happiness and laughter. There have been some fantastic things- ice skating, a Bake Off party, making dinner with my flatmate, chatting and laughing with new people who just seem to click. It’s been a great week, and I know that. However, there have been some darker moments too, and I think that’s what makes it so weird, because those times seem so at odds with the rest of it. There have been times- particularly the evenings/nights- when everything else seems to dissipate, leaving a wonderful mixture of sadness and exhaustion and loneliness and anxiety. I have spent so much time wondering whether I will ever really feel comfortable here, whether I have really made the right choice, whether the people I am missing could ever possibly miss me half as much as I miss them, whether it is worse when the people I am missing are sad (and I can’t hold them) or when they’re happy (and I can’t celebrate with them), whether this city will ever feel anything like home, whether I will ever stop feeling so tired, whether it is just me feeling this way.

It is because of this last one, I think, that I am so resolute in writing this blog post. Experience with mental health has proven to me, time and time again, that other people feel this too. So, although social media is full of happy smiling faces, I am guessing, there are other people feeling a lot like me, asking the same questions, curled up on their respective uni beds, feeling that odd sense of loneliness when one is surrounded by hundreds of people. To all those people, this is me saying, I am here. I am feeling this. And actually, I think this is ‘normal’. I think we are, probably, the majority- no matter what social media seems to be implying. And, I think, eventually we will be okay. We just need to make it through this bit, utilising whatever support and strength we have, focusing on the out breaths.

I think, too, it is important to say that Freshers is not a one size fits all experience. I have not been out clubbing once this week. I like it enough- but I do not always deal well with crowded spaces and dark lights and alcohol/hangovers and people I don’t know, and I need to be settled somewhere, and with people I know very well, in order to enjoy it. I have been feeling the pressure to go clubbing, because that has seemed to be the ‘point’ of Freshers. However, I have also been self-aware, and realised that clubbing really isn’t what I need right now. Maybe I am ‘missing out’, maybe I’m not getting the ‘true Freshers experience’. I’m not so sure though. I know I’ve had a great week, even if it hasn’t involved drinking and dancing every night. I’ve quite definitely had a better week than I would have had had I forced myself to do something I really don’t feel comfortable doing. This is another reach out, to anyone in a similar position, to say it’s okay. We’re okay. We’re making this work for us, and that’s more than okay, that’s beautiful, because we are beautiful.

I think, what I am trying to say, most of all, is that is has been a very brilliant week- but that there have been wobbly times too. And that is okay. You belong here, and everything you feel is okay.

This blog was originally published on Bex’s personal blog here: https://itsbexnotrebecca.wordpress.com/2016/09/26/other-people-feel-this-too/

Powered By Girl, the book!


By Yas Necati

Hi, I’m Yas, editor here at the Powered By Girl blog. When I first started calling myself a feminist, I was 15. It was confusing, inspiring, life-changing – as you can imagine. I began to campaign with, and make friends with, a lot of people who were a lot older than me. Some people thought this was weird, but it taught me something really valuable; when we work across generations, we learn so much more. There’s power in intergenerational communities.

Around the same time I labelled myself a feminist, I reached out to an online community that I’d come across through googling “teen feminism” on the Internet. This community was called the SPARKmovement, and through connecting with them, I began writing for Powered By Girl. I met someone called Lyn Mikel Brown, an older feminist who became like a mentor to me, and 5 years later, we’re still working together on PBG.

Lyn’s one of the wonderful co-founders of this website, and she made me feel at home as an activist. It was pretty daunting as a teen to step into a community I knew nothing about. At first I felt young and silly, but a year on, when Lyn interviewed me for her book – also called Powered By Girl – I felt confident, welcome and even like my voice and my actions could make a difference to the issues I cared about.

As well as working with Lyn to write for PBG, I started campaigning too. I learnt a heck of a lot from the people I campaigned with, mostly because they showed me how to campaign effectively by treating me as an equal member of the team. When I was 16, I started campaigning for No More Page 3. I was the youngest team member, the oldest was in her 50s, and I really believe the campaign was as successful as it was because we learnt from one another, and reached out to people of all different ages to get involved. It was a revelation being on that team because I was treated and respected equally to everyone else, whereas in most spaces I would have been dismissed because I was still a teenager. No More Page 3 made me feel welcomed and supported, and this helped me gain confidence as an activist. After all, how many other mainstream campaigns do you know of that would take a 16-year-old onto their main organising team?

I think the best thing about the teams at No More Page 3 and Powered By Girl was that they trusted me, respected me, and treated me like an equal, rather than trying to tell me what to do. I can’t speak on behalf of any other young people, but I for certain know that I’ve never liked people who think that just because they’re older, they understand everything better than I do. I think if at 15, the adults I’d met had tried to lecture me/act as if I was naïve compared to them, I would have shunned away from the movement. Instead I was lucky enough to meet people who were much more experienced, but didn’t treat me like I was immature in spite of this. Instead they used their skills, knowledge and networks to bring me into the community and support me to make my own decisions as an activist, by having faith that I could.

PBG is a perfect example of this. Powered By Girl is a community of 13-22 year old activists, supported by a few adults who overlook everything, and support us along our activist journeys. Powered By Girl has always been about us, the young women. From the moment I started writing for them I knew that our voices were central, and from the moment I took over as editor I knew that our choices as young women would be respected, and it was up to us how we shaped the organisation, what we wrote about, and what we wanted to get across.

This year I turned 20, and it feels really strange not being a teenager any more. For the first time, I feel like one of those adults who might be meeting teen feminists, and I’m not sure I’m prepared for that. I’ve started reflecting on how I was supported, and how I can offer this support to young activists. I often look back and wonder how Lyn made me feel so included and empowered when we first met 5 years ago. I take inspiration from her when I say that intergenerational activism is about supporting and respecting each other, showing not telling, and sharing what we know with others, generously and with kindness.

I’m really proud that I could be a small part of her new book “Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists”. The thing about Lyn is that she’s always showed young people different opportunities, rather than trying to tell them what to do. It’s scary thinking that soon, or even now, I might be meeting teen activists, and in the same position tat she was when we first met. I don’t think I could do as good a job as she did at supporting me. But at least I’ll have her book to help!

“Powered By Girl: A field guide for supporting youth activists” is published by Beacon Press. You can buy it here: http://www.beacon.org/Powered-By-Girl-P1228.aspx

Loving every inch


By Issy McConville

We all know the feeling. It’s that sigh when catching a glimpse of our reflection in a passing window; it’s the hasty jerk between towel and T-shirt in the communal changing area; it’s the quiet relief that the one-piece has returned to fashion, with it’s forgiving lycra compression. Our stomachs are the centre of our bodies, but so often, they are so hard to love.

We are so quick to punish ourselves for failing to be visually perfect. How many of us have looked down at ourselves and felt disappointed, or have been filled with dread at the prospect of fumbling around in a hot changing room and trying on a series of unflattering bikinis? Recently, our fixation on the flat when it comes to our stomachs is not only an aesthetic pursuit, but has been infused with a sense of morality. ‘Wellness eating’ has seen a staggering rise, with sugar and processed carbohydrates dethroning calories as the ultimate sins. Instead we are encouraged to nourish our bodies with healthy alternatives – threading vegetables into noodles, or mashing avocado into cake. Everything we know about food turns out to be wrong – comfort food is out, white pasta is criminal, and gluten is a food source forged in the fiery furnaces of hell. But who are we listening to when we refuse the dessert menu, or sidestep the potato aisle at the supermarket? Is it our own body? Or are we behaving as we think we ‘should’?

I, for one, am tired of punishing myself for the inches. I will no longer look at my belly as a symbol of weakness, of a lack of a self control – but as an expression of my joy in life. It is the pastries I ate fresh from the bakery in France; the beers I drank in a sunny beer garden with friends; it’s when my boyfriend drove all around the city to find the best place for me to try my first cinnamon roll. He and I often joke that all we ever do on holiday is eat – but this is our discovery – our experience of life through all of our senses. One of my happiest memories is when we were in Berlin, and it was so cold and we were so tired, but we took a walk from our hostel and came across a tiny Italian restaurant where they served giant bowls of pasta on checkered tablecloths. It’s a special human trait that we eat for pleasure, not just for survival. Food is at the heart of family, of culture, of friendship. And too often we deny ourselves the simple pleasure of eating what we want when we want it. Sometimes, it really is best to just sit down with a giant plate of carbs with someone you love, and eat.

In the final rays of summer, let’s see the inches of our stomach not as an end goal, but as an expression of our life. Put on a bikini and show your belly with pride. Let every bit of your skin feel the Vitamin D. Say, today I am here on the earth and I am going to savour it – every inch.

What is queer fiction?


By Anna Hill

When I first started my search for mirrors in the form of queer books I was often recommended entirely non-queer books. I think this is because people have fundamentally misunderstood what queer fiction is and how good and valuable representation works. Here are some of the problems I have found:

One [side] character does not a queer book make

Throughout my journey the recommendations people made to me simply reaffirmed some of the things I already knew – that only white men are gay enough, or even interesting enough to be represented; and that if you are a lesbian or worse – a bisexual woman – you do not exist. I was recommended good books, but not good queer books. Books with straight girl main characters and straight romance pushed as the most important aspect of girls’ lives, with sad, buried gays and sick pitiful gay friends, but never part of the main story.

The lie that a queer book is one with a glimpse of a queer person has been spread, for example by lists like this. Books like Weetzie Bat and The Perks of Being a Wallflower have been put on it, but it’s Weetzie Bat’s best friend who is gay, it’s Charlie’s best friend that is gay! The main character in both these stories is straight. On other lists people have suggested Liberty’s Fire, Remix or Letters To the Dead – all of which have queer side characters, brothers or friends, but are lead by heterosexual and heteromantic love stories.

Queer books should be intersectional

On top of that the number of queer books I was recommended to begin with normally told the stories of white, cisgender, male characters. From Will Grayson, Will Grayson to lesbian classics like Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit, Carol or Fun Home (all of which do count as queer fiction), all are overwhelmingly whitewashed. The queer literature we continue to celebrate often simply reaffirms the idea that there is an acceptable, palatable type of queer and the majority of the queer community are not it.

The moments when you finally find those books that make you feel seen and validated are radical and nourishing. They are so important that, without them, I don’t think I would have survived. Being able to claim a historical and literary ancestry helps to centre queer survival and power today. Suggesting so-called queer fiction which doesn’t centre intersectional queer main characters allows all queers to be disempowered from their own narratives; we are not important or valid enough to be the heroes of any stories, even our own.

A quick counter-list of 15 queer books to read:

(I have yet to read any aromantic or agender books :()


* are for poc

b is for bisexual characters

a for asexual

I for intersex

t for trans

  1. The colour purple by alice walker*
  2. Snapshots of a girl by beldan sezen*
  3. Huntress by malinda lo*
  4. Aristotle and dante discover the secrets of the universe by Benjamin alire saenz*(b)
  5. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson*
  6. The song of Achilles by madeline miller
  7. Far from you by tess sharpe (b)
  8. She of the mountains by vivek shraya*(b)
  9. Not otherwise specified by Hannah Moskowitz*(b)
  10. None of the above by I.W Gregorio (i)
  11. Moon at Nine by Deborah Ellis*
  12. Pantomime by Laura Lam (i)
  13. From under the mountain by Cait Spivey*(a)
  14. A safe girl to love by Casey Plett (t)
  15. If I was your girl by Meredith Russo (t)

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