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Book Review: Living Dolls by Natasha Walter

Living Dolls by Natasha Walter

Empowerment. Liberation. Choice. In this passionate and thought-provoking non-fiction book, Natasha Walter argues that these terms have now been taken over by society to create a highly sexualised and an increasingly narrow vision of what it is to be female. While young women have always placed value on their appearance, never before has sexualisation of girls started at such a young age or has been so pervasive.

Indeed the author’s argument that today’s highly air brushed and sexualised culture is reducing options for young girls and women who see their appearance as their only option for success in life is compelling. This is a fascinating and highly readable book that certainly got me wondering why women are more and more defined by sexual allure – rather than their skills and personal qualities – and ultimately how damaging that is for so many women. Advertisers use sex to sell products and seem to be aiming at a younger and younger demographic. And the media print biased articles based on sometimes flawed studies so that routinely people now believe that it’s all down to biology or hormones for our choices in life – so that it’s natural for boys to like blue, to be active and not talk a lot, and for girls to like pink, to be very social from a young age and like dressing up as princesses. But is that actually true?

I’d highly recommend this book to any woman. While I didn’t agree with everything, it was filled with many things that gave me reason to pause. Natasha Walter highlights the shadowy area of ‘glamour’ modelling, the acceptance in mainstream culture of pole-dancing , the addiction of pornography for a growing number of men, the branding of Playboy and other ‘sexy’ brands to young girls, the acceptance of plastic surgery, and sexual bullying in schools. The list goes on.

I was very struck by the comparison of adolescent girls’ diaries from today and around hundred years ago. “In 1892, the personal agenda of an adolescent diarist read: ‘Resolved not to talk about myself or feelings. To think before speaking. To work seriously. To be self restrained in conversation and actions. Not to let my thoughts wander. To be dignified. Interest myself more in others.’” What a difference when we fast forward to a real diary from today. ‘I will try to make myself better in any way I possibly can with the help of my budget and babysitting money. I will lose weight, get new lenses, already got new haircut, good makeup, new clothes and accessories.’ Is this what we mean by empowerment, liberation and choice? Read Living Dolls and you’ll probably question some of the things that are currently happening in our society. The new sexism is insidious and very alarming.

#bookreviews #nonfiction

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