Review: What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and Pressures of Growing Up Female, Melissa Benn (Hodder Paperbacks, 2014)

I’ve always been slightly worried (terrified) about the thought of bringing daughters into this world. I found it hard enough growing up as a teenage girl and I thankfully missed out on bullying/porn/social media/sexual relationships until I was well over 18. My mother, having had a mother from hell (told her there was nothing worth looking at when stood in front of a mirror), did a grand job of helping me to grow up. She was always extremely careful not to criticise herself in front of us and always encouraged us towards happiness (which unfortunately backfired on her when me and my sister realised happiness = tattoos). Melissa Benn’s book, despite being aimed at women on the verge/in the middle of motherhood, is extremely relevant for today’s early – mid twenties woman. We twenty-somethings, who may be finally accepting that we no longer fall into the ‘girl’ category and have uncomfortably moved into the realms of being a ‘woman’ potentially gain some insight into just how hard every other female finds growing up and finding herself.

Highlighting the issues that plague women throughout childhood and into adulthood, the book presents facts, figures and most interestingly, first hand interviews with mothers and daughters on such subjects as pornography, career, motherhood and the sexualisation of the female body. Unfortunately there was a slight lack of young women’s perspectives, which Benn has been criticised for in the past, however, I couldn’t help but feel when reading the book that part of Benn’s raison d’être was to give us younger women a supportive hand into adulthood and therefore, in turn helping our future daughters.

I am still yet to decide whether the thought of having kids terrifies me enough to become celibate since I can no longer hide behind the ‘I’m too young to have a kid’ card, but whether I do become a mother or not, I think I may give Benn’s book one more read just to remind myself that one of the truest ways to be a girl, woman, mother or daughter in today’s society is to look to each other for support in just being ourselves.

Reviewed by Gemma Aston

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