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She's Shameless and she answered some questions

August 9, 2010 | Cameron

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She's Shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out and fighting back

Is an awesome collection of essays and articles about the experience of women as teen's growing up. I was fortunate enough to ask the editors some questions. Here is what Stacey May Fowles had to say:

The collection deals with a lot of sensitive and topical female oriented issues, but presented in unique voices and styles. Was this a conscious choice? Or was it just the variety of articles you had already received? And how did you decide to limit the collection to the one's that you chose?

I think the most important thing for me was that regardless of a writer's personal experience and how they felt it shaped their life, they refused to be patronizing to a young female readership. For the tone of the book I hoped we could achieve that of a trusted, older female confidant, someone who was non-judgmental and positive. So much of the media targeted at young women is about making them feel bad about themselves or scared of consequences. I wanted to make teenagers feel good about themselves, that things can and will get better, that hardship and difference can make you stronger. We had all of that in mind and we were blessed by so many submissions that shared that vision.

How important is it, even today, that female voices be heard?

There is this strange popular perception that "we won," that women are now completely equal to men, and that we should stop complaining and be grateful. The reality is that women still live in danger of sexual assault, discrimination, and violence. Women still make less than men for the same work. Women don't have the same options as their male counterparts. The view that we're now "equal" and there's no need for feminism any more also comes from a privileged Western viewpoint and ignores the struggles of women all over the world. It also ignores the intersectionality of feminism, that people are discriminated against for a variety of different reasons - age, class, race, ability, sexuality - not simply because of gender. Things have changed, but we're certainly not done. And we need female voices to articulate that. In fact we need all sorts of voices outside of the typical straight white male perspective. We need to add to the discussion to benefit everyone.

The structure of the book is interesting in that it is set up like a textbook or a guide. What was the logic or reasoning behind this format and the chosen headings?

We don't learn everything we need to know about life from school and the lessons we're taught by our "superiors." Sometimes we learn so much more from experience and mistakes. We learn from our communities and our role models. Our friends. The book was built around this idea of unique and surprising lessons, so the format seemed fitting. So many teens talk to us about how there's something missing from the things they're learning in schools, how the structured lessons on politics, sex and identity don't fit or speak to who the are, so we wanted to offer another options.

What do you hope male readers will take from this book?

The same thing we want all readers to take from the book. While I am interested empowering young women to feel comfortable and be themselves, I don't think the message isn't valuable to young men as well. The feeling of in-authenticity, of being lost and confused, of receiving hurtful and rigid lessons, is not unique to women. We all get confusing messages from the media and figures of authority, and it's helpful to know that there are other, more honest voices to hear and paths to take.

A friend, Matt Blair, took this from the book: "Far from feeling like a thirty year old man reading a book geared toward teenage girls, I felt like an idiot for waiting a year to finally get around to reading a book that I’m sure I’m bound to recommend to anyone who’ll listen." The fact that the book spoke to him, regardless of gender, means a lot to me and means I'm doing my job.

If readers can take away one thing from this book - what do you hope/wish that would be?

I feel like as a culture we don't trust young women. We talk at them instead of with them. I want readers of She's Shameless to trust themselves, be critical of the status quo, trust their choices, and be honest to who they are above all else. I wish someone had given me that message and support when I was a teen.