Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights
Helen Lewis questions what makes a women 'difficult' and narrates stories of women throughout centuries.
About the Author
Helen Lewis is a British Journalist and the former deputy editor of the New Statesman.
Helen Lewis narrates stories of chosen women through several centuries. They are united in chapters according to the following topics: divorce, the vote, sex, play, work, safety, love, education, time and abortion. Because of the scope, some women are only briefly mentioned, which requires to have a background knowledge to be able to navigate in the narrative.
“Women's history should not be a shallow hunt for heroines.”
Lewis asks uneasy questions: What does it mean to be a difficult woman? Why do women have to be nice?
The women observed by Lewis are ‘difficult’ on multiple levels. Firstly, their ‘difficult’ nature lies in their rejection of societal norms at that time. Secondly, Lewis rejects a simplistic account of feminism which tends to glorify women.
For instance, Coco Channel was not only an iconic businesswoman but also the lover of a Nazi officer and probably a spy for the Third Reich. Some of the observed feminists were not only problematic to their contemporaries but equally to the current feminist movement.
Book reviewed: Helen Lewis, Difficult Women: A History of Feminism in 11 Fights (Jonathan Cape: 2020).