I have grown up being inspired by so many strong women, taking examples from several decades ago to much recent times: Rosa Parks, Claudette Colvin, Mileva Maric, Aung San Suu Kyi, Michelle Obama, Nadia Murad, Malala Yousafzai to name a few. But I hadn’t heard of half the women’s names mentioned in this very book, which made me wonder how little I know about women, to sum it up in other words: How little I know about this world and how it works! Have you heard of Caroline Norton, Barbara Castle, Jayaben Desai, Erin Pizzey, Mauren Colquhuon? While I was at my edge through many layers of this book, I made a fair point to look into the lives of these women, do a Google search of them and the difficult lives that they led. And ofcourse I also made it a point to look up to the very woman who wrote a book on women: Helen Lewis! 🙂
Before taking up this read, I pondered upon what could possibly the adjective “Difficult” mean in the title! It is very common to misunderstand it as a term: ‘Difficult to live with’ or ‘Making other’s lives Difficult’, but the real meaning(s) of the said term was something I truly realized only towards the end. ‘Strong’, ‘Powerful’, ‘Talented’, ‘Invincible’, ‘Headstrong’, ‘Dangerously Self-Opinionated’ you could truly notice the one-to-many mapping here, the book title alone blew me away let alone the entirety of the novel. I also assumed that my way through this book would help me understand and provide in the real sense, the true definition and answers to feminism. I believe I got much more from this than just that. My expectations were far exceeded, and I believe this was only the starting point for me to look forward to much more resources in this genre.
Lewis takes the reader on this long but noteworthy journey over the past 150 years over 11 different themes having done extensive research and surveys on highly underrated female pioneers who played very important roles during their time and were forgotten due to inconvenient histories, they fell out of sight due to failures in their movements, revolutionary organizations.. some significant ones worked wonders, a few others faded from memory. Lewis sheds light on the good and bad in so much intricate detail, that keeps one wondering about how these points were not shone in public or imbibed in our history. Few discussions of the book that really stood out for me were: 1) The law of patriarch where the women keeps the father’s name before marriage, and the husband’s name after! (Do women really have a choice to make or a third option?) 2) What are male-dominated and female-oriented professions that are stuck in the minds of the society 3) The large pay-scale and working hours difference between men and women 4) The concept of motherhood… is it mandatory to claim that it is all that makes a woman complete? 5) A female activist stating that men and women are both capable of extraordinary cruelty, thus advocating a men’s rights movement to offset feminism leading an equality movement. Many of the example/situations have multiple themes/issues noticeable within, which makes it look even complex.. understandably anyone could pick one social issue and pour more realities over varying timelines and geographies. In this great piece, everything is satisfactorily concise and compact much to balance the reader’s attention and interest.
Many a time, Lewis gets herself to the present to describe how easy/difficult have times become for women comparing the year of 2020 and as old as about centuries ago how women had to get away (or rather just live with) some things. She even makes a mentions of the #MeToo movement many a time, giving credibility to the same; how it has lent a good voice to the unashamed survivors and how maybe in some ways it may have been misused. A couple of times, the author seems to be addressing the younger twentysomethings women; I felt like she is giving me some much credible advice as though sitting in the same room with me, keeping me even hooked to this very long, complicated tale. Every word, phrase and sentence is unabashedly and apologetically honest.
Enough said! On an ending note, I urge you, my beloved followers: Men and Women alike, bibliophiles around (regardless of your specific genre choices) to read this book in your lifetime and understand how the world works, realize what difference you can make with the choices you make, respect one and all; that is the biggest lesson I can take from this! My rating for this book? It is far beyond me to even rate this, but hell yes: it’s a 10/10.. Book of the year 2020! 🙂