Florence Given on why we should stop celebrating other women’s flaws

Her feed is awash with aesthetically-pleasing graphics, quotes and illustrations to confront oppressive attitudes towards women and their bodies and relentlessly remind them of their power.

Through slogans such as ‘stop raising him, he’s not your son’, ‘it’s a wonderful day to dump him‘ and ‘off for a shag’, the author aims to empower women to embrace their sexuality and stick two fingers up to toxic patriarchal ideals and slut-shaming.

“Florence has a way of effortlessly reminding you of who you were before the world barged in and I hope as many people as possible are able to cross paths with her wonder!” declares Chidera Eggerue AKA The Slumflower, whilst Rita Ora, with whom Florence has worked, hails her an ‘incredibly empowering artist’. We stan.

Now more than ever, we’re relying on people to make us feel uncomfortable enough to do better, force us to change and make the world a better place. That’s exactly why Florence Given’s new book, Women Don’t Owe You Pretty, has shot to the top of our essential reading list.

The 21-year-old activist and illustrator is an incredible mouthpiece for modern intersectional feminism and uses her platform to raise awareness of issues surrounding sexuality, consent, race and gender; it’s little surprise she’s amassed 428,000 Instagram followers.

Need a dose of Floss in your life? You’ll get it by the bucketload in Women Don’t Owe You Pretty – a rallying call for women of her generation to feel f****** fabulous about themselves. Here, the author has shared an extract of her new tome with GLAMOUR. Prepare to feel seriously empowered.

Internalised misogyny is the silent, insidious killer of progress, and when it shows up in our lives it can make us act out in all kinds of ugly ways.

First things first, “flaws” aren’t really there. Flaws are man-made. And yes, I mean man-made. They’re seeds planted in our minds by manipulative power systems, to make us feel so insecure that we buy products that promise we will become more acceptable, more desirable and physically attractive.

The beauty standards of our society are racist, fatphobic, ageist and quite frankly, confusing. The things you feel most insecure about in your body are more than likely a direct result of capitalism because it works very hard to make sure that you will never feel enough without the aid of its products. The models we see promoting these products and advertising this image of perceived flawlessness don’t even look like that themselves. Their skin has been airbrushed, their bodies manipulated and their features enhanced. In a lot of cases, black women’s skin is lightened and their features dramatically altered in post-production to make them look more European and perpetuate the colonial idea that whiteness equates with beauty.

As a result of the rigorous beauty standards that we are so harshly held up against, we inevitably find a disturbing amount of comfort in tearing down women who reflect our insecurities back to us. We are distracted by capitalism’s ability to manipulate us because it is hidden in the promise of “becoming more beautiful”, which actually just means becoming more desirable for male consumption. This creates a toxic competitiveness among women, in a pursuit to fill the void caused by insecurities and these toxic standards of beauty. Capitalism profits from the insecurities it is responsible for creating in the first place and it is entirely exploitative.

How can we happily exist in a world which is built on systems that seek to tear us down?

The internalised misogynist will tell you that women shouldn’t do “certain things” because of this sexist narrative that society has laid out for us. I used to hate the shit out of hot, confident bisexual women. Why? Because I was jealous that they got to live their truth! It was so threatening and frightening to my heteronormative understanding of my own sexuality.

Seeing them thrive and dating whoever they wanted – how dare they. They were everything I wanted to be but couldn’t, because I had placed limitations on my own sexuality due to this internalised biphobia. Instead of dealing with the fact that I was bisexual myself, I projected the shame around my sexuality onto the women who were confident enough to own it. I hated that these women were living the life I wanted, but I didn’t realise that was the reason until I had finally accepted and embraced my own sexuality.

Once you heal your insecurities, get to the root of where they originate and identify the parts of yourself that you’re ashamed of, you reframe your perspective of others and open the door to a wonderful thing called empathy.

It is through years of retraining that I have minimised the power internalised misogyny has over my thoughts. I realised that judging other women is usually just a quick way to get out of dealing with the things we dislike about ourselves. We seek comfort in other women’s perceived “flaws” in an attempt to avoid addressing our own insecurities. The things that have been planted in our minds keep us competing with each other, preventing us from growing and discovering our innate divine power – this is the patriarchy’s main goal.

Every time you catch yourself critiquing a woman on the choices she makes – who she sleeps with, how she dresses – sit in it. Reflect. What is it about her that makes you feel so uncomfortable? Perhaps she actually just reminds you of yourself, or the parts of yourself that you are ashamed of.

Or perhaps she’s the very person you want to be. Sometimes we dislike women simply because they’re making the bold choices that we are too afraid to make ourselves, the choices that society has made us feel are wrong or shameful because they go against the patriarchal narrative. Or perhaps you’re like me – you actually just really fancy her and need to go ask her out.

Ask yourself why you think this way, instead of just accepting it. Re-programme your patriarchal brainwashing. The girl you’re jealous and hateful of isn’t a “b****”, your internalised misogynist is.

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