If you’re thinking, ‘Jess, who?’ then I’m glad that there was something about ‘Everywoman’ and ‘truth’ that caught your eye.
Or you might already know me as that gobby MP who has a tendency to shout about the stuff I care about. Because I’m a woman with a cause, I have been called a feminazi witch, a murderer and threatened with rape. The internet attracts a classy crowd.
So, speaking the truth isn’t always easy but I believe it’s worth it. And I want you to believe it too. The truth can be empowering, the truth can lead to greater equality, and the world would be incredibly boring if we let all of those people who allegedly know everything, say everything.
By demanding to be heard, by dealing with our imposter syndrome, by being cheerleaders, doers not sayers, creating our own networks and by daring to believe that we can make a difference, we can. We’re women and we’re kick-ass. And that’s the truth.
Being Australian, I’m not overly familiar with British politicians, except for a few who make international headlines. So I hadn’t even heard Jess Phillips’ name until I listened to her speak with Emma Gannon on one of my favourite podcasts Ctrl Alt Delete. I felt inspired, empowered and ready for action. Of course, Everywoman was then something I had to read. It took me a good six or seven months to even find a copy, but once I did I devoured it.
Everywoman is divided into several ‘truths’ where Phillips discusses her experiences in speaking up, growing up, careers, equality, violence, sisterhood, motherhood, trolling and being human. Part memoir, part feminist manifesto Everywoman is something I want all the woman (and men) in my life to read. Phillips grew up in a working class Birmingham home with women who had fought for equality and justice. Before being elected to parliament, Phillips worked with survivors of domestic and sexual violence and human trafficking. She is exactly the sort of person we need in politics; someone with real, down to earth experience of all walks of life. There seems to be a dangerous trend of people who’ve gone straight from education (be it secondary or tertiary) into working in the office of a politician or a union to rise through the ranks of a party and into an elected position.
Each sentence I read made me want to stand and shout about inequality, violence and everything unfair in this world. Which I’m sure would have been a sight given I mostly read this in cafes on my lunch breaks. While it filled me with a deep and burning rage, Everywoman also made me want to fight for other women, for anyone not gifted the privilege of a mediocre white man, for anyone who hasn’t been as fortunate as I have in life. Although I could never see myself entering politics, I believe there are many ways we can help and bring other women with us, especially in the workplace. And as we climb the ladder or start to achieve equality, we must never leave anyone, or any group of people, behind.
I want to push this book into the hands of every woman I know. I wish I could make my teenage self read it, but as we all know teenagers believe they know everything already and, as Phillips’ says of her own youth, need to take themselves down a peg or two. Everywoman is a battle cry for nasty women everywhere.
Sounds like: I Am Woman | Helen Reddy