The Vagenda

Thursday 19 June 2014 by

The Vagenda, Holly Baxter, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Square Peg, BookThe Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media by Holly Baxter & Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett

Published by Square Peg

As students, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holly Baxter spent a lot of time laughing at newspaper and magazine articles entitled things like ’50 Sex Tips to Please Your Man’. Particularly the ones that encouraged bringing baked goods in to the bedroom, or instructed on how to remove cellulite from your arse using coffee granules.

But when they stopped laughing, they started to feel a bit uneasy.

Was this relentless hum about vajazzles and fat removal just daft, at worst a bit patronising – or was something more disturbing going on?

Was it time to say NO?
No, this really isn’t OK.
In fact, IT’S A LOAD OF BULLSH*T!

They thought so. So they launched The Vagenda blog in 2012, and now they have written this laugh-out-loud book. The Vagenda is a brilliantly bolshy call to arms for girls and women of all ages: Caitlin Moran asked ‘How to be a Woman’. The Vagenda asks real women everywhere to demand a media that reflects who we actually are.

~*~

When they say that The Vagenda is laugh-out-loud, they really weren’t kidding – I actually snorted, loudly and obviously, on a packed train at one point (I restricted myself to reading it somewhere where I couldn’t make a scene by spraying tea from my nose).

Okay, so yes, this book is predominantly targeted at women. It addresses female issues and experiences (there is something reassuringly familiar about their accounts of the joys of underwear), but it also addresses the wider issue that even as a man reading this, you’re going to Get It; so don’t dismiss it out of hand because the title is a clever wordplay on lady’s bits, and it’s (shock-horror) feminism.

Each chapter addresses a different issue – from body politics, to fashion, from dating to eating. Cosslett and Baxter even discuss the rise and rise of “lad culture” and men’s magazines.

It’s an uncompromising and hilarious look at something that, underneath that glossy veneer, is really quite sinister. It makes it all the more poignant really, that what is so downright ridiculous can be, and is, taken so seriously that it affects someone’s value system. Women, force-fed a particular message from the media for so long, will inevitably start to believe that doughnuts are a good addition to bedroom antics, that that little bit of spare tyre tummy really is the descent in to obesity (and not housing your vital organs) and must be juice-cleansed away. A media that plays on insecurities and fears is not a media that Cosslett and Baxter enjoy (nor thousands of others).

From the blog to the book, the duo poke fun at the media and all its dangers, but it also makes a serious point: how long can this kind of intense scrutiny and criticism, vicious backstabbing and finger-pointing, alongside the impossible standard-setting that means people feel they are forever failing, actually last before everyone says enough is enough?

I beg you to read this book. It’s slap-you-in-the-face unapologetic. It’s kind of uncomfortable reading at times, but it’s also side-splittingly funny, and it’s about time we all take the vagenda to heart.

You can follow Fran on Twitter: @CatwomanFran

Keep up with Summer Reads using the hashtag #HoBSummerReads

The Vagenda was a review copy from Random House – all views are honest and my own.

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