Girls are expected to behave a certain way. While I’m not exactly sure what that means, I do know that I was once chastised by one of my high school drama teachers for what she diagnosed as “this stupid Goth thing you’re going for”: referring—albeit inaccurately—to my self-styled uniform of inky dyed hair, Salvation Army granny glasses and little boy polo shirts, which separated me from the legions of manicured mall-hoppers that made up the bulk of my Midwestern Catholic high school. While I wish I could say that I stood up to my teacher and defended my right to express my individuality, the opposite was true: instead, I lamented my total inability to conform to the pretty suburban model of adolescent femininity that was apparently expected of me, embarrassed and ashamed.
Over the years, I’ve seen many creative, intelligent, rebellious teenage girls discouraged for being themselves and breaking the mould, and watched the subsequent damage to their self-esteems—not to mention the havoc wreaked on their academic performance, work, and relationships. I, too, was once trapped on that boat. It’s hard to be different, and we all would have benefited from a strong dose of shamelessness. Better yet, we could have used She’s Shameless.
An offshoot of the self-described, “fiercely independent” Shameless magazine, She’s Shameless is an anthology that boasts an array of autobiographical accounts taken from the lives of female writers, thinkers, and activists who have learned to be unashamed of themselves and the paths their lives have taken. Body image, teen pregnancy, sexual discovery and creative pursuits are all fair game for conversation in these poignantly honest firsthand narrations of PoMo coming-of-age. Among my favourites are Jowita Brydlowska’s jarring “Losing my Virginity,” and the cartoon advice guide “Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me as a Teenaged Girl,” penned by Zoe Whittall and inked by Suzy Malik; with such helpful teen life suggestions as “If you really hate your high school, leave” (an invocation to find an alternative school, not to drop out) and “Your poetry is probably awful, but keep writing it,” I wish someone had told me these things too.
Editors Stacey May Fowles and Megan Griffith-Greene—the publisher and editor of Shameless magazine, respectively—dedicate this lovingly assembled book “For all the shameless girls who know there’s got to be something more, and to all the shameless women who help them find it.” Clearly, these women have earned their feminist stripes.
(The book launch party for She’s Shameless: Women write about growing up, rocking out, and fighting back , is happening at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom, 1214 Queen St West, Toronto
Tues June 23; 8pm (doors 7:30pm),$5 or Free with book purchase)