I’m glad I took a nice picture of this one for the blog a few days ago, as it wouldn’t be right to use the usual TBR picture, given that it didn’t actually hit my TBR at all. My friend Meg bought me a copy and got it signed (“To Liz, badass feminist salute”) a little while ago but was saving it to give it to me at a particular time. Hooray – there was Meg and there was the book on Sunday, and I think I had it finished by Tuesday. It didn’t even get on the TBR shelf, it went straight onto my bedside table and into my hands. It’s a rare book that bypasses my terribly restrictive (not) read in order of acquisition policy, and I was hoping it lived up to the (friend-induced) hype. Did it?

Jess Phillips – “Everywoman: One Woman’s Truth about Speaking the Truth”

(From Meg, 7 May 2017)

The Labour MP for Hall Green (the neighbouring constituency to mine; I do wish I lived a few streets over!) and her call to arms and memoir promised much and handily delivered, too. Taking in chapters on motherhood, starting work, equality, politics and trolling, and more, she speaks about her own experiences and then places them within the context of (mainly women’s) general experiences. She’s open about her own experiences, good and bad, and her own personality – she knows she can speak her mind too much and yes, she does seek publicity, but so that she can highlight the women’s and equality causes she really cares about. I do realise that most political autobiography is going to be biased and self-justifying to an extent, but I really feel she’s being honest here, and I did try to read it with a critical rather than fan’s eye. It was empowering to read that she feels just as threatened and insecure as the rest of us when walking into an event or standing up and speaking about something; she explains that when under threat, she tends to expand rather than contract (I tend to do this, too, my worst examples being when about to go under anaesthetic: oh, I blush!) and that makes a lot of sense when you see how she acts and reacts.

She’s great on sisterhood and acknowledging support systems and goes out of her way to prove that she doesn’t hate men in general (just the ones who beat or rape people, or troll from behind a web of anonymity, etc.). She also deals with her own family issues and her own failings honestly, and I think her explanation that having these things in your background is not something that should make you keep out of politics is going to be helpful to people.

Phillips provides strong comebacks and reasoning through the book on various issues such as why women in abusive relationships might not leave their partners – this reminded me of the “Girl Up” book with its useful resources (I wonder if she’s read that and what she thinks of it. She does mention Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism project so I’m guessing she’d be positive about it). There’s also a good understanding of why everyone isn’t as gung-ho as she is: she knows that people who tweet in support of her are likely to get trolled and explains that it’s OK therefore not to, but exhorts people to “press on the bruise” and do what they feel they can do.

I left the book with much more of a sense of who she is as a human being, and of how the Labour Party works in the House of Commons in practical terms, from the inexplicable ironing boards in the loos to the support systems among women MPs.