Book Review: Diary of a Confused Feminist

If you were waiting patiently for a fully formed time machine, then you can look no further than right here. Kate Weston’s Diary of a Confused Feminist has got you covered. Kindly transporting its readers back to their cringe filled high school days, Weston’s side-splitting title, has certainly captured the struggles that come with coming of age via social media. Chronicled through the diary entries of 15-year-old Kat Evans, readers join her in an obstacle-filled plight to becoming a “better” feminist and seduce the ASOS model ‘Hot Josh’. Having channelled the vibes of naughties icon, Louise Rennison, Weston’s heroine will have you howling with laughter and crying in frustration as you long to tell her that “everything will be okay – this too will pass”.

Kat Evans is a 15 year old journalist that has made it her noble mission to become a “better feminist”. The only problem is, it seems to be a lot less straightforward than it first seems. Entering their first GCSE/exam year, Kat and her friends kick the term off with some light feminist activism (spray painting the playground with #TimesUp). This bold act of defiance, quickly captures the attention of the school heart throb – and number one crush – ‘Hot Josh’. Although he’s talking to her more than ever, she can’t seem to feign an ounce of normality whenever he is around. As the year progresses though, Kat becomes increasingly more anxious as her friends leave her out of their new projects and embark on romantic relationships without her. It’s when her feud with the vindictive school bully reaches boiling point, however, that things start to spin out of control. Soon Kats finds that some demons simply can’t be fought alone.

Although I am not the intended audience of this title, I will happily declare that I read this book in just one sitting. So vivid were the memories it ignited, I had to resist my urge to text every friend I’ve ever had with an empathetic “I’m sorry that I was such an embarrassment”. Nevertheless, it was somewhat reassuring to read that the same puberty fuelled fears haunt today’s high schools. The fears that our friends like each other more than us; fears that we will never find a partner and fears that we will never grow boobs or facial hair (though I never had issues with the latter, hardy ha!) It is Kat’s inability to keep her cool around Josh, however, that made me howl with laughter. I realised in those moments that I’d never wish to be that age again and, maybe, I would never have to. Her anguish at feeling left behind by all of her peers and the self-loathing caused by social media, is something that all millennials can relate to. Kat’s confliction with what being a “good feminist” even entails was particularly prudent. Is it allowed to want to look pretty? Is it allowed to hate other women if they’re mean? Is wanting to impress a boy an un-feminist ambition? The truth is, no one does feminism perfectly – because there’s no such thing as perfect feminism. Kat’s diary haphazardly dealing with mooncups, mental health and misogyny is, unmistakably, an Angus Thongs reboot for the Z generation.

Buy this book here

For all the praise that I have bestowed upon this title, I oddly have to confess that it is not a book that I immediately clicked with. To begin with, there is a fair amount of elongated words and use of caps lock to signal emphasis. Generally speaking, these are big no gos for children’s literature because, well, they’re annoying. So, despite the maturer YA content, these linguistic choices really brought the reading age down a notch and I found it difficult to overlook at first. Lastly, at the end of each evening, Kat lists all of the un-feminist thoughts that she has had throughout the day. To me, this was an overkill of the whole “bad feminist” “this is a private diary” motif. Though this isn’t a reflection on Weston’s writing as such, I felt like these lists were an unhealthy way to illustrate a point. Whilst it is very possible that this was, in fact, the intention, I believe that there are more poignant ways that Kat’s obsessiveness could be (and are!) articulated. The Bridget Jones-esque style of self-loathing was tedious and, in my opinion, felt dangerously outdated. Again though, I’m 25 – not 15.

Overall, Kat’s anxiety is an accurate representation of the all-encompassing nature of mental illness and how it adds fuel to the fire of pre-pubescent insecurities. Though the overuse of caps lock is albeit misjudged, this book is written in a way that should resonate with teens and parents alike, whilst delivering some very important messages on equality, confidence and mental health. Being a “good” feminist is an uphill battle that everyone must face – it seems to change with every hour. I only wish that I could send a copy of this book back to my younger self…

…I might have learnt something more revolutionary than “nunga nungas”.

4/5

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