Model and author, Tara Moss, has mostly written novels, most of which are supernatural. Her latest book, The Fictional Woman, however, is part memoir, part feminist manifesto and also just a pain old-fashioned rant. I saw it when it was first released in the book store, but didn’t pay it much attention, and then I saw Moss on Q&A. I was intrigued.

The Fictional Woman gives an outline of the life that Tara Moss has lived – from her childhood in Canada, which includes the sadness of her mother passing away, to the beginnings of her modelling career in Europe and to her journey into becoming a best-selling author. However, while these are but just the outlines, Moss uses her memoir to draw attention to the unbalanced statistics, facts and everyday experiences that women go through simply because they are women. This includes the numerous accounts that Moss gives of her own personal experiences – including multiple (unwanted) sexual advances, sexual harassment and even sexual assault.

I enjoyed this book because at the core of it, I’m a feminist. And while there are negative connotations surrounding that term, I think anyone who isn’t deserves to take a hike. The dictionary definition of feminism is ‘a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political economic, cultural, and social rights for women’. It’s not about ‘bra-burning’ or forsaking makeup, it’s not about hating men, it’s about equal rights. Why the hell shouldn’t everyone be for that? This is the major issue that Moss draws to time and again in her book, The Fictional Woman, which she backs up with exhaustive statistics and research such as:

  • One in three women will experience sexual or physical assault
  • One woman a week in Australia is murdered at the hands of their partner or ex-partner
  • A woman with a post-graduate degree, on average, will earn the same amount as a man who has only a high school certificate
  • In Australia, women are still paid, on average, 17% less than a male in the same role

Moss reinforces these statistics with her own bone-chilling recollections including:

  • The time she was raped in the home of a man she deemed as a friend, whom she later learned had raped numerous other women
  • When she was followed by a man, in broad daylight, as he masturbated to her – fully aware that he was unlikely to be charged over the incident
  • When she was chased down by a group of men whom she truly believed would have raped and killed her had they captured her

While feminism is a strong issue for me, Moss made the discussion even more interesting with these anecdotes from her own life. While I do think she sometimes was a bit heavy-handed, particularly when she bemoaned AGAIN that she was a beautiful woman and therefore people didn’t take her seriously, it also drew a clear picture of what many women have to suffer through. While statistics can be impressive, it is the real-life events that we hear that drive home the message. Furthermore, while it is terrible to have to say, because Moss is famous, attractive and white, she has the ability to draw attention to these issues that would likely have less coverage if it were written by a middle-eastern woman for example. (I’d like to point out that this is more of a reference to how media works in general, rather than my own personal beliefs. When I say I believe in equality for all women, that is regardless of their nationality. Obviously. Otherwise I’d be an arsehole.) And while not all of us can say that we’ve been marginalised because of our great beauty (I wish), I’m sure most women have felt uncomfortable in the presence of a drunk man, have been felt up at a bar, had lewd comments in the form of ‘compliments’ made about them, have been expected to be the primary carer in a family, viewed as ‘cold’ if they weren’t ‘maternal’, expected to want to get married and have children, and had their desirability based on their looks. I’m sure many of the above have happened to men as well, but unfortunately history, statistics, evidence and stories tell us that it happens to predominantly women.

 

I realise this has been more of a feminist rant rather than a book review, but I think that is part of the beauty of Tara Moss’s book, The Fictional Woman – it encourages debate and it asks thought-provoking questions. Though I was probably her exact target audience, as a young, opinionated woman, hopefully someone reads her book and sees things from a different perspective. While her overlying message is occasionally overshadowed by her slightly boastful tone of voice, I would still recommend reading this book. Not only will it inform you of some of the important issues that are still occurring in the 21st century, but it is also an interesting and provocative read.

Have you read anything by Tara Moss? Where do you stand on feminism? Let me know!

the fictional woman by tara moss

The Fictional Woman – (image taken from http://www.static.harpercollins.com)

 

 

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