Books

Book review: A Woman in Your Own Right

I picked this up a couple of years ago at Glasgow’s Aye Write! Festival. Incidentally, that festival is always fantastic with most of the events taking place in the Mitchell Library, which I love. I’ve seen a lot of my favourite authors speak there and I always look forward to the festival rolling around. This time I couldn’t make it to anything I wanted to see but I’ll be on the look out next year.

 

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A Woman in Your Own Right by Anne Dickson

 

On the occasion when I picked up A Women in Your Own Right, I was seeing a talk by the author, Anne Dickson and Laura Bates of the every day sexism project. As well as discussing modern feminism both were selling and signing their books at the event and, being unable to resist books at the best of times, I picked up both. I read Everyday Sexism that same week but I don’t like to read two books on the same theme consecutively, so the next book I opened was something quite different (I think it was Pygmy by Chuck Palahnuik which turned out to be a bit of a mistake) and the next thing I knew I’d forgotten all about Dickson’s book.

In then end I remembered and I’m glad I did. I don’t think I realised when I bought it but this is a self help book centred around assertiveness training, something that was apparently very popular in the late 70s and early 80s but has fallen out of fashion, in spite of the fact that so many people struggle with assertive communication and find themselves suffering from social anxiety.

Honestly? In most situations I’m not really one of those people. I’m often requested as a public speaker. I’m not crazy about speaking on the phone but apart from that I communicate well and I can usually negotiate plans, engage with discussions, make my wishes understood and so on, without resorting to aggression or manipulation. I have my bad days like anyone else but mostly I do ok.

So the book isn’t really aimed at me. I read it knowing this and thinking it would help me to be more effective when communicating with people who might struggle with assertiveness. If nothing else, I thought it would be an interesting read to see that perspective. Then came the section on how to accept a compliment and that one was personally helpful. The section on how to ask your boss for a pay rise was fascinating. The section on loving your own body and accepting yourself was astonishingly uplifting.

Proof once again that I always have a lot to learn, even when I think I’m already good at something. You’d think I’d expect this by now, right? The book is mostly aimed at women but as Dickson herself notes it is appropriate for anyone who wants to communicate more assertively. I’d recommend it to anyone who sometimes feels socially anxious, even if that feeling is rare.

A note: My edition is the 30th Anniversary Edition and the text has been updated to reflect that, with more modern challenges considered, which is handy. However, the text does seem to have a lot of errors, things like typos or repeated or missing words. If this were fiction it would be infuriating because it would jolt you out of the story but even with non-fiction I found it very annoying because once I’d spotted a couple I couldn’t stop myself from scrutinising every other sentence. It’s no reflection on the content of the book or on the author but I’d generally expect better.

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