Backwards in High Heels: The impossible art of being female


Backwards in High Heels: The impossible art of being female

By Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine

ISBN13: 9780007273836

RRP $39.99



As someone once said, Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did - only she did it backwards and in high heels.

Sixty years on, and not all that much has changed.  There's been a lot of talk, plenty of shouting and a frankly exhausting number of wardrobe changes, but the world remains a fraught place for the contemporary female.

Working mothers are still expected to make their children's costumes for the school play, despite the fact that home economics was abolished in the seventies; we're told it's not looks but brains that count, and yet if we dare to leave the house looking vaguely our age we're made to feel like failures; women's magazines run earnest articles aout the evils of size 00 culture, only to feature models with hips like 10-year-old boys a few pages later; we pay the same level of taxation as men, and yet on average we earn 25% less.

So, this book - a book for women who never got around to perfecting the art of domestic divinity but would quite like to be able to cook supper for six without having a nervous breakdown; who never quite mastered Cosmo's 101 ways to please your man, but don't want the embarrassment, not to say inconvenience, of him running off with a 19-year-old Russian supermodel.

Backwards in High Heels is a book for every woman struggling to make sense of the contradictory demands of the 21st century.  It roves across everything from feminism to face cream, motherhood to money, politics to pulchritude.  It is profound, frivolous, questioning, prone to the odd massive generalisation, hopeful, sumpathetic, suddenly philosophical, and occasionally mad as hell: very much like women themselves.

It's your mother, your best friend, your guru and your shrink, wrapped up in book form, with jokes.  It's the antidote to every stupid, boring, reductive article you've ever read, or every silly, hair-twirling, chick lit confection about girls called Arabella who marry bankers and live in Gstaad.

It's for women who love their children but don't want them to run their lives; and for women who love their lives and won't have them run by children.  it's about revising expectations, exploding myths and dealing with all that life, love and other people have to throw at you.  It is not a manual for living, because there can be no such thing, but it does illuminate the experience.

About the Authors

Sarah Vine is a writer and editor at The Times.  After a four-year stint as Arts Editor, she took up full-time writing in 2003.  She remains active in the arts world, and is a trustee of the Jerwood Foundation.

Tania Kindersley has published six novels and written for various publications, including the Times, the Spectator and the Guardian.  She has worked in a variety of unmentionable office jobs, made soup in a cafe, delilvered pressed shirts to city workers, done stints as a florist and a barista, and ventured briefly into the alarming world of retail.



Tania Kindersley and Sarah Vine are down to earth and completely unabashed in sharing their opinions. They dish advice in a non-condescending manner whilst also acknowledging their limitations:

"We don't necessarily want to be correct; we want to make you feel that you are all right, in all your complexity, because there are entire industries out there devoted to insisting that you , as women, are somehow all wrong, and we've had enough of it.  We are mad as hell and we're not going to take any more."

Backwards in High Heels is witty and refreshingly liberating.

"Modern motherhood is riddled with contradictions, confusion and above all, cliches: the have-it-all generation, the too-posh-to-push, the ticking biological clock, the work-life balance.  Women who have children can never just be mothers; there must always be a qualifier: stay-at-home-mothers, working mothers, full-time mothers (show us a mother who is part time, and we'll show you a pig with actual wings); earth mothers, alpha mothers, pushy mothers, single mothers, teenage mothers, geriatric mothers and, of course, the dread yummy mummies.  (Whoever thought up that phrase should be taken out and shot.)  Society sees all these women going about the business of raising children, and instead of delighting in the continuation of the human race and expressing profound gratitude for this new generation of tax-payers, it goes out of its way to judge them.  Mostly, they are found wanting."

If you ever needed permission to break free of the myths and gross generalisations which plague women today then this is the book for you.



Reviewed by: Franciska



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