The Blurb On The Back:
What do YOU want to change in the world?
This must-have empowering guide by inspirational Laura Croydon, leader of the incredible international campaign against tampon tax, gives you the tools to find your voice and stand up for what you believe in so that YOU can make a difference.
Channel Laura’s campaigning superpowers with her step-by-step toolkit and create your own successful campaign. Laura’s experience will give you the confidence to deal with setbacks and internet trolls, and ways to speak up about everyday situations, such as relationships, too.
YOUR VOICE MATTERS.
YOU ARE POWERFUL.
YOU CAN CHANGE THE WORLD.
IT’S TIME TO SPEAK UP!
You can order Speak Up! by Laura Coryton from Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Waterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK. I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.
The Review (Cut For Spoilers):
Laura Coryton’s campaign against the ‘Tampon Tax’ in May 2014 resulted in a change to EU law and inspired international groups to carry out equivalent campaigns in other countries. This book seeks to inspire teenage girls to organise their own campaigns while empowering them to speak up for themselves but I found the tone too breathy and her approach to facts breezy, while also underplaying the complexities of some of the issues discussed.
It’s been really difficult for me to decide how to review this book and I’ve had to start, stop, delete and rewrite it several times before posting. Here’s the dilemma: I am all for encouraging young people to campaign for what they believe in and I am first in line to support teaching girls to respect themselves and encourage them to consider what they want from relationships and to disregard toxic messages about self-image. This book definitely ticks those boxes and I applaud Coryton for using her platform to help get the message across.
I think that in trying to get her message across, Coryton downplays some inconvenient truths and fails to talk about the compromises she made in her campaign. For example, the EU change to the Tampon Tax will not come into effect until January 2022 at the earliest (something that Coryton doesn’t mention until quite late into the book) and she doesn’t talk at all about how she felt about that and what (if any) effect it had on her campaign. This is something that could also have been picked up in her breezy mention of Lucy Gavaghan’s campaign to stop Tesco from selling eggs from caged hens. Coryton makes it sound that this has already happened – it’s only when you go and look it up that you see Tesco has only committed to do so by 2025. I would have liked to see that acknowledged, with perhaps a comment from Gavaghan about how she felt about that and whether she’s worried about Tesco changing their mind (companies do, after all, have a poor track record of delivering on social and environmental responsibility when it threatens their bottom line).
Coryton equally treats with breezy confidence that the UK government “cannot go back” on a pledge made by then-prime minister, David Cameron in May 2016 to end the Tampon Tax altogether with legislation introduced to go into effect in April 2018. That legislation never went into effect and the issue seems to have dropped down the agenda (in part, an unavoidable consequence of Brexit). I would have liked to have seen her specifically address this and how it impacts on her campaign as she tries to keep up awareness and hold different political parties’ feet to the fire rather than offer trite sound bites about getting people to speak up.
No doubt some people will tell me that I am being churlish in making these criticisms and I fully expect to get some comments along the lines of “OK, and what have you achieved exactly?’. Again, I am not seeking to downplay the achievements here, but I do think that it harms your campaign when you brush over things that don’t support your message. Given that Coryton has a specific section in the book about bouncing back from set backs, she has scope to do so and chose not to.
I also have some reservations about the chapters aimed at empowering young women about relationships, consent and self-love because by making this a book aimed at young women and designed for young women, she’s specifically excluded the young men who also need to learn and talk about it and I fear that by doing so, she makes issues such as consent something that seems like the onus is on girls when it blatantly isn’t. Had Coryton aimed her book at both boys and girls, she could have addressed boys on issues such as how to be an ally, how not to treat girls and how girls and boys could equally address issues like body image and sex. By failing to take that opportunity, she does her readership a disservice.
Coryton is good at giving some practical tips to readers on how to structure campaigns and I like how she tempers the cheerleading with cautioning readers to show proportion in the techniques they use. Although the breathy you-can-do-it writing style didn’t really work for me (and I would have liked a bit more acknowledgement of how much hard work and dedication is needed to achieve your dreams in life and you can’t always change the world no matter how much you try) as a starting point, I think this book would work to gee readers up into thinking about how to campaign on issues that matter to them. On that basis, I think that it’s okay but it could have been so much more.
SPEAK UP! WE ARE UNSTOPPABLE was released in the United Kingdom on 7th March 2019. Thanks to the Amazon Vine Programme for the review copy of this book.