When Susie Orbach’s book Bodies was published – All Walks had not yet formed, that doesn’t stop us from recommending it to the fashion students we reach in our lectures. Here’s another corker on our list.


What Should We Tell Our Daughters? The Pleasures and the Pressures of Growing up Female

by Melissa Benn

Published by John Murray 26th September 2013
Hardback £20
Kindle edition is available for £9.99 on amazon and from all other online retailers. You can pre-order now.

 A Bible for….

  • Any young woman who has ever doubted herself,
  • Any brilliant mind who has ever felt unworthy for not carrying off the latest faddy fashion trend or sexualised beauty look.
  • Any modern-day Goddess who feels destabilised and lost.

In debating the pleasures and pressures of growing up female, Benn observes today’s cultural twilight zone, where many young women find themselves caught between fast disintegrating traditional ways and contemporary as yet unchartered paths.

The crucial realisation for readers has to be that that a reality based on an exclusively masculine construction (doncha know – 97% of all films are written by men for starters) serves only to contort and confuse emerging women, whose own reality does not fit. Older women could inject a little sanity by explaining this, if only they weren’t so traumatised by the fear of ageing. It’s all part of the same thing of course.

It’s a timely book and as more daughters present low-self esteem, depression and self-harm, and their mothers meanwhile line the pockets of the untrained surgeons fronting a rapidly growing cosmetic surgery industry, perhaps we can all pull together in a post-punk, stylishly 80′s vibe and channel a more independent, self-serving and self-empowering reality by recognising the forces at work.

Throughout the book Benn, explains how easy it is for femininity caught up in service to a system that serves a masculine agenda first and foremost. She  urges readers to make demands of society not of themselves. In other words stop finding fault with yourself, stop looking to be fixed, get some ATTITUDE get out there and change it!


Melissa Benn’s 10 things we can tell our daughters, friends, sisters…

  • Much of the freedom you enjoy is the result of feminist struggle – know your history.
  • Don’t let the highly sexualised (pornography worshipping) culture we live in, dictate your view of your own body or your experience of sex.
  • Your safety is paramount – judge all who purport to care about you by how much they protect you.
  • Doing well at school is only part of developing intellectual intelligence
  • Don’t get in the habit of being over obliging or obedient
  • Discover what gives you sexual pleasure and ask for it
  • Develop your own opinions – it’s less frightening than staying silent.
  • Have high ambitions and develop your own definition of success
  • Trust YOUR feelings, express YOURSELF.
  • Fight for change for yourself and others.

Caryn Franklin MBE

Former fashion editor and co-editor of i-D Magazine for 6 years in the early eighties, Caryn Franklin has been a fashion commentator for 31 years. She presented the BBC’s Clothes Show for 12 years and BBC’s Style Challenge for 3 years as well as producing and presenting numerous documentaries for ITV on designers including Vivienne Westwood, Philip Treacy and Matthew Williamson.

Working in education throughout her career as external assessor and lecturer in colleges like Central St Martins, London College of fashion and Royal College of Art, she is also an ardent fashion activist and has co-chaired the award winning Fashion Targets Breast Cancer for 17 years. She proposed the London College of Fashion Centre of Sustainability and is its ambassador.

Follow Caryn on Twitter: @Caryn_franklin