Guess what? I realised that I wasn’t and here’s what I’m doing about it.
I tend to see myself as an open-minded, well-informed guy, your typical progressive, queer liberal who is sufficiently ‘woke’. So when I received Glennon Doyle’s highly-recommended book “Untamed” on my doorstep, courtesy of the Amazon contact-free courier, I surprised myself when I had a momentary but pronounced knee-jerk reaction to the inside cover.
It read “Untamed will liberate women — emotionally, spiritually, and physically”. What was this book doing in my hands?”, I asked myself. Had I completely mis-read the recommendation? I mean, it HAD come from Adele’s Instagram profile and I trust her recommendations implicitly (I really don’t, but let’s go with that for now).
Maybe I was just over-reacting to the marketing pitch, designed to sell as many copies as possible. In any case, I was immediately confronted with the potential of my own narrow-mindedness or perhaps a blind spot.
Why shouldn’t I be reading a book pitched at changing women’s lives? After all, there was something about the tag-line on the front cover that immediately spoke to me and prompted me to purchase it almost instantly: “Stop pleasing, start living”. So, I decided to dive in and not second guess my decision.
Wow. I consumed her words in a matter of days. I was floored. Her writing style was conversational, honest, irreverent, raw. She documented the extreme difficulties she experienced as a teenager with an eating disorder, how she self-sabotaged at every turn. She went into great detail about her struggles with young motherhood, her fears at being supremely unqualified (in her opinion).
She talked about her marriage to her husband, becoming famous as a Christian author, finding stability as a mother and “responsible adult”. She talked about walking into a room and immediately falling in love with the woman who would become her wife, and how she had to completely upend her “normal life” in order to save her life.
While reading this book, I marvelled at how someone who I seemingly had nothing in common with, was detailing a lived experience that I could totally relate to. Her faith, her sexuality, the expectations of society, how we diminish ourselves to make others happy — it was riveting. And yet, she recounted an experience and shared a perspective that I found to be so urgently relevant: how sometimes (perhaps oftentimes) women are socialised to “tame” themselves, to forget their true selves, their true power, in order to fit in.
And as I finished the book, I was embarrassed that I even doubted the importance of reading a book that didn’t seem like it was written for “someone like me”. But isn’t that what I’d been telling people to do along, even if they’re not black or gay, like I am? To see the world through someone else’s eyes, especially someone unlike them? How could I expect anyone to relate to my experiences if I’m not MYSELF doing the work of reading and digesting perspectives that are different to my own?
Here was a white, lesbian author talking about race, sexuality, faith, mental health and a number of other topics. These are issues that are incredibly important to me and I was thrilled that I gave myself the chance to see the world through her eyes. I now challenge myself to really reflect on how “open” I really am to different perspectives and to find ways to invite those perspectives in. They can only serve to broaden my understanding of the human experience and arm me with the vocabulary to stand as an ally for others, in the same way that I would hope to be supported.
I would also say that this book might not be for everyone, which I’ve come to understand as I’ve read some Amazon reviews. Nonetheless, I continue to encourage my friends and family to read it, simply as an open door to a world that they might have never encountered, where they might find opportunities to relate, learn and expand their understanding.
I’m curious about what everyone else has been reading (watching, listening to, etc.) that has provided inspiration or changed their perspective.