The Fictional Woman
Tara Moss
Harper Collins Publishers, 2014, 328pages

"You must believe women are of equal value to men and deserving of the same rights over their bodies and lives." Tara Moss p288

Tara Moss has been labelled many things and in this part memoir and social commentary she sets out to dissect those labels.
This book is dense in ideas, analysis, and research you find yourself finishing each chapter pondering what has been laid out before you. That is a good thing as there is no lecturing in this book as Moss is not trying to push an agenda. Let me be clear Moss is not telling you what to believe, whether to be a feminist or not, she is clearly present and articulating a series of issues, scenarios, and stereotypes that are flung at women (and men) on a daily basis.
What Moss does is explore the issues through research and personal experience and questions why does it have to be this way.  The questions are posed as to why in today’s society when we have come so far are women underrepresented in films, why are women still fighting for the right to be in control of their body, why are women paid on average less than men and so many more pertinent questions are posed. That is perhaps what I liked most about the book was the continual questioning of accepted practice and views.  Moss does her best to present a balanced reasoned argument and on the whole does succeed in achieving this.
Moss discusses the impact advertising, media, politics, and religion (to a lesser extent) has had and continues to have on women.  This is backed up by extensive research and her personal experiences. It is those personal experiences that are some of the difficult passages to read and they need to be read in context of the chapters they are placed. Otherwise the impact of her experience and the point she is trying to convey is diminished.
The latest ‘trend’ of beautiful women wearing no makeup is discussed and I found myself intrigued by the arguments put forth. I have been watching from the sidelines how going without makeup in the public eye makes a woman braver or more daring.  I had been trying to figure why it was necessary for women to ‘dress down’ to be considered a trailblazer. Just like why there is sudden need to come out and publically say ‘I am a feminist’. I do not find that as disturbing as the group perpetuating that being a feminist means you do not believe in being a homemaker. Excuse my naivety but feminism too me has always been about equality, the ability for a woman to make a choice of her own. If she wants to be a stay at home mother, I respect her right to choose the same if she chooses to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company.  Being a feminist is not about exclusivity but inclusion.
What Tara Moss has written is a thought provoking exploration in a very straight forward style. You are able to absorb her commentary and consider the issues that are raised. This is a good book for men and women to read. I am considering giving this to my teenage niece as I believe she would benefit from a book that provides insight into difficulties and triumphs of a being a woman.

For more information about Tara Moss and her works please visit her website.