Acquired Book By: I am a reviewer for Hachette Books and their imprints, where I started reading titles by FaithWords which is their INSPY (Inspirational Fiction & Non-Fiction) imprint of releases focusing on uplifting and spiritual stories which are a delight to read whilst engaging your mind in life affirming and heart-centered stories. I found Hachette via Edelweiss at the conclusion of  and have been wicked happy I can review for their imprints Grand Central Publishing, FaithWords & Center Street.
I received a complimentary copy of “Be Fierce” direct from the publisher Center Street (an imprint of Hachette Book Group Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.
On the recent selections I am reading by Hachette Books (via FaithWords & Center Street):
Shortly after my unexpected hiatus this September, I came to learn about some quite extraordinary selections by Hachette Books (of the Non-Fiction variety) which encouraged my curiosity to read! The titles were different than the ones I had found in the past as they were not your traditional Biography or Autobiography or even Self-Help or Inspirational Subject or Topic to digest – no, these were a beautiful collection of stories by people who had unusual experiences to share with the world. Experiences which would test other people’s resolve or faith whilst giving others a bolster of courage to carry on with their own life paths with a bit more strength than they had before they read the stories.
The titles I am reading right now include:
* God is for Real by Todd Burpo
* Goodnight, I Love You by Jene’ Ray Barranco
* The Impossible by Joyce Smith
Whilst resuming where I left off reading:
* Living with No Excuses by Noah Galloway
* The Happiness Prayer by Evan Moffic
The reason I wanted to read “Be Fierce” is because all women can relate to the premise of Ms Carlson’s story – it is something which continues to happen and go unchecked by most in society. If anything, I can definitely understand why she felt like she was going against the tides just to tell her story and to take action against the person who caused her so much grief through his actions. It isn’t easy to stand-up for yourself in the workplace, but what is most distressing is how a lot of women are being silenced from sharing their experiences overall. Whether it’s for sexual harassment or any of the crimes highlighted through Law & Order: SVU – being a woman in today’s world is not for the faint of heart!
I should mention, I haven’t heard of Ms Carlson previous to receiving her book – I never watched Fox News regularly – I was more inclined to watch MSNBC. Likewise, I’m not a newshound or junkie – I purposefully limit the news I drink in regularly as at some point, all of what is being featured on the news can get overwhelming rather quickly. This isn’t to say I’m not informed – between Twitter and the radio, trust me, I get the 411 on everything that is important to know whilst my local community’s social mill provides the rest. I went into reading this book without any preconceived ideas or revelations – it was brilliant because I could be ‘introduced’ to someone everyone else most likely ‘knew of’ and yet for me, I was just making her acquaintance as she told her story. To me, that was the best gift of all!
A groundbreaking manifesto from journalist Gretchen Carlson about how women can protect themselves from sexual harassment in the workplace and reclaim their power against abuse or injustice.
In BE FIERCE, Gretchen shares her own experiences, as well as powerful and moving stories from women in many different careers and fields who decided they too weren't ready to shut up and sit down. Gretchen became a voice for the voiceless.
In this revealing and timely book, Gretchen shares her views on what women can do to empower and protect themselves in the workplace or on a college campus, what to say when someone makes suggestive remarks, how an employer's Human Resources department may not always be your friend, and how forced arbitration clauses in work contracts often serve to protect companies rather than employees. Her groundbreaking message encourages women to stand up and speak up in every aspect of their lives.
Gretchen also discusses why this fight will require both women and men working together to ensure that our daughters and sons will have a brighter future.
BE FIERCE is a cultural movement and a motivating testament to what we can accomplish if we collectively decide to become warriors in the path for a better future.
The time is now. Take back your life, your career, and your dignity.
Places to find the book:
Published by Center Street
on 17th October, 2017
Format: Hardcover Edition
Formats Available: Hardback, Audiobook & Ebook
Converse via: #NonFiction, #WomensRights
my review of be fierce:
You might *cough!* into a smirk seeing the title of the ‘first’ chapter which suffice it to say is bluntly true when dealing with the subject matter at hand: just how much shittake can you stomach? This is followed by a series of ‘tweets’ which are disheartening to read especially seeing how much venom is included in some of them! Being active on social media myself for the past four years, one thing I have tried to do is remain open to chatter but cautious about where I alight in the threads on Twitter, too. I’ve had my fair share of bullying on Twitter, stemming out of conversations about books or reading habits (of all things!) which is why I have paired down what I do on Twitter (in regards to chats) and try to stay the happy-go-lucky bookish geeky girl I was originally without taking the twitterverse ‘too seriously’ these days. I only wanted to share my bookish life with other bookish spirits, but sometimes, even in that pursuit, you run into people who’d rather tear you down or put you in place; for reasons I have never fully understood! Therefore, despite the hard realities of social media – I’ve found a way through to the ‘other side’ where I can still find like-minded people and be socially engaging without the harassment. Likewise, I try to temper my own responses – the only times I truly was outraged on Twitter were due to writing choices on national or international television shows/series. Since then? I’ve returned to sharing my bookish thoughts and since last November, I’m a bit more visually ‘political’ but not overtly so!
I cannot even imagine how someone would handle all of this ‘filth’ and ‘hate’ funnelling into their Twitter Notifications! It’s beyond logic how some people find it ‘okay’ to write such things – just because they’re on a social media platform doesn’t mean they can lose all sense of reality outside this ‘virtual space’! You see this behaviour even in younger persons – teens especially have it rough facing online bullying from their peers, but to see this happening on an even wider scale, is not just scary, it’s sad! It’s sad people feel they have the right and are justified to air their grievances and/or outright ‘hate’ for another person in such a public way! What has led us to this kind of behaviour? As individuals and as a society? What has erased diplomacy and the right to ‘agree to disagree’ if you are finding yourself in conflict with someone else?
One thing which I felt saved Ms Carlson was the advice of her grandfather – of keeping your mind and heart set on the future even if the present starts to unravel or alter itself away from what you desire to do. He gave her the foundation to understand how adaptive we have to become to life’s wrinkles of angst whilst giving her the hope of ‘what is not yet known’ to potentially even be better than what we had originally. It was the kind of advice you hold close to your heart because there are moments in all our lives, where the tides of life can make us feel like we’re being dragged out to sea by the rip currents!
I applaud the explanation about ‘harassment’ Ms Carlson gave in her opening chapter – from how this isn’t a singular issue affecting just women (as it affects girls, boys, men, etc) nor is it limited to a certain age group (definitely not, I still get bullied and I’m nearly forty!). She talks about how everyone needs to find the courage to stand their ground and understand they have the right to defend their honour. Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and with respect; why we have this new culture of ‘hate’ which fuells more violence is unknown (at least to me).
Based on what I had observed in school and through my own experiences, as well – I had a bit more knowledge about how insidious this issue is for others; Carlson mentioned her eyes were only opened after she started to be approached by those who wanted her to have their stories known. There is a difference in how people are relating to each other right now, too. I started to notice it in the mid to late 90s when I graduated high school – up until then, the social patterns were not as rife with issues as they are today. They weren’t absent, mind you, but for the most part, the harassing behaviours were not as rampant either as they have become now. I think for a lot of people this is something that has worsened over the years and for others, it slowly erupted into their lives where it hadn’t existed before – as I do agree, this isn’t limited to industry or specific jobs – it’s across all boundaries in the workplace and private sector. There are things that happen in schools between students on students and faculty to students which goes unnoticed as well. I have personally felt it’s getting worse – where there is this sense of ‘entitlement’ that is going too far afield to be the ‘explanation’ behind the behaviours rather than for holding people accountable for their actions which goes against a person’s civil rights.
I definitely agree with Ms Carlson – sexual harassment is about disempowering women (or men) for the gain of another who feel superior over the person they are harassing. Why they feel this behaviour is ‘normal’ and considered ‘okay’ with general society is something that is most distressing. As you read the back-history about how sexual harassment was not even recognised properly in the courts as far back as the 1970s and how there was even opposition from other women who expressed ‘the role of a female is in the home’ (paraphrasing!) is even more disconcerting as they clearly were missing the whole point!
The hardest part about reading the stories of the women who ‘stayed within the framework of their companies and jobs’ was getting my ire kicked up as I could not understand on a very personal level why women would subject themselves to the dangers of sexual abuse and the bombardment of sexual harassment when they could, in theory, walk out the door! Especially as it isn’t always an option to seek legal recourse (depending on the company) nor is the law on your side (sad yet true, as outlined over and over again in ‘Be Fierce’). Is it worth a car, a mortgage payment or your salary to be treated like that on a regular basis? I say, ‘No!’. To put it differently – as young persons we’re taught about the dangers of dating and of not being with the ‘right’ kind of person when dating – of learning to tell the differences between those who live by their morals and those who go against them – to seek out the men (or women) who treat you with respect and who respect your choices & your body. Why then is it suddenly ‘okay’ to go back against everything your taught as a child and young adult? I think the greater issue is when did the complacency of accepting this kind of behaviour become the mainstay?
I don’t understand either why this topic was broached in the book only to the point that if any woman feels the way I do – we’re suddenly part of the problem, now? I disagree. I fully understand how important jobs are to have security in an uncertain economic world but I disagree that we cannot have an opinion about what is ‘right’ for us if the situations were suddenly part of our living reality. I would let go of everything to be in an environment which was ‘safe’ for my personal safety – if that meant giving up a house, a car or anything else – even to take a major pay-cut and switch industries – I’d do it. After all, what is literally more important than your personal sanctity? Why keep yourself placed in a work environment which seeks to compromise your soul and erase your very essence? I disagree with this argument – I do respect women are well educated and worked hard to get to where they are – but if the bubble burst on the dream they had, why not just ‘dream’ a new ‘dream’ and go for it instead?
The biographical back-story on Ms Carlson followed a very poignant section of insight into what women are facing – in regards to the blunt honesty of what they are ‘overhearing’ at work, and the incredible filth of what their co-workers or bosses feel is their ‘right’ to spew at them on a daily basis. Reading these sections make you wonder why any woman would want to work in an environment like this and ‘stay’ working there – to me it’s illogical. I would walk – no, correction, I’d run! Run to a different city if need be and re-invent myself. There is no reason to stay and to find myself miserable having to deal with that these woman are dealing with themselves. Therefore, as the back-story came into sight, I started to breathe again with less angst and frustration – because if we want true change, we have to start standing up for our rights – all of us – each time something happens that makes us ‘less than’ our peers and a personal target of someone who feels they’re entitled.
When I read Ms Carlson had trouble convincing her teachers of what she already understood in grade school, I similarly remembered my own hurdles in that regard. Teachers used to have a blindspot for understanding their students – even if you had learning difficulties (like I did) but compensated for most of them (like I had) you still ran into those teachers who wanted to sideline you or consider you ‘less than your peers’. For Ms Carlson being several steps ahead of her classmates, I remember those students too – they were not the teachers’ favourites either for the opposite reasons – for me, it was ‘taking up too much time’ and for them, it was ‘too much of a challenge’ to find things those students would be interested in doing each class. The lucky ones were the ones ‘in-between’ who learnt at the same pace as everyone else.
I *loved!* learning about her mother! How she dug in her heels (so to speak) and turnt around a car company who was given every hurdle you could think of slung at her by the car industry – yet, she pioneered her own ‘second chance’ through fortitude and guts! She championed the company she believed in because she found different ways to get a stream of income generated even without the help of having what she truly needed: new cars! I love stories like these – they are the antidotes of how everyday people are finding the strength, courage and resolution to their problems through using innovative ideas which generate the outcomes no one else thought was possible! Rock on, Mrs Carlson! Rock on!
One interesting takeaway from this section of biographical background – is something quite pivotal being disclosed – whilst Ms Carlson was pursuing music – achievement was not based on gender or on sexuality, it was based on ‘performance and the level of musicality understood by the student’. The reason I highlight this disclosure is because it’s something I can relate to my own childhood – whilst I was pursuing the Arts, I never felt bullied or harassed. In fact, it’s the one area of my life where I was never treated unfairly or felt inequality towards my peers. Something to be said for the adult world – they should go back to basics, re-align their lives with a better balance of work and ‘play’ (ie. add a bit of Art to their lives!) and remember how to treat people with respect!
Given the recent headlines – I know being a professional artist in certain circles has its own share of difficulties – again, why men feel ‘entitled’ to have power over women is something that is going to be continuing discussed for a long, long time. I think this is only the tip of a larger iceberg – hopefully, the more women who stand up and speak their truth about what they dealt with and about how ‘their NOT going to take it anymore’ (honestly ENOUGH already!) – perhaps then, our culture will accept the changes which are too long in coming forward.
One issue I don’t have myself is striving for perfection – I do hope to achieve the best I can do – meaning, I enjoy hard work and work hard at improving what I am doing – even my writings (either on this blog or in my fiction and poetry), I try to improve. To seek to find a way to achieve a better narrative ‘voice and style’ whilst still finding new ways to circumvent my dyslexia and not allow it to overtake my goals. I see Dyslexia as a gift but as a writer, I’m aware of the fact sometimes what I am attempting to articulate in written form is marred a bit by how my ‘dyslexic slips’ interfere with my messages; thereby, I have worked towards finding ways to curb those slips and/or find ways to have those errors recognised to where I can edit them lateron.
Aside from my parents giving me the best advice as a young girl to always ‘try’ new things and if I enjoyed something to continue on the path to have it active in my life – they never put undue pressure on me to win or to be the ‘best’ of the ‘best’. They’d rather I enjoyed what I was doing, excelling as I progressed forward in knowledge or skill but without the pressure of feeling the fuller weight of finding myself ‘not measuring’ up to anyone else; as they taught me to be successful was understanding our own personal strengths and weaknesses. Captialising on our strengths and finding what in life gives us the most enjoyment to do and pursue.
I had good coaches along the way too – as I grew up as an athlete in different sports – one of which I could have gone further (as in a path to the Olympics) but I chose to focus on my studies as I knew even then, it would either be academics or sports; something I had trouble resolving at the time as my learning difficulties were growing more arduous to overcome. This pre-dates online school and long distance schooling options as I lived in a state which was behind the times so to speak on both choices as much as they prevented parents from teaching their children at home with home-based education options if the parent did not have a BA. My coaches wanted us to love the game itself, to find joy in the art of playing it first and not get locked into the mindset of seeing ‘only victory in a win’ and not in a loss. Like my parents, my coaches were teaching us about ‘life’. Of how sometimes even in a ‘loss’ there is a wealth of experience behind it – not all losses are negative moments in our lives in other words.
I was a Renaissance girl even back then- art, science, sports and academics all held equal interest in my life and were all duly enjoyed throughout my growing years. I never felt I was going to fit a particular ‘mould’ set out for me – which is why I never tried to fit into one! I decided years ago, to follow my own path and to curve out a future which suited me rather than what society might deem ‘acceptable’. After all, you’re the one living your life, not the judgmental eyes of ‘society’.
As the story shifts back around to what is happening in today’s media culture and work culture, one actor is highlighted for being part of the change: David Schwimmer. Of whom, I know about his hard work to create thought-provoking films and other outlets of media to ‘change the conversation’ about sexual abuse and assault. I found out quite by accident as one of these films was available on NetFlix – after I watched it, I found more information about the film and the work he is doing to support foundations and outreach for victims in the Los Angeles area. He’s quite the incredible film-maker – as he’s taking on projects which speak to him on a heart-level and effectively hope will bring change of ‘mindset’ to a generation or several generations (if possible) to reverse the effects of the culture we’re living in now.
I also had the pleasure of seeing ‘Hidden Figures’ this year, borrowing a copy through my local library (so thankful libraries lend out movies!) and was quite stunned by what happened to the women at NASA! I had no words at all about the way they were treated – however, there is one enlightening moment in the film, where Kevin Costner’s character declares everyone can use the same washroom – I’ll omit the direct words he uses here, but suffice to say, he was brilliant in that scene! I was wondering if that was paraphrased or directly quoted from the man he was portraying – as it felt like it was paying homage to the ridiculousness of the situation but also the gravity of how important his actions to remove the barrier to those women was at the time he was alive. What staid with me more though, is the incredible way those women ‘saw mathematics’ and how their mind’s attach themselves to complicated equations! I was in absolute ‘awe’ just observing the film from that standpoint because I have always felt inspired by someone who ‘gets’ something I know I will never fully understand myself. Mathematics and I are not on speaking terms (never have been) but to see someone fuse their mind & break new ground in mathematical complexities like they did for the Space Program? Wow. Just ‘wow’!
I had to smile. Yes, my Mum was one of the women in the 70s who took assertiveness training – in some ways, I think the ripple effect is that I am a strong (and more fierce!) woman myself due to the self-directed growth my Mum went through when she was younger. She was the original self-educated woman of the family; she’s always been dedicated to personal growth and an awareness of the world at large through studying the topics and subjects which interest her whilst finding the alternative routes to be the most rewarding. I take after her – in case you hadn’t noticed! Laughs. Part of what I learnt from her though is to understand yourself first and foremost and to be aware of your rights. This goes for everything from dating to employment and everything in-between!
As I discussed the merits of the book with her, she had the same reactions I have had myself – “Why aren’t more women walking out of their jobs?” If you cannot report the issues or take legal recourse (as “Be Fierce” outlines isn’t always possible) then why are so many women ‘taking it’ as part of the job? I couldn’t sort it out myself nor could she – neither of us grew up with this kind of mentalities by the men in our lives nor in our communities, so why would we suddenly be complacent in life if it were to happen? That’s our sticking point – as a lot of women highlighted in “Be Fierce” did not grow up with this kind of muck in their lives, why suddenly was it acceptable or worth ‘putting up with’ lateron?
One way to cause more change is to get women actively seeking out each other in the same industry and re-writing their own tickets to work in those fields. Meaning, if the traditional route isn’t worth it anymore to pursue (ie. given the lack of standards, ethics and moral code) why not start new companies for those industries led by women executives? Hire from the pool of women you already know are in those fields and redefine how those jobs can be worked from the inside – out? Re-set the standard and take back the industries you love — wouldn’t that be a better solution to the overall pattern of behaviour? If you cannot fight them where they are why not get even by proving them wrong from the other side!
‘Be Fierce’ is a very updated and to the letter of point what is happening in today’s world – most of the stories are straight out of headlines from the newspapers and media newsfeeds – you don’t have to look far these days to find a story affecting this subject in the press. Including involving one of the most powerful men in the world – which is explained in detail towards the middle of the book. What is unsettling is how everyone who sees what is happening is turning away from the truth of what is happening. Almost as if the voices of those who are speaking out against this behaviour are being socially shunned and silenced; they couldn’t possibly be telling the truth or so I think most believe? How have we come to that realisation when there are so many voices rising to the surface to speak out at the same time? How can people continue to drink the sand and not see the reality? (ie. a takeaway from the film “The American President” starring Michael Douglas)
Aside from outlining how to handle sexual harassment in the workplace (with a step-by-step guide), Carlson also includes a very telling guide about how to break-down the issue with children who want to be active on social media as young as ten years old! She paints the picture from both sides – the parents and the children, whilst acknowledging why this new era of technology is so very difficult to circumvent as both parents and children alike – it’s become too important to daily life. One thing that isn’t spoken about enough is ‘safety in social (media) circles’ and how to be ‘online’ without putting yourself ‘online’ in a vulnerable way which will go against personal safety. This section is one of the best in the book as it offers keen insight on how to ‘stop’ certain cycles of behaviour from moving forward and how to let children stand their ground to be a beacon of change in their social circles online and off.
After reading through “Be Fierce”, I am on the fence about how I feel about the context of the story – I truly believe in the rights of women, I stand behind being an advocate for women’s rights and for the civil rights of everyone – however, one thing that seems contrary to the message of “Be Fierce” is this: on one hand Ms Carlson is advocating for ‘change’ and for women to stand their ground to alert their companies and co-workers about the abuse that is happening; to fight for their rights where it matters. What is contrary to this, is if any woman from the outside looking in on these women who have chosen to stay and remain silent speaks up and asks “Why stay?” then those women (myself included) are now being criticised for having our views expressed? Isn’t the whole point to get ‘change’ to effectually be seen across the board through all industries? If those of us are saying “We wouldn’t stay and this work environment is not healthy for us.” how is that wrong? Isn’t that the whole point? For more of us to be awakened to the fact we don’t have to deal with this shittake?
On the writing style of Ms Carlson:
Carlson has an open approach to telling her story and what motivated her to become actively involved in seeking ‘change’ which was needed in today’s world where harassment (of all kinds) is overtaking our lives. In some ways, how she came to realise she was the ‘one’ who needed to take action on a larger scale to effect the lives of more than just herself, reminds me of how inspired Ms Hargitay was to create the Joyful Heart Foundation due to her work on Law & Order: SUV wherein she received countless letters and correspondences from women who had watched the show and felt their voices were finally being heard. You never know how your actions and your choices will effect others – sometimes in a small way, other times through a larger platform of awareness. Each of us has the chance to effect lives in a positive way – it is how we choose to sort out what we’re led to do with our lives that is the hardest part. Of recognising our innate instinct for what we feel we are guided to undertake is one part of the journey – here, in this stimulating account of how Ms Carlson was inspired to take action to help others after settling her own harassment suit, we find courage is never quite as far away from us as we think!
You have to be prepared to read this text, as “Be Fierce” does not sugar coat anything – not even the recounted stories of women who are living in ‘hell’ to be frank in the workplace. This is the hard reality of insight about how sexual harassment is running too rampant in our society and is easily taken for a given in the lives of women who are actively working. The stories are hard to process – their hard to read but at the same time, some of them are helping to bolster your courage to know you can make a difference; as I most related to the women who stood up for their rights in a legal outlet. Even if you cannot win a legal case against those who are harassing you (as outlined numerous times in the text) – you still have the right to say “No, this isn’t not right for me and I am NOT going to take it.”
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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it. I appreciate hearing different points of view especially amongst readers who gravitate towards the same stories to read. Bookish conversations are always welcome!
Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2017.
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