Has Female Ambition Turned Patronising?

Words: Holly Margerrison

Lining the shelves of shops are self-help book after self-help book encouraging women to be the best version of themselves. We only have to look as far as high-street retailers before we see texts like ‘The Little Black Book: A Toolkit for Working Women’ taking pride of place on the bookshelf.

Recently, there has been a shift in content towards women in business and guides to making money. Whilst their intention was only ever to empower the ambitious woman, the surplus of content in books, podcasts and articles is beginning to verge on patronising.

Released in January this year, Chelsea Fagan’s paperback ‘The Financial Diet: A Total Beginner’s Guide to Getting Good with Money’ targets those who supposedly don’t care about personal finance, those buried in student debt and just your average over-spender. The New York Times has commended Fagan’s book for its widespread appeal. Yes, it does have a refreshing tone from the male discourse that has dominated these money-making books for so long. It is broken down into easy, bitesize chunks – written in colloquial language to welcome in any overwhelmed millennials. It encourages us to hold up our hands in a non-hostile environment, AA style.

But when do these books teeter on ‘Managing Your Money For Dummies’? Personally, yes, I would much rather have ‘Sex and the City’ references over some drab politician spiel I don’t understand. The New York Times article criticises its ageist drawbacks, but her female skew could be the bigger problem at large. Why is it that women are seen as incapable of reading the bulky, perhaps dry, manuals?

Does this not all filter down to gender stereotypes of what women like to study? It’s a double-edged sword – these books are written to get women more involved with economic matters whilst simultaneously patronising them with their diluted texts.

These guides to successful women are no longer limited to the confines of a page. We can now plug in on our commute to work through podcasts, such as Jessica Moorhouse’s ‘Mo’ Money Podcast’ and Sophia Amoruso’s ‘Girlboss Radio’. But still – where is the content targeted specifically towards men? It would seem this bridging of the gender gap is having adverse effects.

It would seem this bridging of the gender gap is having adverse effects.

We must also question if these money-orientated self-help books are just a façade. Perhaps, but with figures in power who lose us in their elaborate patter, we have nowhere else to turn. Instead, we find ourselves placing our faith in a new-found religion: the spiritual market of self-help books.

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