I didn’t set out to write a feminist book. It just sort of happened. I was asked to write a follow-up to my 2014 book Boys Don’t Knit, a story about a boy taking up a non-traditional pastime (knitting, obvs). Girls Can’t Hit just seemed like the other side of the same coin.
But of course a book about a girl who takes up boxing HAS to be a feminist novel, because there’s so much to deal with. Body shape and weight. Aggression and physicality. Parental concern. Shame. I was nervous but my teenage daughters provided both inspiration and incentive to do my best. Girls Can’t Hit is dedicated to them.
Of course my agent and editors were of enormous help. They told me where I was going wrong, they showed me where my bias or privilege was evident. Most importantly, they pointed out more than once that I needed to lighten up. In the first few drafts I was trying too hard to tackle all the issues and poor Fleur, the main character, ended up having to take on so much, the book became far too heavy.
In the end it’s a funny, and hopefully uplifting, book about an ordinary girl finding herself in an extraordinary set of circumstances. That’s all. I’m not trying to destroy the Patriarchy (I would if I could), I’m not trying to mansplain feminism to the world. I’m just trying to make people laugh, to poke a bit of fun at traditional gender roles and maybe to provide a bit of inspiration for someone who wants to try something a little different.
A man writing a feminist text might be taking a risk, but as Fleur learns in the book, sometimes you just have to drop your guard and take a swing.