Mon 21 September 2020
In the Media
Digital Reading
Young Writers in the News
Books & Reading
Goings On
You are here: Home > Young Writers' Hub > Blog > Review: Ladyfest 2010: The Winning stories from Oxford Gender Equality Festival
Review: Ladyfest 2010: The Winning stories from Oxford Gender Equality Festival
When a passionate reader is handed a selection of short stories dedicated to highlighting gender equality, expectations are immediately run extremely high…
Ladyfest Cover

LadyFest: Winning Stories from the Oxford GEF 2010
Edited by Kate Wilson
Dead Ink, E-Book. 

There are many reasons for this, the elusive definition of what qualifies as ‘gender equality’ being the principle one. It seems as if the selection of stories in Ladyfest is intended to bring together a number or voices which would otherwise remain unheard, female voices, often different from their environment and expectations.

The first story is written as if it were a folktale, but reading it in a context of its publication, it quickly changes into a story about how women are metaphorically and sometimes literally trapped in the role of a mother and wife. Similarly, the stories of the two participants from the Indian Subcontinent are narrating the difficult lives their heroines must live in due to the traditional mentality connected to the role of the females.

Deviations instantly create resistance and coercion and only those with the strongest will are able to free themselves from the norms dictated by their peculiar society. Poker Face is a story about how an older woman finds it difficult to get recognition from her daughter, who is acting as if she were a mother to her, not a daughter and fails to grant her the human respect she deserves. 

The winner, A Touch of Male by Cherie Shirley turns the tables around in an extremely inspiring way, by having the women go crazy about a man and instantly making stereotypical assumptions about him, only to realize that they were very wrong about what they believed was going on.

There are more than five stories in the collection, but I’m having a lot of trouble differentiating them as they all seem terribly alike – stories of women brooding over the significance of their relationships over a series of abstract or surrealist topics.

If this was to show male and female readers how women think, they sure chose a difficult path to take to establish an understanding. I had difficulties reading stories that had no storyline, or even a hint of it. Some of them  had a series of terrible abruptions in brackets which made me think she’s trying far too hard for attention and the story about a biker protagonist who is having a self-destructive crusade became incomprehensively surrealist to the point where the story seemed to have lost contact with any potential message it may or may have not tried to deliver.

As good as the concepts of the stories were, especially the winners, it often became apparent that they were trying to impress and flatter the reader with complicated metaphors in places there was a lack of substantial motives to support the story – especially the endings. There are only a few stories in the collection that have a satisfying ending, i.e. something is either opened, achieved or finished, the rest start with a theory and end on the same note, without supplying the reader with anything of communicable value.

Towards the end of the book I was beginning to fear starting to read a new story due to the fact that reading some of them were building up towards nothing in the end. And it did not seem as if this was the author’s intention, however if it were, it would not give all those who like to read about gender equality a positive message – it can only make it seem that women authors are incapable of producing anything if great literary value, which is certainly not something female authors would not want to be famous for.

Though, even if it is fury, the majority of the stories at least made me feel something. This is a good sign. And the reason I'd recommend this books to anyone, especially those who's just finished a vampire romance novel. 

Ellan Aldryc is a writer and intern at the Young Writer's Hub.