Life&Style writer Katie McDonagh outlines the dispute between the two authors, highlighting the need to establish a platform for black female creatives
Florence Given’s ‘Women Don’t Owe You Pretty’ (WDOYP) remained on The Sunday Times’ bestsellers list for 12 consecutive weeks when it was first published in the summer of 2020. It is not surprising the book has done so well; the cover is bold and funky, the pages are littered with Given’s own illustrations, and the prose offers a raw insight into her own personal experiences. This debut book is presented as a self-discovery guide for women, offering advice and reassurance on a multitude of topics, such as feminism, sexuality, societal expectations, and trauma.
However, Chidera Eggerue, author of ‘What a Time to Be Alone’ and ‘How to Get Over a Boy’ (HTGOAB) claims that Given has plagiarised her work in regards to artwork and topics. On her Instagram story (@theslumflower), Eggerue’s main issue with the alleged plagiarism is that ‘Black people’s ideas generate wealth for white people but how much of that wealth goes back into our community?’ It appears that Eggerue’s work has been stolen with little legal consequence.
Additionally, on her highlights under ‘WHITE VIOLENCE’, Eggerue shares the conversations between her and Given, Diving Bell, and other members of the publicity team. They all deny that her work has been forced into the shadows by a newer, whiter, more socially acceptable author, invalidating Eggerue’s attempts at seeking justice for both herself and other black female writers. On this same highlight, Eggerue states that: ‘Florence Given is a white oppressor who just like an algorithm, has learnt to implement social justice theory and language into her works so that she sounds credible and trustworthy’. It is clear that Eggerue’s frustration stems from what white people have been doing for centuries, claiming the efforts of black people as their own and reaping the rewards from it with no credit given.
Eggerue argues that bookshops have been promoting WDOYP over HTGOAB, placing Given at the front of their stores and stocking less of Eggerue since the latest publication. Website searches also mirror this; Google promotes WDOYP when specifically searching for Eggerue. Both of these will have impacted sales and therefore income for Eggerue, as ironically, a white woman’s voice attempting to explain intersectional feminism is being prioritised over a black female’s. Whilst one may argue that it is nearly impossible for two books of a likeminded nature not to overlap on some topics covered, it is difficult to deny that Eggerue’s voice has been deemed unimportant next to huge publicity of Given’s work over hers, especially since both authors belong to the management group Diving Bell.
If Eggerue’s claims are true, then this contributes to the relentless attempts to silence black voices in favour of white ones. Should Given’s perspective really be promoted, considering she is a white, middle class female? Compared to Eggerue (British Nigeran) Given has faced very little prejudice or discrimination, and therefore cannot offer much in terms on the topic of intersectional feminism, something she argues her book promotes. It is difficult for Given to argue that her writing does address intersectional feminism if she is only acknowledging it from her perspective, silencing black female voices in the process.
Given has also released her opinions on her Instagram account (@florencegiven) under the highlight ‘STATEMENT’. Given counterbalances Eggerue’s argument by explaining that acknowledges the work of black women and feminists throughout her book and highlights how Eggerue originally endorsed her writing and agreed to have her approval on the cover. As well as this, Given informs her followers that her book went to her publishers in November 2019, whilst Eggerue’s was released in February 2020, meaning that she could not have plagiarised ideas when she had not read HTGOAB. Whilst these points are valid and suggests the two books coincidently are similar rather than purposely, it still raises questions regarding a white woman’s place in explaining intersectional feminism. Instead, as a society, we should be giving platform to those who can share their own personal experiences of intersectional feminism, rather than hearing about it from the same mainstream voices. WDOYP offers an interesting insight into Given’s own life and gives empowering advice, but it should be reconsidered when being branded as an intersectional feminist text.
So, what happens next? Whilst it is unlikely we the public will ever know the true happenings between the two authors, Eggerue’s Instagram posts provide a plausible story of yet another case of stealing black people’s work. In order to show support and understanding regarding the unnoticed difficulties that black women face every day regarding being heard, we must show support to artists attempting to obtain justice but receiving nothing. This is not an article to force you into boycotting Given, but instead asking you to consider the sources of white people’s work, and how much attention we should be giving to those with valid insights, versus what society pushes us to engage with.
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