In 2007, Stacey Dooley was a twenty-something working in fashion retail. She was selected to take part in the BBC series Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts which saw her live and work alongside Indian factory workers making clothes for the UK High Street. This sparked her series of hugely popular investigations, establishing her as one of BBC3’s most celebrated presenters.
Through the course of her documentary making, Stacey has covered a variety of topics, from sex trafficking in Cambodia, to Yazidi women fighting back in Syria. At the core of her reporting are incredible women in extraordinary and scarily ordinary circumstances – from sex workers in Russia, to victims of domestic violence in Honduras. In her first book, On the Front Line with the Women Who Fight Back, Stacey draws on her encounters with these brave and wonderful women, using their experiences as a vehicle to explore issues at the centre of female experience. From gender equality and domestic violence, to sex trafficking and sexual identity, Stacey weaves these global strands together in an exploration of what it is to be women in the world today.
If you know me, then you know it’s no secret how much I love Stacey Dooley. I started watching her documentaries a few years back and to this day, I eagerly await the next one. Not only is she a fantastic story-teller and very relatable, but she has also given voice to so many women who society forgets. I’m not an avid fan of watching the news but last time I switched it on, one of the main stories was about Prince Harry and Megan Markle visiting Scotland for the first time. It even included footage of them petting a Shetland pony. Ok, the pony was cute but it’s hard to believe that stories like this are being reported across all of media when women who’s stories are told in Stacey’s book are being forgotten.
This book, which is Stacey’s debut in the written world, is split into sections/chapters which are dedicated to some of the women she has met over her years of making documentaries. It covers topics such as abortion, human trafficking, immigration, sexual assault, paedophilia and so on. She tells us the story of women from every background – trans sex workers in Brazil, Yazidi fighters in Iraq, sex trafficking in Cambodia and the missing Indigenous women in Canada. I had seen some of these women in Stacey’s various documentaries but hearing her thoughts a few years on (in some instances) was really enlightening and her voice carries as well on paper as it does on television. There were moments of humour and brutal honestly and everything is backed up with facts and statistics without becoming boring. Like many biographies, there are some photos added in the middle of the book so we can see Stacey and the women she has met over the years.
It’s no secret that with the topics this book covers that it is going to be a difficult and harrowing read but as I said at the start of this review, these are women whose voices are getting buried, whose stories aren’t getting told. These women have been assaulted physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually, they have been tortured and kidnapped and in some sad instances, killed, they have had the rights to their bodies taken away and nobody to turn to yet they continue to fight. As Stacey also talks about in the book, it’s hard to be aware of all of these tragedies happening to women all over the world where in Western society we are so sheltered. The strength these women display, and the millions of other women who can’t have a voice is just remarkable and not only that, but I’m grateful for Stacey’s voice. When we see documentaries all edited and finished, it’s hard to remember that she entered a war zone to collect these stories and support these women. Essentially, this book, despite dealing with the harsh reality of so many women’s life, also celebrates them and their strength and pushes for more change until every one of them is safe. A definite 5-star read that I hugely recommend.
Lots of Love,