From its pretty pink cover featuring a lipsticked, anonymised pageant queen, The Equality Illusion does not look like it is a serious book. Its design fits well with the flurry of fluff-feminist books released this millennium, which attempt to make feminism palatable and fun. If you are looking for a book to make you feel empowered, this is not the book for you. The Equality Illusion is unexpectedly hard-hitting, as Banyard reveals the inequalities that continue to pervade women's lives at a time when many believe that feminism has done its job or even gone too far.
The book examines a cross-section of issues that affect women's lives. Topics include body image, the sex industry, domestic violence and workplace discrimination. Banyard takes a hard-line view on the sex industry. She gives prominence to voices counter to sex industry lobby groups, interviewing women who know first-hand that the industry is not as glamorous as it seems.
Banyard expertly weaves together statistics and anecdotes, putting a human face on the shocking numbers. Statistics on body image and eating disorders are prefaced by stepping into the world of "Ellen", whose life is controlled by her anorexia.
Banyard is a feminist activist, with observations she has made in the course of her various activist activities mentioned throughout the book. Most prominently, she is the co-founder and director of UK Feminista, an organisation which provides training to activists as well as spearheading its own campaigns for gender equality. Banyard writes of the ability of grassroots feminist organising to affect change, and her personal actions are reflective of this. It would take a hard-hearted person to read The Equality Illusion and not be inspired to create change in some capacity.