I have no idea how I missed this book when it first came out in 2011. Thankfully, a friend suggested I read it and what a hoot! I have been snorting, screaming, squealing with laughter, while my children have been watching me with increasing concern. How To Be A Woman is part memoir, part modern feminist manifesto, written by British journalist and TV presenter Caitlin Moran and the funniest and smartest book I have read in a long time.
Moran’s not dealing with what she calls the ‘big stuff like pay inequality, female circumcision in the Third World and domestic abuse’ in this book, although she recognises the enormous significance of that too. Instead she addresses ‘all those littler, stupider, more obvious day-to-day problems with being a woman [which] are just as deleterious to a woman’s peace of mind‘.
And there are loads. The repetitive, degrading nature of on-line porn: submissive woman, dominant man. We need MORE porn, argues Moran, but of what she calls the ‘free-range’ kind. Porn ‘that shows sex as something that two people do together, rather than a thing that just happens to a woman when she has to make rent.’
Then there is the baffling fact that the English language doesn’t have a non-sexual, polite word for the female genitalia? How come? Or the fashion for pubic hair removal.
I am aware that my views of waxing run contrary to current thinking. As far as pubic hair is concerned, I am like someone sitting in a pub, tearfully recalling how exiting it was to go into Woolworth’s and buy the new Adam Ant single on seven-inch vinyl. I am ‘vagina retro’.
Or how about the obsession with weddings, un-wearable high-heeled shoes, overpriced handbags or plastic surgery making us all look the same?
Moran doesn’t shy away from the more serious topics, though, and renders a gut-wrenching account of her own experience with abortion, a refreshing perspective on death and old age, and much, much more.
Personally, I like the fact that we are going to die. There’s nothing more exhilarating than waking up every morning and going ‘WOW! THIS IS IT! THIS IS IT! THIS IS REALLY IT! If focuses the mind wonderfully. It makes you love vividly, work intensely, and realise that, in the scheme of things, you really don’t have time to sit on the sofa in your pants watching Homes Under the Hammer
Moran is clearly extremely bright and very eloquent, but what makes this book so captivating is her honesty, self-deprecating humour and occasional outrageous behaviour.
There is only one way of dealing with all of this, Moran, argues and it doesn’t involve blaming the media or men (they don’t give a toss about pubic hair, handbags or facelifts, anyway), but to liberate yourself by simply ‘…not really give a shit about all that stuff.’
What an uplifting, empowering read! Caitlin Moran is a truly modern feminist, a breath of fresh air, a much-needed new look at feminism and definitely one to share with your daughters.
I realise this book will appeal mostly to women, but I wish men would read it too, if nothing else to understand what their teenage daughters are up against and perhaps even encourage them to follow Moran’s advice: not to give a shit…
PS There are some cultural references in this book, which will be lost on non-UK readers, but this should in no way ruin the pleasure of reading it.
How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran is published by Ebury Press, 312 pages.