As I wrote about in my post on Kindles,The Scarlet Letter and Of Human Bondage, the first actual piece of “light” reading I have done on my kindle has been “How to be a Woman” by the lady pictured above, Caitlin Moran. Moran is a British journalist who writes for the Times (though I must admit I haven’t read many of her articles due to the paywall on their site), but like many journalists reaches a greater audience through twitter. I have been following Moran for as long as I have been using the site, and her procrastinating tweets and links proving “fashionable” does not always mean “stylish” do brighten up my day. So, when she brought out her book about linking aspects of her own life to stages in becoming a “strident feminist”(please note my use of inverted commas here is to quote Moran, not to look down on the idea of feminism. If you don’t believe me, look at the rest of my posts), I was curious.
As an aside, kindle books are far cheaper and easier to source than hunting around for cheap second hand copies of books.
Alas, I shall begin my review, along with a few personal things in my life which tie into what I have read. This may wind up being almost as long as Moran’s book itself, mostly because it’s quite short and I agree with a lot of what she’s written about (especially later in her book when she writes about celebrity culture and meeting a woman who makes my eyes bleed – Katie Price).
In my 21 years of residence on this planet, I’ve come to the realisation that I have a pretty good grasp of what it takes to be a fully fledged member of my gender. I may not feel like an adult, given my lack of financial independence, yet I feel like a woman and not a girl. I’m not sure I was aware of my mind maturing alongside my body and yet here I am. I am woman, hear me roar!
“How to be a Woman” is part memoir, part manifesto. Moran ties anecdotes from her life growing up in a very poor household, with steps towards declaring “I am a strident feminist!” to herself, in front of a mirror. I think Moran initially started out with this book attempting to further dismantle the (ludicrous) idea that all feminists are militant, man-hating, bra-burning feminazis (though if that’s the way you want to rail against patriarchal bullshit, you go ahead). She shows that women just want to be on the same playing field as the rest of “The Guys”. We see eye to eye on this point – “Seeing the whole world as ‘The Guys’ is important. The idea that we’re all, at the end of the day, just a bunch of well-meaning schlumps, trying to get along, is the basic alpha and omega of my world view. I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘antimen’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’.” And here here. If you see others as either better or worse off than you, nothing will change. You need to see everyone as being on the same playing field to work out how to achieve total equality (which in the end is what we all want, right?).
In talks of puberty, Moran talks about her first experience of menstruation. I think any woman reading would laugh and wince in equal measure at the graphic imagery. Men on the other hand may find the brutal description very off putting (but hey, at least you’ll get to find out what we thought on first experience of a type of bleeding no plaster will fix!). I remember thinking along the same line as Caz, Moran’s sister, when I reached this horrific milestone: I want my entire reproductive system taken out, and replaced with spare lungs, for when I start smoking. I want that option. This is pointless.” I never took up smoking to the extent where I needed spare lungs (they taste absolutely disgusting), but my reproductive system serves no purpose. I’m not having kids, so give my eggs to someone who wants them.
Although Moran’s book is about feminsm, it’s far from a serious work on feminist theory. It’s actually funny! Especially in her discussion of the confusion which is involved in the simple task of shopping for clothes. But now it seems you find “the dress”—but “the dress” must have “the belt,” and a complimentary but not overly matching bag must be found, which works with not only the correct hosiery but also something to “throw over,” if you become chilly. It’s like fucking Dragon’s Quest—an endless list of things you’ve got to run around and try to find, possibly in a cave, or under a sage. The thing you “throw over” can’t be an anorak, or a picnic rug salvaged from under the stairs, by the way, but a deconstructed cardigan, a hacking-style jacket, a £200 pashmina, or a “shrug,” which unfamiliar item seems, to my untrained eyes, to be a shrunken cardigan made by a fool. It all looks bloody knackering. It’s going to cut into my bread-and-butter-pudding-making time severely. I don’t make bread and butter pudding, but she’s right. You can’t just go out and buy one thing for a night out – a whole new outfit is expected to be bought. I love shopping, but it’s so much more complicated than it needs to be.
It’s very clear thoughout the entirity of “How to be a Woman” that Moran just wants everyone to be content with who they are. No matter if that’s a woman who wants to be a housewife or one who wants to be a CEO. It doesn’t matter if a man wants to go to the football or go out in a pair of stilettos – if that’s what you want to do, then do it! She has very strong views of her own about a woman’s pubic hair, proclaiming that every woman should grow herself a great big muff. I don’t agree with her in this respect. I don’t like being hairy…anywhere. I’m happy removing my hair, it makes my skin feel nice. And as long as I’m happy with that, I’m sure it wouldn’t cause Caitlin Moran to lose any sleep.
Moran encourages the reader to make up their own mind about issues. If you want to have kids, that’s great! There’s a chapter entitled “Why You Should Have Children”. If you don’t want to have children, there’s a chapter about “Why You Shouldn’t Have Children” too. So long as you’re happy with your choice, go with it! Be who you want to be.
I thoroughly enjoyed “How to be a Woman”, I found the book to be honest, funny (to the point I was laughing out loud on the bus) and included a new viewpoint about “new feminism”. I can happily recommend it to anyone who wants to enjoy a bit of lighter reading. If her opening prologue: The Worst Birthday Ever doesn’t sell you on reading more, I’m afraid I just can’t help you.
In one last stand out lesson to take away from this book, it’s how to work out if you’re doing something down to “Patriarchal Bullshit”. Ask yourself, are “The Guys” doing this? For example, take your body hair. Do you think “The Guys” are worrying about removing every last follicle below the neck? If you see yourself in a better light with some fur, then you put the razor away. It’s not something women should be worrying about. Some guys shave, some grow enormous beards. If you want a beard on your face or your fanny, then grow one!