Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to Be a Woman -- Need Help?

Image credit. 

Caitlin Moran is a British broadcaster, TV critic and columnist at The Times, where she writes three columns a week: one for the Saturday Magazine, a TV review column, and the satirical Friday column "Celebrity Watch". Moran is British Press Awards (BPA) Columnist of the Year for 2010, and both BPA Critic of the Year 2011, and Interviewer of the Year 2011.

And I totally ripped that off of Wikipedia because I didn't know Caitlin Moran before I read How to Be a Woman. Now I know a lot about Caitlin Moran. How she feels about boobs and lingerie and p0rn and abortion and relationships and feminism and stuff. I know about her career and her past relationships and I know how she came to be a feminism today -- in the fifth wave. 

Let's just put it out there, shall we? How to Be a Woman is a damn fun book. It was a joy to read often making me cackle in public places and snork in the company of strangers. This mostly happened when I was stuck in the car dealership and actually had some unadulterated time to spend with Moran and her life and her beliefs. It was the quiet time together that made me really like this book. Dipping in and out of it willy nilly wasn't such a winning way to go (that's how it started out).

What we have here is basically a memoir of Moran's life, loves, and experiences all wound up in practical feminism. Moran is not Germaine Greer -- who she writes about a few times throughout the book. Moran's subject is what feminism means today in what some people label a "post feminist world." Malarky she says! 

And this is exactly what some readers will dislike about this book. Some will say it's not serious enough. Too fluffy, too personal, not militant or aggressive enough. But it was enough for me. Feminism, for me personally, is wanting to still be considered equal to men, and not feeling pressured to fulfill typical roles or associations tagged to women. If you like uncomfortable lingerie, go for it. But one shouldn't be expected to get a Brazilian by the nebulous "they" to be considered attractive. 

See? Practical feminism. A do-what-you-want, live-how-you-will approach to sisterhood. Don't be bitches to each other, don't tear each other down, live and let live and live long and prosper and stuff. I think it's the way most women think and live now. That doesn't mean it isn't feminism. Wear the bra or burn it. Just do what makes you happy without PRESSURE. 

This book is not without controversy or hot topics, though. It's not an all-too-nice vanilla-ville memoir. The chapter on abortion laid me out flat. In tears, quivering chin, in public. It's on issues like these that Moran's real writing chops show through, even though her take is not going to be popular with everyone. This was a gritty, honest, ugly chapter. In short, it's about her decision to abort her third child. She has two girls, she got pregnant a third time, and she could not imagine her life going through it all again. She could not imagine the pain of it, or the putting her life on hold again, or the sleeplessness and hormonal hell and emotional reeling. She could not be a parent again. Her husband agreed, and she went through it. She describes the procedure itself in graphic, matter-of-fact terms, and despite the ugliness she felt in the procedure, she still believes she made the right decision for her life. That had to be a hard thing to write. 

For her honesty, I applaud her endlessly.

Is this book for everyone? No. Did I enjoy it? Heck yeah. Will definitely read Moranthology

Snuggle (and a high five) -- Skewer

Pub. Date: July 2012
Publisher: HarperCollins
Format: ARC
ISBN-13: 9780062124296
Source: Passed along from a friend.


  1. I think this sounds like an amazing book, and one that I would like to read. I am all for modern feminism, and not knocking other women down, when we could be building them up. I believe in the sisterhood of all women, and that is reason enough to read this one. The chapter on abortion really makes me curious as well. It sounds like she really put her heart out there for everyone to see. I need to get this one!

  2. Some people take themselves too seriously - this sounds fun to me!

  3. I'm kicking myself in the ass because Caitlin actually contacted me about a year ago wanting my bookclub to read this and come see her stand-up show. Goodness gracious, I wish I could have taken her up on that offer!!

  4. I'm glad you liked it, I know so many women who just couldn't connect with this book! I remember starting a lot of conversations about porn when I was reading this - just because it really struck me as so sad that young people were learning about the bodies from material like that. So disturbing and can affect our world's future in so many ways if girls grow up thinking they need to aspire to the images they see.

    I also loved the whole feminism thing and how she describes it as just being polite. The word 'polite' will speak to so many more people, nobody wants to be considered rude!

    And the bit where she went on about women who are against feminism and asked which parts of feminism they were against exactly - the voting? The wearing jeans? The not being owned by your husband? Feminism is such a great example of a word that really means something good being turned ugly and militant over the years. Can we turn it back?

    And the abortion... I've never had one myself but I always applaud women who can speak out honestly about woman-stuff that it considered taboo or sacred. Not on the same level, I know, but the looks I get when I tell people that I hated being pregnant and didn't enjoy my maternity leave and wanted to get back to work, my goodness!

    I wish there was a way to organise a global discussion about all this stuff, there is so much to say and so many misconceptions to fight.

  5. SO MANY mixed reviews on this one! Now both you and my sister have raved, so I will have to get on the boat pretty soon.

  6. I really want to read this! And not one library in our system has it, of course.

  7. Oh! $1.99 on the Nook!

    (PS. I don't get your rating system AT ALL.)

  8. Moran touched on her idea of feminism in "Moranthology," too. I so agree with her thoughts - one doesn't have to be militant to be a feminist!

  9. Ha to Lisa. I think I finally got it the other day--that the choices were Snuggle (hug?) or Skewer (stab?). LOL!

    You have me curious about this one and you've touched on some issues that I have with certain feminists who seem to instill guilt on others for not being equally as hardcore. I believe there are inherent differences between men and women and I just can't believe that EVERYTHING we believe about gender is based on society. So while I want to support the feminist cause, I also want to do it in my own way and not have to deal with the bullshit of others who are calling my bullshit. None of this makes sense in a comment, I realize but like you say "do what you want, live how you will."

  10. I love Caitlin Moran. She's irreverent and hilarious but she cuts right through the baloney.


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