Monday 20 June 2011

How To Be a Woman

Yesterday a VERY exciting thing happened, this book arrived:

How to be a woman

I'd been waiting a long long time for this book to be released and this is all down to my Caitlin Moran obsession. I don't even know where it came from. One day I was just normal, boring me and then the next I was following her on twitter, not really sure who she was, and intrigued. 

If you don't know who Caitlin Moran is, she is a columnist and tv critic for The Times and all round goddess. Growing up as one of eight children in council house in Wolverhampton, Moran knew she had 2 options: work on the checkout in Gateway or write. Her first novel was published when she was 16 and she then went on to write for Melody Maker and then The Times. In short, Caitlin Moran is exactly who I wanted to be when I was 14. (I shan't delve too far into why I'm not and what the hell I'm doing with my life instead.) My obsession with her developed as I read her tweets and the times I went to the library and read her columns in the paper there or The Times paywall stopped working and I dashed across and read as much as I could. Then she mentioned she was writing a book and I was IN. 

The joy of How To Be A Woman is that it feels like Caitlin Moran has written all your thoughts, but in a much more articulate way, and said all the things you would NEVER dare to say (i.e. most of chapter 1). When I read anything at all autobiographical, I get the feeling that the writer and I have some special connection. (When I read My Booky Wook I honestly believed that I was Russell Brand's soul mate...) This time I felt Caitlin Moran is who I could be... if I were much much ballsier and cooler. Secretly, I want all my friends to go "I didn't feel she was me because she's just like YOU!" when they read it. I am clearly deluding myself. 

This book is hilarious and truthful and inspiring and incredible. The blurb describes it as "part memoir, part rant" which explains what this is better than I could - yesterday when Dad asked what I was reading, my answer was to hold the book up and say, "it's a book-type thing." I hope it will help sort out all those idiots who say things like "I'm not a feminist but..." or hold all the beliefs of a feminist and yet refuse to use the actual word, and turns ALL of us into women who will stand on a chair and say "I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST". We all need to be strident feminists so that we can all laugh all the patriarchal bullshit out of existence. 

Because she talks about high heels and why pants are getting smaller, it would be easy for those who haven't actually read the book to write it off as a "feminism is fun" book. There are those who will complain that this book is focussed on what it is to be heterosexual white woman... but this is because Moran IS a heterosexual white woman. This book is about her life and what she has learned about feminism. She can't talk with such terrifying honestly about things that she hasn't done or experiences she hasn't had. So often feminists are so busy complaining about what something doesn't do, how something isn't right, how it isn't completely incusive, that they ignore what it IS doing and what IS good and amazing about it. (The ridiculous reaction of some feminists to SlutWalk is another example of this.) The point I'm making (after all that waffle) is that this book is about being a feminist in everyday life and from Moran's perspective. 

I don't want to rob you of the moments when you have to give in and lie on your back, kicking your legs in the air, so I won't repeat lots of quotes, just this one bit:
In fact, in recent years I have become more and more didactic about pubic hair -- to the point where I now believe that there are only four things a grown, modern woman should have: a pair of yellow shoes (they unexpectedly go with everything), a friend who will come a post bail at 4am, a failsafe pie recipe and a proper muff. A big, hairy minge. A lovely furry moof that looks -- when she sits, naked -- like she has a marmoset sitting in her lap. A tame marmoset, that she can send off to pickpocket things, should she so need it -- like that trained monkey in Raiders of the Lost Ark. 
Laurie Penny (another amazing journalist I discovered through twitter) tweeted Caitlin Moran, "I feel like you've given me a little glowing piece of your heart to keep me brave." This is how I feel about this book. I love it. I want everyone to read it so I can discuss it with them and we can end all the patriarchal bullshit. 

At the end of the day, could ANYONE argue with this: I want CHOICE. I want VARIETY. I want MORE. I want WOMEN. I want women to have more of the world, not just because it would be fairer, but because it would be better. More exciting. Reordered. Reinvented. We should have the lady-balls to say, 'Yeah - I like the look of this world. And I've been here for a good while, watching. Now - here's how I'd tweak it. Because we're all in this together. We're all just, you know. The Guys'

(here's the website it has a couple of videos by Caitlin Moran on) 


  1. I hopped over here from Devouring Texts and wow - I hadn't heard of this book and all of the sudden I want to read it immediately. Great review.

  2. We should have the balls to grow marmosets...