BOOKS | How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

‘Would we give so much of a shit about our thighs if we, as a sex, owned the majority of the world’s wealth, instead of the men?’

I’ve been a fan of Caitlin Moran for a while now and have really enjoyed stalking her life on Twitter and reading her articles online, but I never got around to reading any of her books until recently. It was always at the back of mind, I knew that I’d most probably like it, but I was worried it would be too ‘non-fiction-ey’ for my liking. I ordered it a while ago as a means of getting free shipping when I bought Inside HBO’S Game of Thrones, and seeing as my Internet wasn’t working for all of last week, it seemed like the perfect time to read it. I really wish I had read it sooner.

How To Be a Woman is by no means groundbreaking feminism, but that’s not what I was looking for. It’s a nice, really friendly, take on issues that more people should be talking about. It’s kind of like sharing anecdotes with a friend, rather than being educated on feminism by a textbook. When I was reading the book, I felt more like I was friends with Caitlin Moran and we were sharing stories over a bottle of wine. The book is a conversation, and though you can’t actually answer or share your own stories, it did make me laugh and think about my own experiences relating to Moran’s… which I would then tell Imaginary Moran with our Imaginary Wine. Each chapter of the book focuses on a different part of Moran’s life which she believes helped make her a woman, and these chapters each begin with a story from Moran’s own life, before going on to a more critical examination of society’s attitudes towards said moments. The transitions into these more factual (if you could call them that, the book on a whole is very informal) parts of the book are really easy and enjoyable, and sometimes I didn’t even realise that I’d gotten to the ‘educational’ parts of the text until I was a few pages into the discussion.

Moran includes a good balance of laugh out loud moments and actual serious points, which I think is possibly even more affective than just spewing out statistics as it makes the whole thing seem more personal. These funny moments come from how absolutely insane Moran’s life story seems to be, and I would definitely read an autobiography purely about her, without all the feminist bits in. But obviously they’re a plus point. I definitely want to hear more about her wedding story, and I particularly liked any chapter that mentioned her sister, Caz, who seems to be all I wish to be in life.

‘My sister Caz– who has been resolute in her desire not to have children since the age of nine– went through a spell of replying to this statement with, ‘When Myra Hindley met her right man, it was Ian Brady.’’

It’s not all giggles in How To Be a Woman though. I’m convinced that everyone should read the chapter on abortion before making uninformed comments about the subject. If you have not had an abortion, or do not know anyone who has had one, then this is the next best thing. Listening to Moran tell her side of the story, one that isn’t filled with excuses and justifications, is very humanising. Sometimes people forget that abortions aren’t just about the baby/foetus/whatever the correct term is here. The account of the abortion is not a negative one, nor is it a positive one. It is just a view which makes you think, and maybe understand a little better. On a more positive note, I also enjoy that the end of the book mentioned that feminism is also beneficial for men, which definitely helps to tackle the ‘man hating’ stereotypes that cloud people’s perceptions of feminism. I’m also bound to be all for any book that quotes Blanche from Corrie.

I did find that the column style of writing took me a little while to get used to. There’s a lot of capital letters and an excessive amount of exclamation points involved, which is a little daunting when you first open the book because IT FEELS LIKE YOU ARE BEING SHOUTED AT!!!!! But this is maybe just because I’m a giant stick in the mud. Once you get used to it, it’s actually quite enjoyable. I know I keep throwing words like humanising and personal around, but that’s what this book is. Which is really what I think the feminist movement needs right now, especially with the success of projects such as Everyday Sexism.

I also didn’t fully agree with everything Moran said, but that’s the beauty of feminism. It isn’t completely black and white, we don’t have some giant authoritarian figure setting the rules for us. That’s actually kind of what we’re against. A lot of the reviews that I read of this book claim that things like having a name for your vagina isn’t really a pressing feminist issue, which yeah, I can see. But it’s also good that women are reclaiming what is theirs and taking the stigma away. Why should a vagina be behind closed doors (in the metaphorical sense, I’m not suggesting you go and join the naturism movement) or be seen purely as a sexual object? They bring babies into the world! They’re not just for men!

Due to its format, it will be interesting to see how this is adapted into a movie. Will they focus on the anecdotes and ignore the criticism that follows? Will it be narration over these scenes instead? Time shifting to the present day to see how the protagonist deals with these issues later on in life? However it translates onto the screen, I’m excited for it. As well as looking forward to Moran’s sitcom Raised by Wolves returning to our screens, and for How To Build a Girl to be released later this year. It’s great to see products addressing being a woman that are actually written by women. Reclaiming what is ours and all that. Like Girls… except for in the UK and about teenagers. I highly recommend reading How To Be a Woman, and I’ve already forcefully pushed it onto my mother. It’s a very funny, useful, and positive book that I definitely regret putting off reading for so long. And if it taught me anything, it’s that it made me highly aware that I’ll do anything to avoid referring to my boobs by name.

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LIFE | Once Upon A Midnight Dreary

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I have a love/hate relationship with sleeping. One one side, I like that it involves doing absolutely nothing. Having an excuse just to be comfy and warm and not having to think about anything of real importance for a few hours, all in the name of health, is wonderful. On the other side, I apparently have a really crazy subconscious, so I have weird dreams. Sometimes they’re fun, and I’m able to jump for really long distances or I find that Sean Bean is my dad (I couldn’t tell whether it was Eddard Stark or Boromir). But other times they get a bit stressful. These aren’t even situations that would cause me stress in real life, but for some reason Dream Me cannot handle these moments, and when I find a dream that scares me, they tend to keep coming back. These are my top three most memorable recurring dreams.

3) The Shopping Trip:
This is the most recent of the three dreams and I’ve had it numerous times over the last couple of years. I seem to be in some sort of shopping centre, one that I don’t recognise from real life. There are lots of people I know in the shop, although I’m never sure if we came together or if it’s just one of those dream things that never make sense. The shop is always busy as well, full of people I don’t recognise, and it makes me wonder whether that theory about dreaming of people you pass on the street is true or not. Are these shoppers just people I’ve subconsciously registered on my daily travels or do I have like an inbuilt Sim creator in my brain? Either way, it is a very busy shopping centre. I always seem to be looking for one particular item and I seem adamant that I know it exists, but cannot find it anywhere in the shop. I keep running into people that I know and asking them to help me, but they just talk about other things or ignore me completely. Dream Me gets very frustrated and upset that no one will listen to her/me, and pretty much spends the entire dream running around begging for someone to help. Usually when I wake up I feel very anxious and betrayed by everyone in the dream, and often stay mad at the real versions of them for what they did to Dream Me until I remember that it never actually happened.

What Does It Mean: I guess it could mean that I feel people don’t ever listen to me or value my beliefs and wants… or that I really like shopping and take it very seriously. Maybe both.

2) The Scooby-Doo Mystery:
This is the earliest of the dreams, as I first had it when I was probably about six, but it continued sporadically for the next few years. I seem to be exploring a haunted house with the Scooby-Doo gang, they are cartoons but I am not. It’s very Roger Rabbit-esque. Suddenly we are aware that the Bad Guy is close, so we all hide in a room behind various pieces of furniture. The Bad Guy appears and finds me, and– oh no! It’s the vicar from my local church! But wait, there are two of him! A clone? A twin? The Vicars grab me and then proceed to rub, wait for it, pink toilet paper on my throat. This makes me lose my voice so I can’t even scream, and the Scooby-Doo gang stay hidden instead of helping me. I attempt to scream in the dream and end up screaming in real life, waking both myself and my parents. At least that’s what happened the first time it occurred. I remember my mum rushing to see why I screamed and not really understanding as I cried and spluttered out phrases such as ‘the old vicar’, ‘has a clone’, and ‘Scooby-Doo’. It is possibly the least scary nightmare a person could have, but it is my most memorable one, and it still haunts me to this day.

What Does It Mean: I could either have major trust issues, thinking that even a group as morally sound as the Scooby Gang wouldn’t save me when I’m in trouble. Or that even as a six year old, I did not agree with organised religion.

1) The Spinning Disc:
The most recent and terrifying of my recurring nightmares. I’ve had this one more times than I can count, with it stemming from the age of thirteen to as recent as a year ago. It is a POV dream and when it starts there is only blackness. Then something starts to spin. It spins around in a circle but also like a pendulum, going back and forth. It starts off really slowly, but the faster it goes the more anxious I get, until it’s spinning really fast and really high and I can’t stop it. The first time I experienced The Spinning Disc, I awoke to a major panic attack and had to get my mum. I just kept pacing around the room and couldn’t sit down for more than ten seconds without crying. I’m pretty sure she thought that The Exorcist was coming to life, although I wasn’t crawling like a spider and reciting theological expletives. Whenever I have it now, I wake up with a racing heart, and usually end up lying on my side with my eyes wide open for hours on end, being too scared to sleep. There’s usually some tears too. I do not like The Spinning Disc.

What Does It Mean: I have no idea. I’m quite a fan of the Waltzers though, so I’m pretty sure the spinning is metaphorical.

You wouldn’t think that such a DARK and MYSTERIOUS soul who thinks her patronus is a crow could have such lame and uneventful nightmares about going shopping and children’s cartoons, but it is the curse I must carry. I wish I could wake up screaming from nightmares about unimaginable horrors that are out to get me, possibly reminiscent of a Korean horror film, but I think I’m just immune to stereotypically scary things. It’s all about pink toilet paper in my subconscious. BRB, gonna go read some Byron and sacrifice a goat.

FAVOURITES | Monthly Musings #2 (April 2014)

I may not leave the house as much as a normal human being, but I do venture outside enough to find new things to make me smile. Well, I have for the past two months anyway. I don’t always live under a rock.

1) NARS Sheer Glow Foundation:

I’ve been pining after this foundation for well over a year now, but was a little nervous of paying the rather hefty price tag only for it to break me out like most foundations do. Recently I took the plunge and have been using it for around a month now, and I am totally in love. I’ve always been a bit of a foundation newbie; I only really started using it when I was nineteen. I was loyal to Benefit Hello Flawless Foundation because it seemed to agree with my skin, but it’s matte texture just wasn’t working for me. The sheer coverage of NARS is much more flattering for my dry skin, and I feel really illuminated and healthy when I wear it. It’s definitely worth the price. Rosapproved.

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2) All Bran:

If it wasn’t lame enough that I’m including a cereal on a monthly favourites list, the fact that I’m including the most boring cereal known to man probably is. I don’t care though, because I love All Bran. Sometimes I eat it for breakfast, sometimes as a bedtime snack. But I always eat it without milk and with my fingers. Spoons just get in the way. This always grosses people out, but the way I see it is that I don’t like popcorn and this is how I experience the joy of eating it without the taste of cardboard that comes included. All Bran has become my go-to snack and I use it as a way to avoid eating Oreos when I get cravings. First I gave up Coke in favour of green tea and now this, what is wrong with me?

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3) Barry M Gelly Lips in Sirius (#4)

Barry M really can do no wrong in my eyes. They constantly bring out high quality products for an affordable price and best of all they’re cruelty free. I’m a big fan of the Gelly nail polishes and have more of them then I should probably admit to, so the inclusion of lip products in their Gelly range was definitely welcomed by me. I picked up two shades, but Sirius is the one I’ve been reaching for the most. I always thought that I never suited a pink lip, but I have been pleasantly surprised by this shade. I’m not sure if it’s the new hair or the new foundation, but as long as I’m able to expand my lip product collection past reds and purples, I’m all for it. Of course, it also helps that it shares a name with Sirius Black, one of my favourite fictional characters (and one of the hottest in the HP film series). Maybe we can have a Remus shade next? Insert obvious joke about wanting Lupin on my lips here.

4) Lily Allen- Sheezus:

We’ve already touched on what a terrible taste in music I have, but Lily Allen is one of the rare artists that I can confidently say I like in public without getting weird looks. Her new album is definitely different to her earlier stuff, but I think it works. It’s really fun to listen to and I think it will be even better when it’s sunny outside, it definitely has that type of vibe to it. I loved Hard Out Here when it came out, but was a little disappointed when Lily Allen dismissed feminism as unnecessary. But I guess I’ll try and do that whole separating the artist from their art thing. The titular track, Sheezus, is my favourite from the album. ‘Give me that crown, bitch, I wanna be Sheezus’ really should be my new life motto.

I don’t actually have a fifth favourite thing this month, if you couldn’t tell by my inclusion of cereal on this list. April included a lot of things that I could consider my favourites, such as watching TV shows I’ve seen eight times before on Netflix, taking photos of my cat in weird positions, and gin. But none of them are just April favourites, I love them all the time. I’ll give Friends an honorary mention for it being the ten year anniversary of the finale and for the fact I must have watched eighteen episodes of it last week when my parents are away. I also would have included Game of Thrones for the second time running because Littlefinger shattered my entire life in this week’s episode. Wow. Hopefully I’ll leave the house more to find an acceptable amount of things I approve of in time for next month’s list. It’s a hard life being a pessimist.

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LIFE | 10 Things I Need To Learn

Image(Nothing makes you question your life choices like a new hairstyle)

I am determined to make May 2014 my month of change; the personal renaissance that I had hoped to experience when I was pried from the safety of student life. On Friday May 2nd I went to the hairdressers. This may not seem like a big deal to any normal functioning member of society, but it is to me, and it’s not only because I think all hairdressers are against me. I have been blonde since I was fifteen years old. Even before that, I had blonde chunks in my hair a la the Myspace era, and even before that I had pined to be blonde thanks to my not-so-healthy tweenage obsession with Paris Hilton. Sure, I’ve experimented with pink and dipdyes and a brief stint at being a redhead last year, but being blonde was my thing. I hung to it like a security blanket.

Blonde was what I knew and I was too afraid to ever really change it for good. After all, I’d worked so hard to get there, from the pain of the bleach to living as a ginger for the first few weeks. I’ve been so wrapped up in this dream of blonde that I was completely in denial about how terrible condition my hair was in or how badly I needed to cut it. But this month I took the plunge. I went into the hairdressers looking how I have for pretty much the past six years, and came out looking like I never have before. It was scary, but if I can do it on the outside, I can do it on the inside. I am a pretty defective person, I am aware that I live in a bubble in an attempt to make my life easier. But I want to change it all and become a better human being, and there is no better way to start than with a list.

Things I Need To Learn:

  1. The actual names for basic household items, like the ‘clappy things’ or ‘giant tweezers’ that I used to get food from the oven with.
  2. How to portion control pasta. I know that it grows, but how can that little an amount turn into such a giant heap of food… that I still manage to eat.
  3. That not everything in the world is out to get me, and to stop ignoring all the good things that happen to me in favour of pessimism. I’m sure that my last hairdresser didn’t give me chemical burns on purpose, and that the one before that didn’t cut my hair hair diagonally just to spite me, or that the one before that made me look like an alter boy to… actually, no. Hairdressers really do want to make my life a misery.
  4. All the things that I know exist but don’t know what they actually do, such as council houses. I’ve listened to Rupert Giles tell me how I can get one, but not why they even exist.
  5. Probably some music that doesn’t make me seem like the Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde of all thirteen year olds. I love My Chemical Romance and Taylor Swift in equal amounts, but I’ve learnt that these apparently aren’t acceptable answers to ‘so, what music do you like?’. 
  6. Whether ironing clothes is really necessary. I’ve never ironed anything I own and I don’t think (at least I hope) that I look like a giant mess. So what is the actual deal with irons? Something isn’t right here, I’m onto them.
  7. How to say no to people. I may not look like the type of person who can be ‘too nice’, because I’m pretty vocal when I think someone is being, uh, problematic. But about 60% of things I do, I wish wasn’t doing. I just don’t like to see people upset. If I do garner the courage to say no to something, you can bet that I probably made some elaborate lie about how sick I was to get out of it. I need to learn that ‘nah, I think I’d rather stay in and read a book tonight’ is an okay response to people.
  8. That those foods that I don’t like might not actually be so bad. For the first nineteen years of my life I was completely adamant that I hated tomatoes, and now it turns out that I actually kinda like them. Maybe it’s time to give celery a go.
  9. To pretty much expand my horizons in general. Recently my mother complemented me on not buying all my clothes in Topshop anymore, and a while ago I made a blogpost about reading different genres of books. All these things seem to be for the better, and combined with my new haircut and colour (wheeey, we came full circle), I really think that it’s time to step out of my comfort zone.
  10. Basic maths, probably. My dream is to get a correct answer on the numbers round on Countdown without pausing the TV.

There you have it. The recipe for a new and improved Rosy. I guess it really all comes down to trying new things, and not just about my hair this time. Clearly the direction I was going in with my year long job hunt wasn’t working for me, so I’m gonna mix things up a bit and see where that takes me. I will not be a wallflower anymore. I am Rosanna Parrish, hear me roar… and also rhyme.

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet *winky face Emoji*.

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