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.


Author: Rosanna Parrish

Brit exiled in Spain.

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