Wednesday, 8 April 2015

How to Be a Women - Caitlin Moran

Published: June 2011
Publisher: Ebury
Pages: 312

Blurb: Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself. 


I presumed that this book would be a sort of feminist text, it was being compared to the Female Eunuch by Germaine Greer (which I haven’t read yet, but is currently sitting in my to-be-read pile), but it is more of a memoir written under the influence of feminism.

Taking that into account this is an excellent memoir. Moran invites us unflinchingly into her life with what seems to be a no-holds-barred honesty. This was definitely a laugh-out-loud book, as I found myself chortling to myself on the train. Moran really embraces the idea ( which is my personal philosophy) that ‘It may be shit now, but some day it will make a great story’. And there are some absolutely wonderful stories woven into this novel. I left this novel wishing that Caitlin and I could be best friends, and wanting to read everything else she has ever written. The writing is humorous yet touching and serious and Moran really has the gift of storytelling. As a memoir, this is definitely one of the best.

However, as a feminist text, this book has some failings. Moran deals with personal feminism, ie all the times she has personally experienced sexism, been treated differently or unfairly because she was a woman, the effect her female anatomy has had on her, and when societies views and expectations of women have affected her. It’s definitely a personal  account of feminism. There are very little facts, figures and research (and go as far as to say none, but ‘m not completely sure and I don’t have the book anymore to check), and Moran gives her opinion on a lot of feminist issues, some of which I wouldn’t agree with. Although this is a personal text, I found myself relating to an awful lot of the experiences that Moran had, and I’m sure that most women will relate to at least one or two of them. This book deals with what I call ‘first world feminism’. Thankfully women are now able to divorce their husbands, get an education, have their own job and support themselves financially, have access to contraception and all the big advancements that feminism in the past has worked to give us now, but there are still a few inequalities between the sexes that need to be fixed. These are the issues that Moran deals with in this book.

This book isn’t for the feminist scholars, but it is an excellent introduction to modern feminism and every twenty-first century woman who doesn’t call themselves a feminist, or anyone who feels the feminist movement is redundant should read it. If you’re looking for a good memoir this is also a must. However, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who isn’t a fan of ‘oversharing’ , because it’ll probably gross you out. A thoroughly enjoyable read.

Four Stars ****

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