I followed Caitlin Moran on Twitter before I even knew who she was. My friend told me I had to, that she was amazing, so I did. Following her stream of tweets I found her an amusing, scary, self assured, extroverted lady. A woman who seems so effortlessly cool you desperately want her to like you. Initially, from her tweets, I did not want to read How to be a Woman (it is amazing the assumptions you can make about someone based on 140 characters) however, my friend yet again told me I had to, so I did.
Caitlin Moran puts a new face on feminism, cutting to the heart of women’s issues today with her irreverent, transcendent, and hilarious How to Be a Woman. “Half memoir, half polemic, and entirely necessary,” (Elle UK), Moran’s debut was an instant runaway bestseller in England as well as an Amazon UK Top Ten book of the year; still riding high on bestseller lists months after publication, it is a bona fide cultural phenomenon. Now poised to take American womanhood by storm, here is a book that Vanity Fair calls “the U.K. version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants….You will laugh out loud, wince, and–in my case–feel proud to be the same gender as the author.”1
How to be a Woman is Caitlin Moran’s journey through life discovering how she fits into the world, often pushing a square peg into a round hole. Moran wants to reclaim the word feminism; feminism that is not man-hating or a stigma. Moran asks us: are we female? Do we want to be in control of our vaginas? Yes? Then you are feminist.
An introduction, to most women (including me), to acknowledging feminism is not dead, How to be a Woman is thought provoking and engaging. Moran’s side splitting sense of humour and frank discussion of issues drew me in instantly. Moran becomes your friend, gently enlightening you to the power that women should have, without making it anti-anyone. Well, other than ‘The-Man’ but everyone should be fighting ‘The-Man’. Never have I giggled so much about monthly bleeding and masturbation (in a ‘ahh yes, I understand that’; not ‘tee-hee, she said vagina’, nervous sort of giggling). Moran takes female subjects that are taboo, or ’embarrassing’ and puts them out there. She is saying, ‘hey! We talk about male masturbation all the time, why is female masturbation so dirty?’ And I think she is right. The more they are discussed the more the aura of unsuitability will drop.
However, there are some criticisms of that have shed a different sort of light on How to be a Woman. The main criticism is that Moran fails to discuss and glosses over some important feminist principles and feminist history. Here I agree, Moran has told me nothing about the history or core principles about feminism- you can feel that gap. A little more discussion of first and second wave feminism would not have gone amiss; the discussion of Germaine Greer wanting us to taste our menstrual fluid felt unnecessary.
However, I did not feel that Moran was writing a text on feminism, this is a basic education to women who think they are not, or do not want to be, feminist because of the stigma surrounding it. Moran is bringing feminism to the masses and saying; you have a vagina, you want to be in charge of it, you are a feminist. Masses of women who may not have the benefit of money, situation, or education to inform them that certain situations and actions are not okay for women to endure.
Though I briefly studied feminism, I would not say that I am in any way knowledgeable enough to recount various principles of the movement, before Moran I would have said I thought feminism had done all it could. I was wrong. This awakening has been beneficial to me. I can now say, yes I am feminist! Am I a strident feminist as Moran wishes to claim in her book, no, I do not know enough about feminism still to argue this, but now I will endeavour to find out.
The other side of the argument is that, if Moran’s opinion is not what you would class a good introduction to feminism, then women calling themselves feminists solely on the basis of How to be a Women are bringing the side down. Should feminism be so exclusive? There will always be the uneducated majority not quite understanding what the educated minority do, that should not mean they are unable to take part. Moran is the perfect place to begin feminism because she makes you want to discover more. How to be a Woman is written to be entertaining as well as informative, anything you read of this style needs to be taken with a pinch of salt.
How to be a Woman is far from perfect and you will find you do not agree with everything Moran says. However, that is okay, the main point is that you can read it, enjoy it and see that being a feminist does not mean you are a crazy man hater, you are taking control.