Books Culture

How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran

27 July 2017
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I have added many a feminist book to my to-read list on Goodreads and I have been making my way through them slowly but surely over the past few years. Some, like Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay, shook me to my core (and I am not exaggerating), while others were quieter contributors to the new ideas flying around in my head. I read How to be a woman by Caitlin Moran a few months ago and decided to give you my thoughts on the book here!

My opinion on How to be a woman

This book is partly a memoir of Caitlin Moran’s life and partly a lot of Caitlin Moran’s opinions on various subjects. Overall, it was a very funny read that had me chortling happily in the metro on the way to work, and it also got me thinking of examples of inequality that quite simply hadn’t crossed my mind before. For example, Moran writes about the porn industry and how, in her opinion, the vast majority of Internet porn is solely directed toward men. She deplores the fact that she as a woman cannot find online pornography that is targeted towards women. While I was surprised by the premise at first, it made me think over the potential relevance of such a subject in the feminist movement that fights for free sexuality for women, among other things. (There’s even feminist pornography! Am I the only one just finding out about this?)

While I enjoyed reading about Moran’s career in the publishing industry and the British humour sprinkled throughout the book, a lot of the stories of Moran’s life felt a tad laboured as they were described in great detail. However, while I did sometimes feel like I was given too much information on Moran’s private thoughts and acts, it did cross my mind that the author made a point of “oversharing” so as to redefine what a woman can be. I did not fail to see the point in tackling less-than-ladylike subjects (such as masturbation and cystitis) to show that you can be a woman without fitting into the traditional definition of a “lady”.

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One of the lessons I gleaned from Bad Feminist (and many feminist articles flying around on social media) is that there is not one right way to be a feminist. You can be anything you want – a career-driven Head of State, a stay-at-home housewife or anything in between – and be whatever kind of feminist you want to be. There are no universal rules, because each women is different. The one rule a lot of feminists seem to agree on though, is that you should strive to support other women even if their choices differ from yours. And while I don’t remember directly reading anything in How to be a woman that made me think that Caitlin Moran didn’t agree with that (and I am quite convinced she does), I couldn’t help feeling rankled by the way some of Moran’s experiences were presented as almost universal rites of passage in the process of becoming a woman.

Moran states clearly in one chapter that you don’t need to become a mother to be fully-fledged women, then describes in the next chapter just how difficult it was for her to become a mother and how the experience turned her into a sort of super- or alpha-woman, for want of a better word. However, I was luckily able to shake off that odd impression (because I also want to support Caitlin Moran and her funny, well-written work!) and enjoy the book as a whole, despite not agreeing with everything (see above for the how-to on that ;))

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How to be a woman is a book I happily recommend to all budding feminists who are eager to learn about the different fields a woman can experience sexism in, while having a good laugh along the way. I would love to discuss the contents of the book with other readers, so let me know in the comments if you’ve got an opinion you’d like to share!

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