Is this the feminist book for the noughties? Probably not. Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman

I was in two minds about this book; one of my friends really enjoyed it, but also I remember finding Moran intensely annoying as a teenager. This is probably because she was working on Melody Maker and hanging out with cool bands at the age of only 15 , the same age as me so there was probably a bit of jealousy going on there.

Moran comes from a working class family of eight children in Wolverhampton, and was home educated. She does however show some of her celeb and not very down to earth style when she spends £225 on a purse, an issue that I could never relate too. Despite this she discusses a range of topics like abortion, childbirth, pornography, weight etc. in a very honest way, which sometimes makes for uncomfortable reading.  I like the way Moran is very self depreciating but if you are  thinking it is an essential feminist text, it might be going a little far. I do however like her accessible take on feminism, rather than the extreme image that it has had in the past;

“What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy, and smug they might be. Are you a feminist? Hahaha. Of course you are.”

Moran does however take a controversial view of feminism,; “even the most ardent feminist can’t conceal that women have done basically fuck all for the last 100,000 years”.  I remembering (partially in error) arguing with my History teacher  about why we had to do women’s history, as nothing much happened. Moran argues that men’s and women’s achievements are not on a parallel, which I would largely agree with because the majority of women were not given the chance to excel.  Now obviously there are some exceptions like Boudica and Elizabeth I but that is the point, they are exceptions.

She is extremely funny about the topic of porn and how it is dominated by men.  She is not anti-porn, she just wants to see more of it aimed at women. Moran points out that if 12 % of internet images are porn this means that 12% of pictures that men see of women are  on all fours, being submissive, etc; “This is obviously as detrimental as if say 12% of pics of men on the internet showed them having their heads horrifically blown off by laser guns”.

She is unflinchingly honest about abortion which did make it difficult to read at times, she describes it as one of the least difficult decisions of her life and describes the procedure in detail.    She is trying to make the point that it is still virtually impossible today to discuss abortion openly and without guilt.   She is damning of role models like Katie price and the way some have tried to uphold her as a feminist role model simply because she has made lots of money and loves her kids and argues that women having plastic surgery are not  empowering themselves  but do it because of fear. I like her chapter on reasons for not having a child (despite being a mother herself), comparing attitudes towards women who  havent had children  women who have and men who havent.;

“Whilst motherhood is an incredible vocation, it has no more inherent worth than a childless woman simply being who she is, to the utmost of her capabilities.  To think otherwise betrays a belief that being a thinking,creative, productive and fulfill woman is somehow, not enough.  That no action will ever be the equal of giving birth.”

Her final conclusion on how to be a woman is that ultimately you should “not give a shit” and be yourself which seems obvious but it is nice to see someone writing it and ignoring the stance made by most women’s magazines that are obsessed with men and appearance.  It is a good read in small chunks but can get slightly annoying when Moran tries to hard to be funny.  It’s not an essential  feminist  tract and at times a  bit lightweight, however it is  fun and who knows it might get some women (and men) thinking.



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7 responses to “Is this the feminist book for the noughties? Probably not. Caitlin Moran – How to be a Woman

  1. Well damn, I obviously need to read this book. Thanks for the review!

  2. Well it’s definitely interesting from the feminist viewpoint, but can be slightly annoying, think it’s worth a read though. Thanks a lot.

  3. I really loved this book. I think having more accessible feminist literature like this is important. Many women (including those who might not have considered themselves feminists) will be able to relate to Caitlin’s writing, and realise that ‘feminist’ isn’t a dirty word.

  4. Yes I can see your point in that agirlwithquestions, I think when I was younger feminism really was seen as aggressive and man-hating and redefining its meaning is very important.

    • I thought the book was groundbreaking because, for me it was the open attitude to all things to do with women, we should be talking about porn and abortion because government can legislate to take our freedoms away unless we are vocal about our desire to retain choice for women. Also the re-definition of what feminism means. For far too long feminism has been a dirty word in the media and we have a responsibility to make it cool and hip and fun to be a feminist again!

      • Yes, I see your point there. It is very accessible and I agree that being vocal is the only way to retain choice. I do remember thinking as a teenager that feminists were just men hating nutters and I like the way this challenges this view. Did you not find some of the book a bit repetitive though and trying a bit too hard to be funny?

  5. There are lots of things to love about Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be a Girl,” an invective against backsliding attitudes toward feminism that, this time last year, every lady in Britain seemed to become reading.

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