I first discovered How To Be A Woman (2011) by Caitlin Moran back when it wasn’t really available in the United States. I wanted to read it right away, but I waited until it was available at my library. Now that I’ve finally gotten around to reading it, it seems to be one of the most read books on Cannonball. I guess that makes my review easier. Since everyone’s already read and reviewed it, I don’t have much to add.
According to Wikipedia, Caitlin Moran is a British broadcaster, TV critic, and columnist at The Times. I had never heard of her before reading How To Be A Woman, but this book is more about what Moran has to say than her public figure. Moran discusses growing up poor and unpopular in Wolverhampton, England as she opines on feminism and other issues often faced by women, such as: high heels, Brazilians, handbags, pornography, strippers, and abortion. Moran has strong, clear, well-thought out opinions, and she comes at each of her topics with enough humor that even if I disagreed with her, I could still understand her point.
Read the rest of my review here.
Billed by Vanity Fair as “The British version of Bossypants” (thanks, Vanity Fair!) I had a lot of expectations going into this book. As much as I liked Bossypants, there was a lot of it I didn’t like, much to the horror and sadness of my sweet companion, who will hold a torch to Tina forever in his heart. This book was much more different than Bossypants in that it was far more honest, real, and soul baring than I expected, and it also dealt with things in a no-bullshit, “this is how it is” kind of way. It was refreshing… and hilarious. It was hard to read while commuting in quiet train cars, but essential to have on me at all times so I could whip it out and read parts of it aloud to friends.
While I do have a day job, it is not the kind of job that requires me to work tirelessly from 9 – 5. Shamefully I spend most of my time consuming vast amounts of online articles and various other forms of media. (Youtube, Pinterest, Facebook.) I blame my short attention span and inability to get another job on the fact that no other job that I know of would allow me to have such blocks of time where I completely zone out and veg on the internet. In my perusings, I have come to a few conclusions: woman’s worst enemy is not the patriarchy, it is not other men, it is actually other women. Moran adds to this conclusion her own point about feminism: If the men aren’t fussing about, neither should the women. So simple! So revolutionary. After a rough week of dealing with #MensRights and other things of that nature, this book was a palate cleanser.
She also uses the book as a platform to discuss serious issues like whether or not have children, or how it was when she had her abortion. As someone who was raised and still professes to be Catholic, to me the issue was always very black and white. Even as I went through college and began to know people who got abortions, I was never able to add it all up in my head. It still seemed “evil” and “sinful”. Moran breaks it down easily and over a single thought: “the worst thing in the world is to have a child who is not wanted”, my thought process began to finally shift. Maybe that makes me naive and impressionable. I’m not sure. Just reading a statement free of religious contexts and moral clouding really opened my eyes to a new perspective.
Lest you think this book is chock-full of tough issues and political pontificating, there is plenty to like in this book that is just plain funny and worth passing on to others. I recommend it to nearly every woman I know and if I could it would be a birthday gift to my girlfriends for years to come. It wasn’t Bossypants, not even close. But was strong and smart and funny, and it made me proud to be a woman.
I’ve read a lot of reviews that criticized Moran’s condemnation of the word “fat” while simultaneously calling people “retards” and making outlandish comparisons between that darned patriarchy and, for example, starving orphans, and I’m not sure this is entirely fair. For one thing, I didn’t read the “fat” chapter as an order to stop using the word, but more of a caution raising the awareness of what it can do to people. And for another, having scanned some reviews on Goodreads, it seems that the version I’m reading has been edited for the States, and I may be missing some of the more offensive phrasing.
However, even when I disagreed with Moran’s points or conclusions, the tone of the book is friendly and conversational. I think part of what irritates people is the fact that her manner tends to suggest that her thoughts and opinions are the be-all and end-all, but I talk like that too, and that doesn’t mean I think that my word is the final word – it’s just a manner of speaking. We think it makes us sound funnier. So I’m less inclined to get my back up about the things I disagree with.
Really, How To Be a Woman succeeded far more as a funny memoir in the vein of Jenny Lawson‘s, and less as a feminist screed, but Moran has a lot of interesting things to say, and is fearless in saying them. Whether you agree with her or not, she gives you a lot to think about, and new ways to think about it. If you’re looking for something to read the next time you’re snowed in the house, you could do a lot worse.
Read the whole review here!