Review: How to Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran.

how to be a womanI half expected to be enraged by How to Be a Woman and throw it across a room. I mean, I imagine that would be my exact response in frustration if I read the often-referenced book by Germain Greer. But instead, I found myself surprisingly caught up in what Moran was saying.

See, I expected a lecture. I know – how presumptuous! What I got were anecdotes with a point to wrap up each chapter, and it was easy to relate to as a female for much of it. This wasn’t without fundamental disagreements on certain points, but I found myself reading it more as an autobiography that focussed in on the main points in a woman’s life without being a feminist rant. I also found myself laughing stupidly during my lunch breaks.

She’s funny, she’s witty, and she doesn’t shy away from talking about all the awkward moments. From masturbation and puberty to abortion and sexism in the work place, she tackles it in a ‘chat with the friends’ kind of way. The casualness may rub some people up the wrong way, but it seems a refreshing change from the lengthy, serious, referenced blog posts to get a point across. In fact, it doesn’t feel that there needs to be a point, the discussions recapped with Caz alone are lunch break gold. If it didn’t have those points, the book may have just soared.

But there are some issues, as with subsequent controversy that has surrounded Moran. She concludes by saying that basically, you shouldn’t give a shit about being a woman, just be who you want, and that’s what she’s looking for. Good!

That is if you’re not Katie Price, wearing thongs or pole dancing for money. It’s a case of saying everything is fine as long as no one is truly being hurt, but urges people to shame men for going to strip clubs, and talks down about women who pole dance for a job. Newsflash: it goes against the whole point, and my mental notebook ran out of space for things to include here. So, here goes.

Yes, there are percentages that say certain industries run heavily on abuse: porn, for one. But not everyone in porn and strip clubs is forced to be there. Her concepts on the kind of porn needed are a refreshing change to the angry response of “BAN EVERYTHING!” but it’s kind of undermined when she picks random targets.

I get her argument on Katie Price as an asshole; I think she is, and I have never really liked her. As a feminist icon I do not care for her, as a person I do not care for her. But she is successful, in a completely different way to the acclaimed Lady Gaga, and the chastising of women succeeding by getting their boobs out is another undertone. I know people who aspire to be glamour models, quite a few actually, and what? They’re smart, they’re in the process of getting good degrees, but if they succeed for getting their boobs out, does that undermine it all? Slamming Price while praising Gaga, who is currently sexualising everything she can touch, doesn’t fit.

Another few that stand out: praising burlesque and slamming burqas – women can control themselves in both. And the former is directly compared to pole dancing to show why it’s tacky. No.

Underwear: we don’t wear briefs, brazilians, thongs (rounding off all the underwear types I can remember being mentioned) because we are socially conditioned to. Big underwear is not comfortable for some, it’s not attractive for others. Not everything that goes against baggy clothes is conformity.

Heels: Take it from a girl who naturally walks on her toes – it can be done, and it’s not done just to look good. The reason most people I know can’t walk in heels is because they walk heel first. Most people will fall over if they do that. I’m defending good shoes because I walked better in heels all the way up until I moved to Edinburgh, the hilliest place in the bloody country.

These are the ones the mental notebook are throwing out for inclusion.

Because, despite all this, it’s still good. But as said before it’s as a string of anecdotes. There are undertones of judgement despite the claims of “if you’re happy, I’m happy” type feminism. She’s far more open than many I’ve read things from, and that much is great, but these things kind of nip at her actual stand points.

Funny book, but it really highlights how many snags there are in her little world when it comes to being a woman. As an introduction to her as a person, she’s likeable and the kind of person you want to go for a pint with; and this book was genuinely a good few days well spent. Funny, smart, successful, but there’s something niggling through those little comments that’s hard to shake off.


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