How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
I reserved this book at the library on a whim after hearing it recommended by Marieke Hardy on The First Tuesday Book Club and I knew nothing about it. I’m glad I did borrow it – it’s about feminism and I love feminism. I spend a good chunk of my life reading feminist film theory, I’m a member of a feminist group of Ravelry and a lot of the rules I use to deal with things and people in everyday life stems from my identification as a feminist. I was very interested to see how this book explored this much-discussed and very important theme.
How To Be A Woman is part memoir, part feminist treatise. Stories from Moran’s life are told between discussions of topics as diverse as porn and shoes. That sounds kind of serious but it’s not – it’s a really funny book. (Side point: one of the reviews I read on Goodreads said something like “This book is proof that a woman can be funny!” I was like “What? Women can’t be funny? Is that a thing?” I googled it, and yes, it is a thing. Apparently a lot of people think that having breasts and ovaries inhibits the ability of half of the world’s population to crack a joke. FFS – really?) Moran discusses important things like how to tell if something’s sexist – if something happens that you think might be sexist, ask a) would a man be treated the same way and b) is it polite? If the answer is no to either of these questions, then it’s sexism. I spent so much time nodding at her apt observations that I had a sore neck when I finished it (not all women like shoes! YES THAT’S TRUE I REALLY DON’T LIKE SHOES. I wish someone would issue a directive to every marketing manager in Australia explaining that to them) but I didn’t mind – it was worth it. In parts of this book it was like Moran had climbed inside my head and was reading my brain, it was that true to my life.
The thing I find most depressing about How To Be A Woman is that in 2012 there is still a need for a book like this that explains what feminism is and why it is still important. The next time I’m sitting in the public bar of a pub with a female friend with tertiary qualifications, a mortgage and an extensive travel history who says to me “I don’t consider myself a feminist,” I won’t explain that 100 years ago she wouldn’t have been allowed to sit in the public bar or get a mortgage in her name or attend a university of her choice or travel widely without a companion and it’s because of feminism that she can now. I won’t talk about the fact that on average women get paid 30% less than their male colleagues for exactly the same work or that the lowest paid industries in Australia are those which are female-dominated. Instead I’m going to buy her a copy of this book and mail it directly to her house because Moran mounts a much more convincing argument than I have ever been able to.
How To Be A Woman isn’t perfect. The links between the memoir and the treatise sections are sometimes a bit awkward, which creates a slightly jarring effect. It is written in Internet speak, which means there are LOTS OF SENTENCES IN ALL CAPS and chat-room abbreviations that this very out-of-touch blogger had to look up (a bit annoying, TBH). Despite these flaws I really enjoyed reading this book and have paid it the ultimate compliment – I returned the library’s copy and bought my own. The next time the Book Depository have a sale I’m buying a copy for both of my sisters as well because I want everyone I know to read this book. My advice - stop reading this review and go and read this book! It’s excellent.