“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?”
Part Memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers the questions that every modern woman is asking.
2016 has pushed me to brush up on my feminist knowledge, and ‘How to be a Woman’ seemed like a good place to begin. The book featured in Emma Watson’s feminist book club earlier this year, and the blurb promised laughter and feminist prose – I was sold.
I really enjoyed the memoir segments of ‘How to be a Woman’. Moran recounts various episodes from her life in which she tackled puberty, recreational drugs, and sexism, and she does so in a manner that made me laugh and cringe – often at the same time. I found her teenage antagonistic relationship with her sister Caz and her awkward, confused first period to be particularly relatable to my own adolescence. Moran does tend to use outdated pop-culture references as a nod to her formative years in England in the 80’s and 90’s. While this is incredibly effective at setting the place and time, it is also somewhat confusing. I spent a lot of my time wondering if she was quoting song lyrics or trying to be poetic. I already find ‘How to be a Woman’ hilarious, but I can’t help but feel that I’ve missed out on extra ‘in’ jokes only comprehensible to those who could drive in the 90’s.
Moran tied her own feminist theories and ideals in with her memoirs, and I found myself sceptical of some. The foundations laid were good – a personal favourite being:
“So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
She also raised the idea that women have historically been ‘the losers’ as they are physically weaker and until recently, more prone to infections and death resulting from menstruation and childbirth. Moran drew a link between the rise of Industrialisation and contraception, and the rise of women’s liberation, suggesting that it is not a case of Men hating Women but rather Winners vs Losers. This theory had me spitting mad (and still does), but I do see validity within it. I would have preferred to have more academic backing for both this theory and others present in ‘How to be a Woman’.
‘How to be a Woman’ is a good place to start if you’re new to feminism, but it definitely isn’t the ultimate guide. I would recommend this book as an entertaining way to laugh a day away while still having your brain provoked into thoughts.