Caitlin Moran is pretty straight-forward with her view of feminism.
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants.
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!
Now, granted, Moran does come at the topic from a very cisgender perspective. Her views of womanhood are not inclusive, though she claims in interviews she is trying to change that. Basically, she approaches the topic like a straight, white woman, and there is little room for the experiences of others. This is most likely due to the fact that her book is more memoir than it is an actual manual of womanhood, much in the vein of Tina Fey’s Bossy Pants. So she isn’t really telling anyone how to be a woman so much as explaining how she slowly figured out what works for her.
If womanhood came with a manual, I don’t think high school would’ve been so hard. Rather than spending my time worrying whether or not the boy in my English class liked me, if my friends were all mad at me, what the hell was happening to my body, and why did I feel so horny and melancholy all the time, I could’ve focused on geometry, though I’m sure I still would’ve made a B. Perhaps womanhood wouldn’t have seemed like such a cross to bear, and maybe I wouldn’t have become so afraid of my own period from reading way too many of those embarrassing stories in the front of Seventeen Magazine. Though, to be honest, I’m still afraid I might go into a store and try on a skirt, only to find that it’s actually a tube top, a problem that Seventeen would have you believe is plaguing all the youth.
So I praise Caitlin Moran, for setting about the momentous task of creating a guide for us called How to be a Woman. I brought this book to work with me this weekend to read while on the clock, because that’s what I do. I placed it on my desk, and when my male coworker came over to hand me a spreadsheet, he looked at it in that sort of way that said “what are the women folk on about these days?” He then proceeded to ask me what the book was about, and I couldn’t tell him.
Confession: I hate explaining being a woman to men, especially the sort of man my coworker is—you know, very conservative in politics, dress, and demeanor. Basically, just super boring.
So when he asked what the book was about, I couldn’t very well tell him that it’s the story of a British woman getting her period, realizing how glorious her pubes are, and trying to figure out what to name her breasts and vagina. That’s not the sort of things men like him understand, nor is it something you discuss in the corporate workplace lest you enjoy awkward time spent in the office of HR. But here, readers, for you, I will tell you about this book, primarily because the internet is HR-free and I doubt our readership is anything like my coworker.
Moran has a gift for putting widely-felt experiences women have
growing up into context, and doing so with humor. If you’re like me, getting your first period all over your white Adidas tear-away pants (dude, it was the ‘90s and I seriously wanted to be Sporty Spice) was a little too traumatic, and I’m still unable to make jokes about it. But luckily, Moran can look back at her life and share the pain of that time with us. With chapter titles like “I am a feminist!”, “I encounter some sexism!”, “Why you should have children” which is followed by “Why you shouldn’t have children” and “Role models and what do we do with them”, Moran’s signature wit is peppered throughout the text, and really makes things like uncomfortable bras and the pains of falling in love for the first ten or so times with the ONE who is so much better than the ONE before him not only enjoyable to reminisce about, but make you wish that you had written what’s she saying.
But what appealed to me as a reader most of all is her assertion that everyone is “just one of the guys” trying to make it along in the world. In this case, she doesn’t mean guys like bros at a sports bar, but much more in the inclusive “hey, guys, what’s going on?” sort of sense. And even if it is simplistic, that sentiment is really something that I can get behind. That, and her call for feminists. While going over the percentage of women that identify as feminist, she says that the word needs to be reclaimed. It’s been misused and vilified enough and it’s time that women weren’t afraid to claim it. I’m inclined to agree there.
I refuse to give away too much, not because I am somehow benefitting financially from the sale of this book, but because I want you to experience the words firsthand like I did, and when you find yourself laughing when you read how she compares bras to Saruman from The Lord of the Rings, you can thank me.
Marisa is a working writer, forever student, and future librarian. When she’s not obtaining multiple, seemingly worthless master’s degrees, she toils away at a novel that may just see the light of day.
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