Book Review: How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

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Caitlin Moran is a British broadcaster, TV critic and columnist. She is also a self-proclaimed modern-day feminist. While she acknowledges that women have made a lot of strides in the fight for equality, they still have a long way to go to be equal to their male counterparts.

In her book How To Be a Woman, Moran addresses many issues women face today, with self-deprecating, witty humor. From being a 13-year-old girl with no friends to getting married and having two children, Moran covers the issues facing women today by interweaving stories of her own life.

So a few weeks ago I came across an article on Buzzfeed listing 65 books everyone should read in their 20s. Naturally, I immediately added all the books I hadn’t already read to my to-read list. How To Be a Woman was one of the first books I picked up. I knew nothing about Caitlin Moran or the book, but since it was being listed as the British version of Tina Fey’s Bossypants, I was in!

Whenever I read a book of essays, I tend to judge it differently than I would any other book. I tend to grade each passage individually. There were some chapters that I genuinely enjoyed, while others I couldn’t wait to end. Sadly, there were more I wanted to end than those I liked. Overall I didn’t find Moran’s writing to be funny enough. I also feel like her editor should have done a bit more work before publishing this book. There was a ton of unnecessary rambling.

Moran aims to address all the issues modern feminists face today. However, she only addresses the issues faced by straight, white, middle-class, Western women face. I understand that she is writing from her viewpoint and writing what she knows. But if you’re going to title your book How To Be a Woman and proclaim to the world you’re a feminist, shouldn’t you be addressing issues that face ALL women, not just a specific set?

Moran tends to contradict herself quite a bit in this novel. In one chapter she lists all the things she learned when she became a mother and how she would never have been able to experience this without having children. Then in the very next chapter she rambles on about how all of life’s experiences can be learnt without ever having children. She also goes on to give one of the best descriptions of what makes someone a feminist I’ve ever read, which I’ll address further later on. She basically states that simply having a vagina and wanting control of it makes one a feminist. No other criteria is needed. Then she completely kills this by stating all the things women are not allowed to do if they want to be a modern day feminist.

She takes on a very judgmental tone towards all the women who embrace any beauty standard that she may not agree with. I understood her sentiment and where she was coming from. The idea that women are EXPECTED to be hairless, not get old, look impeccable at all hours of the day, is preposterous. If women are shaving their legs or waxing their nether regions, just because they feel as though they will not be socially accepted otherwise is wrong. However, I don’t think it makes me any less of a feminist because I like the way my legs look when they are smooth and shaven. She also had an extremely hostile tone towards any female who chooses to get plastic surgery and she is somehow better because she would never do this.

Her entire passage about strip clubs was cringeworthy. I am not a fan of strip clubs and I think that most represent the worst of what our society has to offer, as does Moran. However, Moran tends to place the majority of the blame on the females, urging them to step away from the pole because they are setting all females back. But in just a few paragraphs before she acknowledges that many females who turn to stripping were sexually abused when they were younger. It was another example of Moran discussing an issue but never once including new information/insight on how to solve the issue.

One big point I’ll give to Moran is her description of what makes someone a feminist: “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.” It always boggles my mind when women want to disassociate themselves with anything having to do with feminism. Somewhere along the way it became a bad word. The actual definition of feminism is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” That’s it! Are there women out there who actually think, “nah I don’t want to be equal to men. I’m fine with making less money and all that other stuff?”

Final Verdict: While the book wasn’t great and could have been a lot funnier, there were some passages that I really enjoyed. I gave it a 3-star rating on Goodreads.

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