Friday 18 November 2011

Devouring Books: How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Other than The Marriage Plot, this is the most over-hyped book of my year, mainly thanks to the lovely Frances (read her review here because it's much better than mine is going to be) and her continual telling me how awesome it is, and how much I'd love Caitlin Moran, and just generally, READ IT READ IT READ IT. She even lent me the book to read, even if I did have to gently pry it from her fingers to get it. So, because I'm not really one for hype, even when it's from a person that I love and trust, I kind of thought How To Be A Woman couldn't possibly be as good as I was told it was, and even though I was excited to read it, I didn't really think it would be the BEST. THING. EVER.

Turns out, I'm an idiot, because BEST. THING. EVER. pretty much covers how I feel about this book. I'm well aware that I'll probably say this about 50 million times in the next week about different things, but I really really mean it about this book. Caitlin Moran completely rocks. She doesn't just rock a bit and then fizzle out later, she rocks and then continues to rock continuously throughout her entire book. How To Be A Woman is part memoir, part feminist manifesto, all awesome; and if that sounds dry and appalling to you then you obviously haven't read it because I was laughing about 65% of the time when I was reading it, and the rest of the time I was contemplating and thinking deeply and still giggling a tiny bit inside my head.

The best thing about How To Be A Woman though, I think, is that Moran is fearless- she's not afraid to write about things people never discuss, and for that I utterly love her, and as well as that she writes about the 'hot feminist topics' (I'm basically thinking abortion here people) but in a sensible, never boring way, and actually discusses some things I hadn't really considered before. I also loved the consecutive chapters 'Why you should have children' and 'Why you shouldn't have children', with the former basically being, you know, 'I have children and I love them and they are really fab', but then the latter being 'women so need to catch up with men, and great as children are, they do tend to hold women back career-wise, and so there's nothing wrong with deciding not to have children and I'll even applaud you if you don't'. I thought this was wonderful- a truly balanced look at whether or not one should have children, with the ultimate conclusion not being some kind of prescriptive statement, but more a 'do whatever you want as long as it makes you happy.' In other words, perfection.

I don't agree with Caitlin Moran on everything though (and that's ok, and, you know, I don't think she expects anyone to either) and her love of Germaine Greer upsets me a bit, even though, as she says, there  are things that she doesn't agree with Germaine Greer on too, and in spite of that still holds her up as her feminist hero. Right now, Caitlin Moran is my feminist hero, and it's ok that I disagree with her on some things because I still love her anyway. (See what I did there?)

So did How To Be A Woman teach me how to be a woman? I kind of knew how to do that already, but I feel so enriched by reading this book that I feel like I can do it a lot better now! One of the main facets of the book is that, if everyone just had better manners, then we could all get along better, and there would be so many things that women wouldn't even have to think about, and I just think that's so true. I mean, sexual harassment? Bad manners. Commenting on things that are completely irrelevant to say, a work situation and that you'd never comment on with a man? Bad manners. Everyone just needs to learn themselves some manners, and we'd all be a lot better off. Moran, when there's a revolution, I'm so joining your army.

I feel like there's so much more I want to say about How To Be A Woman, but all my words are kind of inadequate. I know there are so many quotes from it that I loved but didn't write down because I read most of the book in a day's rush and I didn't want to stop because it's just that good. I do just want to give a shout out to Moran's sister Caz, who is utterly awesome and who I hope to be as cool as someday! You obviously now all need to read the book and we can discuss it and be all brilliant and feministy and, you know, take over the world. Until then though, please excuse me while I read the book again, before Frances has to snatch it back from my extremely possessive grip...


  1. You're the 4th person I've lent it to and I have 3 more people to lend it to! Then the revolution can begin!
    Caitlin Moran existing is the reason I know we aren't all doomed!...but I'm a bit worried I would end up licking her (or something equally weird)if I met her!

    x x
    P.s. when you read it, did you feel like you WERE her? or is that just what happens with me when I read anything sutobiographical?
    p.p.s what did you disagree with her on? apart from greer obvs?

  2. Funny feminist lit AND the Best.Thing.Ever? My TBR pile is growing

  3. Dude, I've been following Caitlin Moran on twitter for foreeevers because she and Emma Kennedy correspond so much. This is getting published in the US in May, and I'm totally getting it then.

  4. @Frances- There were many many many parts that were basically my life story, and then she got all high on ecstasy, and I was like 'Oh... never mind.' Also, I really can't think of any things I disagreed with her on now... I know it was just a few teeny things while I was reading, but on the big issues I'm basically on her side! Also, LOL, you would totally lick Moran! It would be AWESOME, and I hope I'm with you when it happens!

    @Red- READ IT! It's so so good. Apparently it's out in the US in May... hehe

    @Reading Rambo- I don't actually follow her on twitter! Which is ridiculous! And which I must rectify! She thanks her twitter army in the acknowledgements, and Grace Dent is one of those, so obviously I assumed you would LOVE her :)

  5. YOU DON'T FOLLOW HER?! You have missed so much hilarity :(

  6. I follow her now! And all is well :)

  7. I've been meaning to buy this for ages! Next time I see it, it's mine! Thanks for this :)

  8. I haven't seen this. It looks really good though. I've been enjoying some funny female non-fiction lately, so this is going on my wishlist as well.

  9. I really don't understand how anyone cannot find this young woman hilarious? And as for age being a factor, that's as ridiculous as claiming we shouldn't read Jane Austen, because she was young ... AND from a different century. Thank goddess for diversity of experience and viewpoints, it's exactly what keeps us tuned into the world beyond our own tiny side of life. Well done Caitlin, very much looking forward to more of your mirth raising gems.
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