Title: How to Be a Woman
Author: Caitlin Moran
Publisher: Harper Perenial, 2012
Rating: 5 stars
It’s easy to pick out the reasons why you don’t like a book, but when you love a book all the reasons come out like “well, it just spoke to me,” which is completely subjective and unhelpful. That said, How to Be a Woman spoke to me in a way that I haven’t encountered ever before. Let me try to explain…
How to Be a Woman is Caitlin Moran’s feminist manifesto. She tells us about hitting puberty, about discovering her sexuality, about her early career, about having kids and having an abortion, and about the books she read and all of the people in her life who have taught her about feminism. Basically its her story of how she came to understand feminism and how that understanding affects her life.
This book is fascinating. I feel like she articulates all of the thoughts I’ve had about being a woman and she touches on subjects that I haven’t really thought about at all. Plus, she’s super entertaining! From anecdotes about strip clubs to falling in love, Moran made me laugh on just about every page. Her sense of humor helps lighten this sometimes heavy material.
Here are the two major points that I think are important to take away from this book:
- If you have a vagina, then you are a feminist. Stop trying to fight it! Feminism is NOT a bad thing. If you’re a woman, it means you care what happens to you as a person. If you’re a man, it means you care what happens to the women of the world. Feminism does not equal man hating or bra burning, it just means that you love and respect women/yourself.
- If you think something is sexist ask yourself “Are the guys doing it?” If girls are doing it and guys aren’t, then it’s probably sexist (re: burkas).
Moran is British—thus, there were some words and cultural references that went over my head—but all in all this didn’t matter so much. I think her editor could have cleaned up some of the run-ons and confusingly phrased sentences, but the material was so engrossing that these didn’t detract from the whole enough to knock this down to a 4 star. How to Be a Woman is a must read for all women (and men), but especially 20-somethings. Read it! Trust me, you’ll be glad you did :)
PS. I read this right before reading The Average American Male, but I’ve waited to write about it because I struggle to write objectively about things that I love. These two books are polar opposites. One non-fiction and the other fiction. One feminist and the other misogynistic. One hopeful and the other un-redeeming.
The more I think about The Average American Male in terms of Caitlin Moran’s definition of feminism, the more I dislike it. I know that puts me in danger of not having a sense of humor and/or being up-tight, but I frankly don’t care. When a book features a character who is an asshole just for the sake of being an asshole, it’s not something to put on a pedestal. The Average American Male is one of those cultural manifestations of dickheadedness that, when taken seriously, sets heterosexual relationships (and feminism) back years.