How To Be A Woman

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Ebury Press, 2012

Cover of Caitlin Moran's How To Be A Woman

I picked this up second-hand, hence the lovely beard and glasses additions!

And what these results tell us is that there is scarcely a woman in Britain wearing a pair of pants that actually fit her. Instead of having something that, sensibly and reassuringly, contains both the buttocks – what I would call a good pair of pants – they’re wearing little more than gluteal accessories, or arse-trinkets.

This. Is. Hilarious.

The book follows Caitlin as she works her way through the minefields of puberty (periods, hair removal, masturbation, bras) and adulthood (sexism, weddings, fashion, children, role models, abortion). No stone is left unturned. Excruciating details from her experiences are laid bare, which I have to admire as someone who can relate to many of them but wouldn’t have dared to tell one close friend, never mind publish widely.

Even my other half enjoyed reading it over my shoulder on a flight; he was giggling as much as I was. And he almost exclusively only reads sci fi/fantasy.

What I loved about it was how much I related to it. My childhood was quite different to Moran’s, yet the themes still resonated strongly with me, in a way that made me laugh. A sure-fire way to my heart.

Referring to herself as a ‘strident feminist’, I agreed with her on almost all points: women’s underwear is stupidly uncomfortable. High heels are not for me. Big expensive weddings are insane. Women should have the right to choose to have an abortion, to have children, to not have children – all without being judged.

A new (to me) perspective on eating disorders was presented. Whether eating too much or not enough, people with eating disorders are looked down on more than people with drug or alcohol addictions. Moran imagines if Keith Richards had overindulged in food instead of alcohol and drugs, remaining punctual, polite and hard-working throughout all the years of the Stones. You get all the temporary release of drinking, fucking or taking drugs, [from overeating] but without – and I think this is the important bit – ever being left in a state where you can’t remain responsible and cogent. She determines he would have been derided as fat and ‘not rock ‘n’ roll’ instead of considered the legend he is today.

Points I didn’t agree on were bitching and her rule for determining if something is sexist: ‘Are the men doing it?’ – it just didn’t sit right with me. I can see how it’s useful in certain instances, and she does state it’s ‘not 100% infallible’, but ultimately a woman’s choices should not be tied to what men do or don’t do. Plus, isn’t it patriarchy that oppresses women? That’s something that men do (not all men, obviously). I definitely don’t think women should do that. We’re all humans. Can’t we all just get along??!

That aside, I adored this book. And I think it’s essential reading for any person, to find out what women deal with and for women to realise it’s ok to screw up, and it’s ok just to be yourself, warts and all.

Note: I’m excited to see that the brilliant Robert Webb has a new book out which appears to be the male equivalent of this book: How Not To Be A Boy.

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