Title: How To Be A Woman
Author: Caitlin Moran
Outline: How To Be A Woman is a memoir of Caitlin Moran’s life. This is a feminist novel, with Moran calling for us ‘strident feminists’ to tackle everyday sexism, while attempting to inspire the normalisation of the female body – Chapter 1 is entitled ‘I Start Bleeding!’ and Chapter 2 is ‘I Become Furry!’; there is something about this which makes puberty sound like the gaining of superpowers. It documents the trails and tribulations of Moran’s life, with her reflections on the most significant points. Her first awareness of sexism is mentioned alongside her wedding, the traumatic labour of her first child, and her equally (if not more) traumatic abortion. The parts I could relate to were empowering, and the parts about things I haven’t experienced were fascinating. It’s definitely angry, but funny, and cleverly written.
Highlights: Everything Moran writes is unapologetic, which I love. To write about herself in this way is nothing if it’s not inspiring, empowering, refreshing. It’s narcissistic to state that I enjoyed the parts I agreed with, but it’s true; these were scattered among the hilarious anecdotes and well-written arguments about the reality of sexism in our society. The chapter about abortion left me truly shocked because as a subject it is never talked about. To expose something so common and secret so honestly was definitely the highlight of this novel.
Why I Read It: I knew of Caitlin Moran as a figure in modern feminism, with a name like mine but pronounced incorrectly. It wasn’t until I stumbled across How To Build A Girl in Waterstones when I began to understand that Caitlin Moran is, and writes about, so much more. I adored How To Build A Girl more than I can articulate, which spured an instinct in me to read everything she has ever written. Since I am not prepared to pay for a subscription to The Times, I scoured the Waterstones website during the Black Friday sales. I read the majority of How To Be A Woman on a train, laughing obnoxiously every now and again and annoying the strangers across from me. But I don’t love How To Be A Woman as much as I love How To Build A Girl.
Rating: 7/10. As an introduction to feminist ideals, How To Be A Woman is a pretty good book. But I didn’t agree with a lot of the views expressed by Moran, and it upsets me. It is very hetero- and cisnormative, which has been the norm for feminist ideals for far too long. It also dedicates an entire chapter to the problem Moran has with Katie Price – I mean, the arguments she holds are viable, it just comes across as quite catty. Obviously the book has profound moments, with ideas that genuinely made me think; but my problem is that it’s not perfect, and at the same time I don’t know why I expected it to be.
It is definitely worth a read.
Words by Caitlin O’Connor