How to be a Woman ~ Caitlin Moran
A lot of reviews of books will talk about how much they impacted the reviewer, and how they changed their lives, etc. And, I’m sure for many, How to be a Woman could be that book. Personally, however, though it didn’t really revolutionise my way of thinking or make me a different person, there is no book that has affected me more than this one. In that very base, emotional way that, for example, certain songs will move me from the opening bars, just a few paragraphs of How To take me to a place of complete, if bittersweet, contentment. It kind of makes me wish that every household I visit didn’t have a copy on the shelf these days. Batman: Arkham Asylum and How To Be A Woman are the symbols of what was possibly one of the best weeks of my life, and both of them, while fantastic in their own right, are so much more important to me because of it. Which is why I decided to make Caitlin* my first reviewee.
My only experience previous to buying this book was Caitlin’s Twitter feed, and in a way, that was a decent preview – her tone is very chatty, and the subjects ping from the serious to the whimsical within pages. The “part-memoir, part-rant” style advertised on the back of the book seems like it shouldn’t work, but through a combination of her tone, and having lived a life that I could read about forever, she pulls it off easily. This makes her points about feminism slip into the narration quite neatly, and demonstrates the everyday application of it, which seems to be the main idea of the book. And while the book is largely comedic – with many genuine laugh-out-loud moments** – some of the anecdotes, especially the late chapters on motherhood and abortion, are both beautifully written and quite harrowing.
Part of this is down to her complete honesty. You genuinely come out of the book feeling she is your friend, such is her openness. Nothing is spared, from her first period to her first time masturbating, to a quite terrifying labour, and the book is so much the better for it.
On a feminist level, I tend to broadly agree with what Caitlin says. The Internet seems to have an obsession with the mythical figure of the man-hating feminist; she is about as far away from it as can be. If anything, even as a man, I felt she went a bit easy on us. In fact, the one point I disagreed on was one about the lack of a female presence in human history and culture up to recently, which she answered in a way that seemed a tad dismissive and out-of-kilter with the rest of the book, even.
Finally, I feel I have to mention it just to show off, and it isn’t really to do with the book, but more of a reason to worship Caitlin all the more. I went to get The Ex’s copy signed for her – long story – and was dared to ask Caitlin to marry me. The result?
*Me and The Ex started referring to both Caitlin Moran and her book as Caitlin quite early on. It’s impossible not to feel like her friend, really.
**It felt dirty typing this