Review: How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran

Caitlin Moran’s How to Be A Woman has become a modern feminist classic

I can’t quite remember how I got hold of this book; it wasn’t a sequel that I had been waiting months for, so its purchase didn’t really register. What I do know is that, embarrassing as it is, I picked this book off the shelf in one of those moments of teenage angst. The title How to be a Woman was calling out to my younger self who felt like she needed this guide, otherwise she would get lost. We’ve all had those moments, boys and girls alike, where you wonder if you will ever lose your round face and chubby cheeks so that you look like a grown up. Although I picked it up for this daft reason, that wasn’t why I bought it. Like any lover of books, I always like to read the blurb of the book before I buy it- not so that I know I will enjoy it- but because I like to get excited about it before I read it. It’s like watching the trailer for a film, and I’m always the person in the cinema who wants to see every film advertised (so I’m not very picky about books either). However, Caitlin Moran’s blurb grabbed my attention straight away: I’m pretty sure it would have the same effect on anyone. I turned over the book to find this:

“It’s a good time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…..

Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should we use Botox? Do men secretly hate us? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?”

I was instantly intrigued. I had been asking myself these questions: all apart from the last one of course, although I will no doubt be asking myself this in years to come. In fact, the last question is one that any watcher of ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ would be familiar with. Personally the concept of Botox still perplexes me- all I can see is that you end up looking a bit like a fish posing for a selfie- but at least after reading this book I felt as if I wasn’t alone.

At this point, I was not a defined feminist but someone who, like a lot of people, was slightly confused about the concept. I liked the idea of female empowerment, and trust me I had been called woman and wench enough to last me a lifetime, but quite frankly I didn’t really feel like burning my bra or shouting at any guy who opened a door for me. There is a chapter in ‘How to be a Woman’ called ‘I am a feminist?’ and it deals with the issues surrounding the ever changing definitions and allegiances of the term. Moran talks you through her own experiences of feminism and makes the concept a whole lot simpler to understand. But it’s not just feminism that this book is helpful with; all of the other questions raised in the book were ones that I had also asked myself numerous times.

I can’t praise this book enough. It’s relatable, and interesting, and random, and intelligent, and one of the funniest things I have ever read. Honestly, after the first few lines I was in stitches. I found it so funny that I would follow my mum (and my dad) around the house reading pieces aloud. My pestering worked, because even my dad eventually agreed to read it!

As much as I would love to go through each chapter in detail, none of you would then go and read the book. So I will keep it brief… or at least fairly. Out of all the chapters I have one particular favourite, I Don’t Know What to Call My Breasts. I know, I know you don’t believe me, but trust me that is actually what the chapter is called. I did a double take when I first scanned the chapter list. This is my favourite one, not because of its intellectual merit or relateability (I don’t think that many people name their bits) but because it’s the funniest. Moran discusses the changes that the adolescent body goes through during puberty as if she was talking to a close friend. It is like a stand-up confessional. And the best part… it’s not uncomfortable to read. I usually find magazine articles about the female body excruciatingly awkward and I do the very conspicuous holding of the magazine in a tent around my head so that no one can see what I’m really reading thing. But with this, I felt perfectly at ease, if slightly embarrassed about laughing to myself. So if you take nothing from this review, which I really hope is not the case, at least go and pick up a copy so that you can form your own opinions. Trust me, you won’t regret it.

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