If you only read one book this year make sure it’s Caitlin Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman.’ I have to be honest the title put me off at first. I didn’t get the inherent irony. I didn’t want to be told how I should behave, what I should wear or how I should dance like most other media forums are telling girls are women are telling us how to act and have been for centuries. I was sick of being told what to do.
Then I got bought it for Christmas. And it made me laugh from page one.
Moran manages to do the impossible: reclaim the unmentionable ‘F’ word, make it accessible to a whole generation who are confused by its meaning, associating it with women who hate men with crap clothes and crazy ideas. She even manages to discuss a fifth wave of feminism and simplify ideas, which have been made too complex for your average person to understand. The problem with previous waves of feminism is that it sees women as the only victims. And that is simply not true.
Men shouldn’t run from Moran. She even credits her husband as the feminist who taught her the most. She makes the point that misogyny hurts men and women alike, boys and girls. The porn industry damages boys as well as girls, a fact, which a lot of previous hard-core feminists had dismissed. She points out that these days – many teenagers, even children build up their awareness of sex through the Internet and porn. So ,if an 8 year old boy views the kind of porn that is out there currently at the moment this will be as damaging to him as it would be to an 8 year old girl. Instead of (unrealistically) wanting porn to be banished completely, she argues for a more balanced, democratic porn industry where women are not just objects, where they too can be shown experiencing sexual pleasure. She screams at the end of Chapter one ‘I AM NOW A 35 YEAR-OLD WOMAN , AND I JUST WANT A MULTI-BILLION-DOLLAR INTERNATIONAL PORN INDUSTRY WHERE I CAN SEE A WOMAN COME. I just want to see a good time.’
She simplifies terms that confuse and trouble both sexes: ‘What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.’ Feminism is democratic and should exclude nobody.
Her way to judge whether ‘some sexual bullshit is afoot’ is to ask herself ‘are the men doing it?’ Often the answer is no.
We claim things are getting more equal but take the current series of Celebrity Big Brother – most of the women in there have had some kind of plastic surgery, have made their money from having affairs with footballers or getting their boobs out. The majority of them are in their 20s, unlike the men. It seems strange that the men are older, famous for things other than getting their kit off. The lack of positive female role models is worrying. But as Moran states, we can change the status quo by not buying in to it, by refusing to be dictated to by the media.
And if none of that rocks your boat then the chapter where she gets pissed with Gaga in a German sex bar will. Honestly, what more could you want from a book?!
Moran’s ‘How to be a Woman’ recently won the Galaxy readers’ award and is out now.