How to Be a Woman

How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran I think it's pretty safe to say that this book wasn't written for me. Caitlin Moran's columns have always been a bit hit or miss for me but when she's on, she's a witty storyteller with some interesting points to make. She's no groundbreaking pantheon of feminist wisdom, but she's definitely a valuable, and often hilarious, ally. Her book was something I approached with hesitation since several published extracts had left me scratching my head, but with her upcoming scheduled appearance at the Edinburgh Book Festival and my hopes of getting press tickets to said event, I decided to do my research and see what was happening in her ambitiously titled book, already creating big buzz in the press as a new 'fun' type of feminism.Let's start with the positives. Moran's storytelling, while verging closely into column territory with its style, is witty, often heartwarming and very funny, especially when discussing her quirky family and upbringing. As a child, Moran couldn't stand the idea of being pitied, even in her own diary, so would be ridiculously happy when discussing the most mundane of things. Each chapter opens with an account from Moran's life, how it moulded her feminist opinions, then moves into a rambling, colloquial chat about issues Moran considers pressing for the feminist movement, although your mileage may vary on this front. Some parts, such as her discussion on abortion which includes her own experiences, are powerful and get to the true heart of the matter. I truly appreciated this chapter and Moran for spelling out what should be obvious to all - there is nothing wrong with choosing to have an abortion and sometimes it's the easiest decision a woman can make. However, most of the book just doesn't pack the same punch as this segment. I'm 21 and I've only really been seriously discussing my feminism for about 3 or 4 years. It's something I pride myself on in many ways and I love to read feminist literature, partake in debates and educate myself as much as I can on issues that are most pressing to the world's women. I've yet to meet a woman who thinks that coming up with a name for one's vagina is a pressing feminist issue. I understand that the tone of the book is chatty, jokey and often the opposite of serious, but such a topic felt out of place. Other topics that Moran discusses - pole dancing, weight, clothes, stilettos, casual misogyny - reveal no new observations or anything of true substance. The book tries to be both a memoir of sorts and a tome for the 21st century feminist but feels too general and rushed to truly be either. Moran frequently makes sweeping generalisations about men and women in order to make a point, which makes said points feel rather disingenuous. The colloquial style will definitely divide readers and I personally felt that the overuse of capslock, exclamation points and netspeak such as ENDOV and roflment were more of a distraction than anything else, something that's better suited to columns and tweets. Some points also left me asking questions - why is Lady Gaga a feminist symbol who controls her sexuality whilst doing near naked photo-shoots but the myriad of women who did it before her aren't? (It's worth noting, as Moran takes pride in doing, that Moran interviewed Gaga and said interview brought her much attention and acclaim.) Why do you think burlesque dancing is okay but pole dancing isn't? - and other parts coming close to fuming with anger - history has not proven men to be stronger with more achievements than women. Countless women were wiped from history because history is written by the victors! Nobody, female or otherwise, should be able to flirt their way to the top, that's disingenuous and further objectification/casual misogyny! Also, La Roux is a band, not a singer, and said singer, Elly Jackson, is not a lesbian like you said she was. A quick google would show that to you. Lastly, there was one thing that really bugged me, and it was these lines:(On her childhood cheery disposition: "I have all the joyful ebullience of a retard." [Page 5.](On burlesque dancing): "... it has a campy, tranny, fetish element to it." [Page 175.]These aren't the only casually distasteful and problematic jokes Moran makes but these two stood out in my mind as particularly offensive. Since Moran takes a lot of time to discuss the harmful nature of the word 'fat', one would think she'd understand the damaging power of the R word and such ableist/transphobic language. Overall, I'm sure there are many women who will love this book and I'm glad for them. While I vehemently disagree with Moran's assertion that feminism has ground to a halt (grassroots feminism has continued to make leaps and bounds behind the scenes), it is true that many modern women are cautious to label themselves as feminist when in reality it should be worn with a badge of pride. There's a lot to enjoy in Moran's book and some very funny moments but overall, it felt like a failed experiment to me, one that failed to scratch beyond the surface of modern day feminism in a way that would truly bring about the discussions we need. I'd heartily recommend Kat Banyard's "The Equality Illusion" for the starter feminist in need of guidance. Feminism doesn't need to be rock and roll, it's much better than that. EDIT: Downgraded to one star because the more I think about it, the more I realise how much this book, its blatant hypocrisies, the obvious yet un-addressed bias of the author, the lack of fact-checking and the entire "Vichy France with tits" joke piss me off. Yes, Moran, a glamour model is just like the government of France which collaborated with Axis powers during World War 2. It's also hysterically accurate to compare a boy's childish reaction to a piece of underwear to "like that Vietnamese kid covered in napalm.". Keep in mind that all this, on top of the use of the word "retard", is present in a book where Moran writes an otherwise accurate piece on the harmful and emotional power of words such as "fat". I don't care if my criticisms of this get labelled as being too PC or some crap like that. Frankly, I'd rather be PC than crack stupid false equivalences regarding a child screaming in agonising pain. I asked Moran about her use of the word "retard" in her book on more than one occasion on twitter. The result? She blocked me. Nice one.