How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

Wow, I really have no idea where to start with this. I highlighted so many things in this book that I can’t possibly tell you all of them.

In case you haven’t heard of this book that hit the stands with a bang this summer, here is a brief synopsis:

Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

I definitely recommend this book for anyone who considers themselves a feminist (hello, if you don’t you don’t know what the word actually means), and likes to laugh. If you don’t like to laugh, don’t read this book.

I’ll tell you just a few things and you can decide from that whether it’s for you or not:

  • I actually laughed out loud several times while reading this book. The I-can’t-help-it laugh out loud. (For reference: Though I adore her writing for SNL and 30 Rock, I did not laugh out loud at Tina Fey’s book, nor did I finish it. I suppose my expectations must have ruined it because I’m a loner in that one.)
  • So many of my own thoughts were validated in this book, but only in much, much funnier ways with better vocabulary. Her way of taking the everyday expectations that we put on ourselves as women (or are put on us by the cultures we live in) are crafted in such a way that you will keep exclaiming, “Yes! Spot on!” And you’ll find yourself using British wording and phrases even though you’re American.
  • I am in my element with a person who can talk about pubic hair, poop, childbirth, and the rest of it as easily as they can talk about sneezing. Moran does not even need to try to shock people, rather just talking honestly about what women do to hide their human-ness is shocking enough (and incredibly laugh worthy, because we’re all guilty of some of it – and it feels good to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all).

The only thing I didn’t  like was the part in which she basically said you weren’t a woman until you were a mother (which, to be fair, she fervently contradicts in the very next chapter; so I’m not sure what happened with the editing there). I find that thought incredibly insulting being someone who neither has children, knows if she can have children, nor if she ever will. And I also find it inaccurate; certainly there are women (and girls), who have born children, who are neither mature, intelligent, capable, nor evolved (and assuming that the delivery of a child creates the aforementioned characteristics is irresponsible, in my opinion). My feathers were, however, smoothed over a bit with her retraction of this in the very next part of the book.

Have you read this one? Are you planning on it? Remember when we first discussed it?

Still not sure? Read an excerpt here.

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18 thoughts on “How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

  1. I’m reading this one now. I heard her speak at the London book fair and was impressed with her sense of humor. I haven’t reached the motherhood chapter or comment yet. I’ll see how it comes across to me. so far, though, I’m enjoying it!

  2. As for the chapters about being a mother and not, she was giving both sides of the coin, I think. She was validating women’s choices to have kids or not (as feminism is about choice).

    I had some real laugh-out-loud moments reading this, too, and I also had a few major problems with it. Overall it’s a good book, but definitely not the next feminist manifesto.

    • I agree, that was her intention (to give both sides) but the way she stated that a female can’t be a woman without having given birth was pretty black and white (yet then she contradicted it in the next chapter). My Nook is charging right now, but I’ll try to find the exact line I’m thinking of so you can see what I mean. I was surprised that they didn’t edit it (just to make it flow better) after she completed her next chapter.

      I’m curious what parts you didn’t like. Do you have a review? Would love to read it.

  3. This has been on my list forever. I’d really love to get to it before the year ends! I’ve read such a range of reviews on this book that I can’t wait to see how I feel about it.

  4. Wallace, I thought I was the only one who was disappointed with Fey’s book – glad to know I’m in great company on that front ;) As for this book, I’ve read two reviews that were negative about it and as a result I don’t think I’ll be reading it. I’m a feminist and from what I’ve heard this book is far from being a feminist book – apparently she doesn’t know what it means to be a feminist and pretty much demonstrates that fact through this book. I’m glad you were able to get something from it, but I don’t think that I will.

    • No, there are a lot of people who didn’t like this book. I didn’t know that before reading, but once I mentioned that I had started I got that feedback.

      I haven’t read Germaine Greer, so I really can’t comment on a comparison, but I imagine it’s hard to compete with one of the most famous feminists, no?

  5. I read the excerpt you linked to. This part:
    “Show a girl a pioneering hero – Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker, Frida Kahlo, Cleopatra, Boudicca, Joan of Arc – and you also, more often than not, show a girl a woman who was eventually crushed. Your hard-won triumphs can be wholly negated if you live in a climate where your victories are seen as threatening, incorrect, distasteful, or – most crucially of all, for a teenage girl – simply uncool. Few girls would choose to be right – right, down into their clever, brilliant bones – but lonely.”
    It won me over. I plan on buying this immediately.

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