How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

This book is full of swearing.
This book references the female body and things that women experience,
both internally and externally.
Everything from puberty, to child birth, to sexism is discussed.
If you are sensitive to harsh language, I am sorry.
If you know that any of this will offend you, do not bother.
Any hateful comments will be deleted and the user will be blocked.

For the month of April, Emma Watson chose How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran for the feminist book club Our Shared Shelf. I joined the group for a few reasons. I have always been a fan of Emma, not only as an actress, but as a human. The work she does outside of acting is an inspiration for me, and because she is only a year older than me, it makes me feel like I can accomplish just as much. Secondly, one of my goals this year was to read more books that I wouldn't usually read, and although I do identify with feminism, I hadn't read many books that I would classify as such. This group provides me the opportunity to learn about something that means a lot to me, while expanding my reading genres. Lastly,  I love reading.

Although I am still working on last months book (there's been too many other things I really wanted to read) I bought this one on Audible so I could listen to it. Although I do own a copy of the book, it has been sitting on my shelf for about 7 months unread, and the version on Audible is read by Caitlin, and I always love when the authors read their books, it's so much more personal.

I don't do this with most books, but before I started this one, I wanted to know what I was getting into because I had heard such a mix of reviews on how it was either the best thing ever read or the worst. Although most feminists believe in equal rights for men and women, and empowering women to do what makes them comfortable, there are feminists who believe women are the superior race. These feminists are often referred to as feminazi. Their radical thoughts are something I really can't get behind and often time, it makes me really angry. And the last thing I want to do when I'm reading is get angry.

So I turned to Goodreads reviews to find out what people were saying. I always read the reviews of people who I'm friends with first, because I know them and their reading style, so it gives me a good feel of the book. I didn't have too many friends who had read it, but the ones who did did not have very nice things to say. Words like "derogatory," "could not relate," "offensive," and the dreaded word "feminazi." The reviews of people I am not friends with were even worse. Yes, there are many good reviews and I read those too, but they just referred to how it was "funny" and "made good points." They didn't go into what the good points were, what if we have different opinions of what a good point is?!

Next, I turned to the Our Shared Shelf page. Although it's early in the month, I knew there had to be some discussion on the book. Luckily, there was. I read through a couple, but wasn't finding what I wanted, they were just people asking about swapping the book, people wanting to get together, no real discussions. Then I clicked on one titled "White Perspective?" Here we go! The person who wrote the post had said that she was enjoying the book so far, but people have told her that it is from a very white perspective and doesn't include transgender. These were my fears of the book and this wonderful person was asking them for me!

People had already replied to it, but the first few replies were all I needed. One reply from a Moderator said that although part of it had put them off a little, they knew they were reading a book that was from the perspective of "the life experiences of a white, cisgender, heterosexual English woman." Which to me make sense. You can't expect a person who identifies under all of those labels to talk about experiences from a different label, unless a person who identifies that way is telling them what to write. So that eased that worry. Down a few more replies, a person said that Moran quotes Germaine Greer's work frequently, and Greer is a known transphobic. Although the person said that they wished Moran wouldn't put Greer on a pedestal, another person responded to this by quoting the book: "Germaine Greer, my heroine, is crackers on the subject of transgender issues!" (p. 13) Now I'm thinking, "Well, she might mention her a lot, but at least she doesn't agree with everything the woman has to say." The person who quoted the book also gave me the final nugget I needed to ease my mind. They said that although many people read the book as a feminist manifesto, they were reading it as a memoir with feminism undertones. "Okay, I can do that, I can read the book." Finally feeling confident in the book, I dove into it, and I am so glad that I did!

The prologue starts on Moran's 13th birthday where some Yobs are chasing her and throwing rocks at her.

Side note: Yob is a rude, noisy young man.
Although I was able to figure that out through subtext, there were a few words I looked up to clarify.
This taking place across the pond and there is a different vocab.

She runs home to cry and has a conversation with dog. Once she is finished, she is back to being positive and excited for her birthday, only to find out that her mom says she is too old for birthday cake, so she has made her a birthday baguette filled with Philadelphia with only 7 candles. Despite the non-birthdayness of it, she enjoys it. She spends the night writing in her diary. Her entries are things all too familiar to my old diary entries. Bad habits I wished to stop, goals I would love to accomplish, how by the time I was grown up, I would be thin and pretty and everyone would love me. My heart broke for 13 year old Caitlin and 13 year old Kelsey. "I hope any children in the future do not have similar diary entries," I think. Afterwards, it goes into the things she has figured out from that birthday on and then into the bulk of the book.

The chapter titles were one of my favorite things about the book. "I Start Bleeding!" and "I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!" I mean, yeah, they tell you exactly what you're about to read, but they also provide you with a little laugh. Not all of them though, There are some somber chapters, which as hard as they are to read, emotion wise, they help to balance the tone of the book.

Many of the early chapters I related to easily, as they were things that all women go through at some point. Later chapters, I couldn't relate to the same way because I haven't been married or had children, but that didn't stop them from being entertaining and give me something to think about. In the first chapter after getting her period for the first time, she make the comment that she didn't think it would happen to her, I thought, "You mean I'm not the only one?!" As girls, we are told about puberty a good long time before it happens, but when I first got mine, it was just like, "Well, I wasn't really expecting that."

In "I Don't Know What to Call My Breasts!" I found myself offended for the first time. Moran is talking about names for her vagina, all the different names her and her sister have called it over the years. She has finally resolved that she has a cunt.

That word right there was what I found offensive. I hate that word. If someone calls me or someone else that, they are insulting me in the worst way possible. If I hear someone use that word, I immediately lose respect for them. Simply put, them is fighting words...erm, word. Once I have picked my jaw off the ground, I continue with the book. Her explanation of why she has chosen that word helps me not throw the book out of the window and stop listening to Audible.

"I, personally, have a cunt. Sometimes it's a 'flaps' or 'twat,' but , most of the time, it's my cunt. Cunt is a proper, old, historic, strong word. I like that my fire escape also doubles up as the most potent swear word in the English language. Yeah. That's how powerful it is guys. If I tell you what I've got down there, old ladies and clerics might faint. I like how shocked people are when you say 'cunt.' It's like I have a nuclear bomb in my under pants or a mad tiger, or a gun...In a culture where nearly everything female is still seen as squeam-inducing and/or weak-menstruation, menopause, just the sheer, simple act of calling some 'a girl'-I love that 'cunt' stands, on its own, as the supreme, unvanquishable word. It has almost mystic resonance." (pp. 57-58)

Well, when you put it like that, why isn't everyone calling it that?! Am I going to start calling my lady bits a cunt, no. But can I fault her for calling hers that when that is her reasoning, no. I am now able to move past this and continue reading without the need to yell.

The chapter "Why You Shouldn't Have Children" resonated with me the most. As I have gotten older, my want for children has diminished. I can remember being 5 years old and thinking "I am going to have 3 kids because that's how many mommie and daddy have and they're happy." to a 5 year old, that is perfect logic. Then I learn where babies really come from (hint: it's not the stork), and I begin to think, do I really want to push three babies out of there? I decide that two would suffice. But then I keep getting older (I'm working on a way to stop this that doesn't include dying) and I watch my nieces age, the oldest one specifically, and all the things she goes through as a teen in today's world. I read articles about bullying in schools, or about the cost of how much it is to raise a kid in today's society (forget what it will cost by the time I actually have kids). All of a sudden, I'm think "I don't think I can do this." I see my friends who have kids and watch what they do. Mostly, they're all wonderful parents and they handle the different situations brilliantly, but how do I do it? To my knowledge, no one yet has made a book on how to be a perfect parent for all 92 million possible child personalities and situations you might deal with. Also, part of me is selfish. I want to travel, I want to eventually get a Ph.D., and I want to have a life. Is it possible to do these things with kids, yes, I know people who have done it. But how do I know that I can do it and still be happy at the end? That is an answer I can't get until I actually have a kid and that scares the hell out of me.

In this chapter, Moran touches on things I've been told many times when I tell people I don't know if I want kids.

"Women, it is presumed, will always end up having babies. They might go through silly, adolescent phases of pretending that it's something they have no interest in-but, when push comes to shove, womanhood is a cul-de-sac that ends in Babies "R" Us, and that's the end of that. All women love babies-just like all women love Manolo Blahnik shoes and George Clooney. Even the ones who wear nothing but sneakers, or are lesbians, and really hate shoes, and George Clooney." (p. 230)

I have been told that I'm being silly, that I don't know what I'm missing, that I'll change my mind when I meet the right man. But what if Mr. Right doesn't want kids? And I don't hate kids either, I love kids, I love other peoples kids, where the only responsibility is to spoil them and not injure them while they're in my care. I haven't completely shut the door to kids, but honestly, I don't know if I want one, and if I do, I don't want more than one for the aforementioned reasons and many more. I did not come to this decision over night. I have been thinking about kids as early as the age of 5, possibly earlier. Seeing Moran word what I feel so perfectly made me feel better about my decision. And for those who haven't read the book or know who Caitlin Moran is, she does have two children. She is writing this as a bash at people who have kids and has no clue what parenthood is about.

Caitlin with her daughter, Eavie.
There were chapters I didn't enjoy as much, like "Role Models and What We Do with Them" and "Intervention." Not that there was anything I totally disagreed with, they just weren't chapters that shone as brightly compared to ones I enjoyed more. But the entire book was extremely well written and is full of funny antidotes that I related to anywhere from "I get that" to "Oh my god is she quoting parts of my life?!" (Like the chapter "I Am in Love!). I am so glad that I have finally read this book, and I feel more secure in calling myself a feminist and that I am a better read person.

Rating: 8/10
Pages: 301
Genre(s): Non-Fiction, Feminism, Memoir
Would I Recommend It: Yes! As long as I know the person will understand her sense of humor.


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