Amy Reads Books

How to Be a Woman

How to Be a Woman - Caitlin Moran I love Caitlin Moran. Her Twitter feed frequently makes me laugh and her Times columns are pretty much the only thing that I miss now that there's a paywall up. So when I heard that a) she'd written a book and b) it was kind of about feminism, I was definitely buying it.The book starts with Moran being 13 and turning up to her house, which she shares with numerous siblings, having had rocks thrown at her and blowing out the candles on a birthday baguette. Each chapter generally begins with an anecdote about her own experiences and then goes on to address each 'issue'-abortion, brazilians, lapdancing, dieting etc-as a whole. One of the most interesting things that she does is to argue that you have to attack the little issues; following a 'Broken Windows' theory; that if the small issues don't get tackled then it will lead to bigger problems. This is certainly an interesting idea; and makes feminism more accessible than perhaps those who talk about issues that are still hugely important and relevant; but that do not really affect everyday women.In general, I really enjoyed the book. Moran has an amusing tone throughout; and reading about her own experiences as a poor young woman stood in direct contrast with a lot of feminist material that I've read, that generally is written by well-educated and generally well-off women. She defines feminism as pretty much 'wanting to be in control of your vagina' and to think of humankind as being 'The Guys'; a big group of people who should also just get along and be generally polite to each other. Her way of working out whether or not something is generally sexist is to think whether men are either doing or are bothered by this; if not then it's probably some form of barrier that is aimed solely at women.Her musings on lapdancing clubs were great; having recently read an article basically saying that the new Playboy bunnies at the new Playboy Club in London are 'empowered' women; it was great to see a journalist pointing out that no, lapdancing is no empowering. It was also really interesting to read about her own experience with abortion-something that must have taken considerable bravery to include, due to the fact that her abortion would be classified by a lot of people as the 'wrong' type.There were, however, also times when I disagreed with what she had to say. For instance, arguing that women's issues have come from being 'losers' throughout history; from the fact that women never had a Gandhi. However, she doesn't address why this is the case; she seems to ignore that the fact that women have been 'losers' is because they never had the opportunity to become, to borrow a phrase from Charlie Sheen, 'winners'. Also, whilst I liked that she shunned the idea of Katie Price being a female role model, her lauding of Lady Gaga seemed a little strange. Earlier in the chapter she'd commented on how awful it was that numerous young, female artists were achieving huge success very young, and then burning out due to too much pressure. Then she proceeds to celebrate how successful Lady Gaga has become at the age of just 24; suggesting that she is better than Madonna because Madonna wasn't famous at that age. I think I may also be one of the few people who doesn't think she's particularly a beacon of feminism either; it's great that she campaigns for equal rights and that she uses her massive fanbase for good, but when I see her dressed in leather and not much else I don't think "Wow! She's doing that for the great big sisterhood! She's snogging Beyonce to stick it to the patriarchy". Sure, she rejected a sexy cover art for her album; but faux lesbianism (between her and Beyonce; apparently she herself is bisexual) isn't a feminist statement. At least, I doubt the men watching the pop video wouldn't see it that way.Despite my objections to some of Moran's ideas, I enjoyed this book far too much to give it a low rating. Whilst there were some parts of the book that didn't really impact me; I've never considered what to name my boobs and I'm not fat (I do kind of wish that Moran had also explored the negativity received by girls who are naturally skinny; but no matter), they were still entertaining to read. The best bit about all this, is that a book that deals with women's issues and isn't afraid to talk about feminism is getting so much publicity and that so many people love it. Because that can only be good for the whole movement of feminism.