How to Be a Woman am Book 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 story
How to Be a Woman am Book 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. . 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 Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations oThough 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 Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women s lives with laugh out loud funny scenes from her own, from adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.. Popular Books How to Be a Woman You know what? Since there are so many four and five star reviews hanging around for this, I will serve a proper review to show why I absolutely could not stand this book. Moran is a sporadically talented writer -- maybe it deserved 2/2.5 stars in the writing stakes. However, I did something I almost never do: I rated this book intellectually. As a memoir, it succeeded (almost) brilliantly -- her recollection of her wedding had me in absolute stitches and makes me laugh every time I reread it (yes, I've reread it - multiple times); I liked that she wasn't some middle/upper-class Oxbridge girl, as most of the Times writers seem to be. It was really refreshing to read about her life. That being said, her writer belied her teen-author roots. Listen to me, guys. I'm a 17-year-old aspiring writer. Hannah Moskowitz is one of my favourite authors and MANY OTHER YOUNG ADULT AUTHORS DESERVE THEIR RESOUNDING SUCCESS. (This is in Caps not because I am trying some postmodern thing, emulating Caitlin Moran, but because the antithesis of this point makes me grind my teeth in fury.) I do not believe in any of this "oh you shouldn't be published if you're a teenager" and "everything teenagers write is crap" bullshit. No. It's about the writing and good writing is good writing, regardless of who the author is or how old they are. However, I feel that good books by teenage authors should either belie their early starts (e.g. Invincible Summer) or use all that amped-up hyper-realistic teen experience as their biggest advantage (e.g. Break). Caitlin Moran lacked depth or objectiveness. When you are trying to write a book about feminism, I think that the most you need to be is objective to the max. Caitlin Moran is not. She has the over-eager, juvenile, puerile, irritating narrative voice of someone who is convinced of their opinion despite not having a) real evidence to back it up or b) a real understanding of the opposing viewpoint. There is no real reflection or evaluation. Her opinions can just be summarised as, "I believe this because I believe that X is awesome."This was most painfully obvious during her segment on Lady GaGa. I like Lady GaGa. She appears to have a feminist standpoint and that is very, very good. In my opinion, she's not a "feminist symbol" by any stretch of the imaginaiton. Although Moran could easily have made the case that she was; what irritated me most of all was that Moran's analysis of GaGa never went beyond a giggly teenage girl with an idol, who thinks that said idol is awesome and so has no real sense of evaluation. She calls Lady GaGa her "idol" and refers to an intimate (not sexually intimate, guys, don't go there) experience with GaGa in a sex club. She reminded me a lot of that girl who gets taken for a whirlwind with the rich popular girl and comes back down to earth starry-eyed, completely refusing to hear a bad thing about her "idol."The most jarring thing for me was the way that Moran backed up all her hyperbolising with one anecdote: that GaGa refused to do an album shoot while "down in the sand touching herself." (I'm paraphrasing. I don't have a copy of the book to hand.) Is that feminist? Yes, she refused to be objectified on her body. But with one Google search I turn up a picture of GaGa circa Telephone, with Beyonce, wearing nothing but what looks like some leather straps and leather boots, arms hiding the gory bits but with no doubt that GaGa is, at the very least, 98% naked. She's not quite "down in the sand touching herself" - but she's not far off. Ditto the lesbian kisses in the Telephone video. (It should be noted that I consider it everyone's right to be whatever the hell they want and with whoever the hell they want.) The point is that this wasn't done to show a lesbian relationship - for God's sake, they're in an all-women prison because GaGa's character poisoned her boyfriend. Not exactly the most positive portrayal of lesbianism, which makes the kiss (and the provocative dancing in barely-there underwear) more obvious titillation.The worst example of this in the book is Germaine Greer. However, this is me ranting emotionally. I cannot stand Germaine Greer. Let's leave at that, shall we?I just found all of Moran's arguments totally one-sided, narrow-minded and slightly creepy for their complete inability to take the full picture into account. Another example of this was her burlesque vs. stripping argument -- I know next to nothing abou either, but I would be very surprised if burlesque was made "for women by women" as Moran claims to state. What was most mind-boggling about this book, though, was Moran's inability to accept her own quirkiness. I really hate the word "quirky", but there is no other way to describe it. For instance, her father said to her 'Remember you're a Womble' before walking her down the aisle (and oh, how I laughed). Her mum yelled out about her pubic hair in front of her father and her various mixed-sex siblings. I don't think that 'normal' really exists - but I do think that Moran has particularly unique experiences which she undermines by behaving as though they are commonplace. I've never known a single woman who has named her vagina or her breasts. That being said, I am, as I said above, seventeen. I'm aware that this might be a problem I run into later in life, when I might actually have to address either of those two anatomatical areas rather than just avoiding them altogether. But Moran presents all of this stuff as totally normal. Yes, all women have weird names for their vaginas! Yes, all women have weird names for their breasts! But Moran has a whole Twitter community to back her up on those things! However -- I would bet that most of the women who replied were the ones who ran into this problem (as Moran herself obviously has). It seems that on Twitter, if you don't have anything to add, you don't SAY that you have nothing to add. You just don't add anything. I would be very surprised if Moran received many tweets that could be summarised as "lol what" or "no I don't do that shit", and equally if the Tweeters who replied to her made up any more than a minority of the female British population. ETA: also, I was having a quick look at the Quotes page on our very own Goodreads, and I could not help but see this:"If you want to know what's in motherhood for you, as a woman, then - in truth - it's nothing you couldn't get from, say, reading the 100 greatest books in human history; learning a foreign language well enough to argue in it; climbing hills; loving recklessly; sitting quietly, alone, in the dawn; drinking whisky with revolutionaries; learning to do close-hand magic; swimming in a river in winter; growing foxgloves, peas and roses; calling your mum; singing while you walk; being polite; and always, always helping strangers. No one has ever claimed for a moment that childless men have missed out on a vital aspect of their existence, and were the poorer, and crippled by it." (Note: I believe that both men and women have a right to have or not have children and that women without children should not be treated as emotional cripples for it. Although I do actually feel as though Moran short-changed the joy of having children, but maybe that's what you get for being raised by a mother who was, by her own admission, absolutely desperate to have them.) But am I the only one who sees the problem with this quote? She says that "Nothing [in motherhood] is something you couldn't get from...calling your mum." I didn't notice this when I read it (I don't read that closely, dudes), but seriously? Moran has just used evidence of a would-be mother's mother/child relationship (with her own mother) as a reason why you shouldn't have children? My opinion: seriously faulty analysis. If ringing your own mother gives you such happiness, why wouldn't you want to pass that on? (God, now I sound like someone who is advocating the "all women must have babies" stance. I'm just making the point that I don't think Moran is helping her case here. Even where Moran cannot really be faulted on her analysis, such as in weddings or in her "Why You Should/Shouldn't Have Children" sections (although I was pissed that "Why You Should Have Children" seemed to revolve almost totally around her own experiences of childbirth), it is not the revolutionary piece of literature the back blurb hails. It's very blah, very typical. Nothing you couldn't see every other day in one magazine or another. She even presents stuff that seem to be part of accepted culture, like the fact that weddings cost too much for too little, as though she is the first person ever to have thought of them. Even during the "Why You Should/Shouldn't Have Children" sections, I found myself saying, "Well, *I* could have told you that!" And as a seventeen-year-old who has never been pregnant or even babysat a child, I'm pretty sure that shows how stale, pathetic and shallow most of Moran's supposedly "fresh" insight was.In short, this long, vitriolic review can be summed up in one letter:Dear Caitlin Moran,Please do not let anyone market your book as "The Female Eunuch" if it is, in fact, a pretty good memoir hiding behind some stereotypically teenage-standard analysis.Thank you.
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