Review published on April 17, 2012. Reviewed by Frances Moloney
Times columnist Caitlin Moran’s non-fiction début is part memoir, part modern feminist manifesto. It is a highly readable story of growing up and the rites of passage every woman experiences; periods, sex, bras and first loves, in the vein of An Education and Call the Midwife, and a call for a fifth wave of feminism, a period that Caitlin describes as being one where women and men don’t compete for superiority, but are simply ‘the guys’.
Moran references Greer’s The Female Eunuch and De Beauvoir’s The Second Sex alongside references to modern cultural icons such as Lady Gaga, Lauren Laverne and Sue Perkins. In fact we are living in a society with strong female voices, tweeters, newspaper columnists, radio presenters and TV celebrities, this is a new period of feminism, however lacklustre and disjointed. Moran agrees that although the media has its feminists, the cult of celebrity is damaging to females, with so much focus on looking good, the circles of shame perpetuated by gossip magazines are anti-feminism itself. Although this is a good time to be a woman, there is still progress to be made, and time for a new wave of feminism.
Moran’s remedy – just being normal and being confident in one’s normality. No you are not a super model, a brain surgeon or a film star, you are a normal human being with the constraints of child-birth, working, and a not so perfect figure. This is not an academic work of feminist doctrine, Moran takes us through the stages of her life; examining growing up in the 1970’s in Wolverhampton, her first bra, first period, first boyfriend on to moving to London, her first job, dating a rock star, getting married and having children. Each stage is examined with funny, heartwarming honesty, and is full of moments which will have the reader remembering similar incidents in their own life, the rites of passage are the same for all women everywhere.
Moran’s down to earth approach to womanhood, makes her instantly likable. It is fine to be just be normal, just one of the guys and not agonise over what bikini wax is in fashion and what designer bag you should be lusting over. Her general verdict is if the men aren’t doing it, it is probably not something you need to be doing, and therefore sexist, patriarchal and chauvinistic. Women spend years trying to be normal, to work out how to be perfect, when they should be accepting who they really are.
Although Moran’s arguments are far from polished, and she doesn’t come up with a clear answer to her own hypothesis, How To Be a Woman is a hilarious, heart warming and insightful look at the plight of women today.
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