I've followed Caitlin Moran on twitter for a while. I didn't really know who she was, or what she did, but people often retweeted her and I found her amusing, so thought I'd follow as well. I've never read her column (we don't buy papers) and didn't know anything about her early career what with me being a foreigner and all. A lot of people were saying a lot of good things about How to be a Woman, and extracts I'd read had me nodding sagely, so I thought I'd give it a go.
I read one review which rather disparagingly said the book should be called "How to be Caitlin Moran". While I don't agree with the sentiment behind it, the reviewer was primarily right. This is a memoir first and foremost, but it also takes a modern look at feminist issues and makes the point that they are not just female issues, but human issues.
The book covers Moran's early life in Wolverhampton (just down the road from my current dwelling place). Quite a few of the stories of her adolescence hit quite close to home for me and I really felt for her as a 13 year old being chased by local bullies. It then skips to when she was living in London working for Melody Maker and follows through to her wedding and the birth of her children. Moran uses her own experiences to discuss such issues as weight, sex, self esteem, abortion, pornography and strip clubs.
As someone who has struggled with weight issues for many years (as my weightloss blog shows) I particularly related to Moran's thoughts about weight. She says that overeating is the carer's addiction of choice and this is why it particularly affects women. A woman who is unhappy but has to run the house and look after the children can't (in most cases) get steaming drunk and forget it all, but she can scoff a packet of Tim Tams in the car while waiting for the kids to get out of school.
I also found Moran's criteria for judging whether a behaviour or situation is sexist to be a revelation. "Are the men doing it?" and "Is it polite?" What fabulously simple questions to ask yourself when faced with a questionable behaviour. The latter also seems a fabulous way of dealing with inappropriate behaviour. Accusing someone of sexist behaviour will likely get you labelled a prude who can't handle workplace banter, but pointing out that someone is being impolite just may make them reconsider.
I found myself agreeing with most of Moran's ideas, and found all of them thought provoking. The reviewer I mentioned earlier is right, this book will not teach you how to be a woman, but it might just make you think about who you are as a woman (or man) and how you got to be that way.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm just going to stand on a table and declare myself a feminist.