How To Be A (kind of) Woman

I’m not the biggest Caitlin Moran fan in the world, this is born mostly out of jealously; she always reminded me of that girl you went to school with, you know, you went to her house for tea a couple of times, and she was nice and everything, but wasn’t you, and you find her fifteen years later on faceache and she’s somehow phenomenally successful, and married, and owns her own home, and is pregnant, the bitch, whilst your counting down the twelve days till payday, living in rented hell and eating whatever got Whoopsed that week.

She is, however, very very funny, and current, and it therefore may come as some surprise that I only read the talk-of-the-twitter-summer-best-seller How To Be A Woman this week. These are for two reasons a)The above named jealously issue prevents me from getting behind any bandwagon that supports a woman twenty times more successful than I shall ever hope to be without my coming out in HIVES and b)I was, rather egotistically, awaiting my review copy.
In the end, however, I found the book in my good friend and fellow Tudor feminist admirer R’s bathroom, and promptly nicked it. And I’m very glad I did.

It took me two days, on the bus, though I have to admit skimming vast chunks (the bit on fashion especially as it was in no way Relevant To My Interests-I’m the sort of person who thinks £25 for a handbag is excessive; the handbag I’m currently using I rescued from a mate’s charity shop clear out, and my ‘going out’ handbag cost me £15.99 in TXMaxx in 2002.) Parts I found extraordinary-the chapters on giving birth and abortion were poignant and heart wrenching, I found myself nodding my head in agreement especially to her assertion there is an ‘abortion hierarchy’-I can’t be the only pro-choice campaigner sick of other’s constantly pulling out the ‘would you make a woman that was raped continue the pregnancy’ argument; it’s not about ‘Good Abortion/Bad Abortion’ it’s about everyone having autonomy over their own body.
The book also made me laugh out loud-so much so at the ‘lovely pie’ bit that I might have nearly wee’d on the bus. Her humour isn’t subtle, being based mostly on how many words you can think of for vagina, but it is raw, and, when mixed in with a very honest appraisal of the world she lives in, punches you in the gut so you have no option but to laugh very, very loudly.

However…

Parts of this book made me want to throw it at a wall in a way not seen since The Thorn Birds incident last spring. I have no idea how tall she is, but I am now as heavy as Moran was as a teen and also grew up amongst fat people* (though apparently I’m not allowed to call myself fat on the Internet any more as it upsets people. Never mind what my doctor, the woman at the gym and TopShop tell me, I’m not fat, I can’t be fat, because I am attractive (apparently). Never mind how incredibly insulting that is to other people, or that it’s my body, and I can call it any name I like, I must embrace my loveliness and refer to the extra four points on my BMI as curves…) and I would never, ever, say that fat people don’t look human, or that a size 14 woman wearing heels’ legs looked like a pig’s ending in a point even if I lost weight.

Also, the thing about fat people not talking about binge eating is bollocks. Jesus, some of my friends and I have had competitions! We constantly compare notes on what we are eating, or what we have eaten, that week. My first year at uni, when I went a bit silly and got down to a size ten, resulting in my looking at 18 like Meryl Streep does now, my mother and I had to resort to talking about our feelings because I was no longer eating and we couldn’t talk about food. In short; no more levitating parties in the clouds for you, Moran.

This is my main problem with the book; it is based entirely on Moran’s experiences, and world view, which is fine as it is after all a memoir. But her style of lauding it up about feminism (her definition of which I also consider bollocks-you’re not a feminist if you believe in equality, you’re a feminist if you believe in the patriarchy. If everyone who believed in equality was a feminist, the world would have toilet cubicles more than three foot wide, we’d have Yvette Cooper as leader of the opposition already, and there would be no need for the #diversityaudit) makes the whole book preachy, and this I didn’t like.

The best thing about the book is her sister, Caz. I spent last night writing a fanfic sitcom called “Wide Open Spaces” in my head, where Caz and Sharon from Bridget Jones meet each other in some hilarious circumstance and decide to run away together to start a ranch in Texas, with a Dixie Chicks soundtrack. Along with a decent film version of Persuasion and the biography of Mary Wollstonecraft being put on the small screen (with a British actress playing Mary. I am available and looks scarily like her…) this is a project that I’m putting on a back burner for now…
The book isn’t really written for me (though I suspect that I’m it’s target market, as I appear to be for most things these days. Damn you late twenties and your single-girl-who-isn’t-looking-to-buy-a-house-yet-but-does-have-steady-work proof recession!) because I already am a feminist. I’ve read Greer, but I’ve also read Banyard, Redfearn, Walters and French. If you’re just starting out on the path to liberation, then I’d give it a go. If you too have read the above named writers and think they’re bollocks, avoid this book like cholera, it will make you angrier than you’ve ever been.

Be warned though; this isn’t an instruction manual for anyone but middle class cis straight woman who occasionally fancy other women but only when they’re Lady GaGa, who have Money and Stuff now, but didn’t before, and live a fairly straight existence apart from drinking too much these days, and still think Courtney Love was cool. Oh God, it really is marketed for me isn’t it? Oh God, I’d better go and DRINK SOUTHERN COMFORT FROM A WINE GLASS!!!!

*(not my sister, before she reads this and gets a complex)

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Posted on November 17, 2011, in All Posts, Book Elf, LBC Book Reviews and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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