How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran is in part a memoir about Moran’s life as a woman, while interweaving these anecdotes with Moran’s vision of why feminism still matters. Tackling topics such as pubic hair, breasts, menstruation, marriage, having children, sexism, and abortion Moran tries to portray the relevance of feminism for modern women.
This book has been on my have-read-should-review pile for a while now, but the fact of the matter is: it confused me. On the one hand this book is straight forward, entertaining, and funny. On the other, it left me with a lot of questions and disagreements with Moran’s vision of feminism. I admire her for standing up and proclaiming that feminism is still relevant. And I think that by illustrating that with funny (although a bit overtly so at times) and touching personal anecdotes she makes feminism a lot more easily digestible for a lot of people. Because the book features frank retellings of situations that are often less-than-comfortable to talk about, parts of this book were like finding that friend that woman magazines always expect you to have but so little of us actually do. You know, the one that you can talk about all the bodily issues with, etcetera? Or perhaps that’s just my experience. On this account, I enjoyed reading How to Be a Woman. And yet..
The more I think about my reading experience of Moran’s book, the less the side of that bosom-friend with which you can share everything stands out. Instead, I mostly feel the annoyance at everything Moran seems to ignore. By focusing on the personal day-to-day side of feminism, Moran is a little quick to dismiss those feminist viewpoints that she feels problematic things. There is a chapter in the book where she mentions how some feminists have made women feel bad about taking on domestic help. And how there’s no reason for that, because it’s just a matter of paying for someone’s services, just like everything else in the economy. You see, at this point I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. From one perspective, yes, it’s an economic transaction, but surely you’ve heard of this idea that gender, and class, and the frankly quite overlooked category of race, intersect? But sadly, intersectionality, or any of the other criticisms leveled at traditional feminism in the past, oh, I don’t know, decades, are mostly overlooked in this book. And this made me sad. And at times, a little angry.
On the one hand, I enjoyed How to Be a Woman, and I felt that perhaps the personal perspective might make feminism a little bit of a less-frightening term for the general public. On the other hand, I had rather hoped that the book would offer a more inclusive view of feminism, with a few more side-notes, and a few more incorporations of new feminist critiques. For, by missing out on such things, the book sometimes makes feminism less something “for everyone”, and as such misses a chunk of its intended message.
The Feminist Texan Reads offers a more thorough and intelligent write-up of what is lacking in How to Be a Woman. It was only when I read her review that I finally found the courage to formulate my own struggles with the text. And so I particularly wanted to point it out to you.
Other Opinions: The Feminist Texan Reads, Shelf Love, Leeswammes, Reading Matters, The Blue Bookcase, Entomology of a Bookworm, the Book Brothel, Novel Insights, My Books My Life, The Literary Kitty, The Book and Biscuit, The parenthesis and the footnote, Lucybird’s Book Blog.
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