Review: Caitlin Moran’s “How to Be A Woman”

How To Be WomanI entered Chapters looking, as you might guess, for something to read. I was hoping to find something light-hearted. I hoped to find something witty, not heavily academic, but still able to add to me as a person in the way only a good book can. It was in this state of mind that I was drawn to the title How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran.

Let me just say this now: MEN! Keep Reading! Just because the book sounds like it’s only for women doesn’t mean you wouldn’t like it!

I hesitated at first. Feminism? Was I going to read a book that was clearly a conversational piece for a social movement I wasn’t engaged in? Was this really a book I’d get anything from?

I glanced over the first couple of pages and Moran’s witty banter had me hooked. She made me giggle and smile, smirk and want to keep reading, so I bought the book and did just that. Now, I’ve come from hesitantly deciding to give it a try to recognizing Moran’s deconstructed feminism in myself and throwing the book at all my favorite women, begging them to read it.

How to Be a Woman takes feminism and separates the concept from the myths. She makes it clear that, for her, feminism doesn’t include a hatred of men or refusal to wear a bra. She reconstructs feminism using her own life, reminiscing with the aid of her pre-teen diary about the uncomfortable development of womanhood. From body hair and periods, to convincing yourself you’re in love with the a guy in a band, to dragging your friends and family to the wedding when you really are in love.

Moran is entirely unashamed of her opinions and makes it clear that there are a lot of things women have been shamed for that they shouldn’t be.

It should be noted that Moran’s message is a comfort to women everywhere—that their every day struggles are not unique. She makes clear that we are not alone in our inability to find a single thing to wear in our full closet and that walking in heels truly is an art. However, she’s not gentle. She’s not here to make everything seem better or to pretend that if we just cry and hug everything will work itself out. If you can’t handle being yelled at through entirely capitalized sentences or several F-bombs per chapter, you may prolong your hesitation before reading this book. If a blunt discussion of everything female with no sugar-coating and no shyness around taboo topics makes you nervous, you may not enjoy this book.

Moran’s blunt, all swear words on the table, no nonsense way of writing was refreshing for me, like she wanted to talk rather than preach, but it may be jolting for some. I do hope you’ll read this book, but you may not want to read it out loud to your grandmother over afternoon tea.

Moran uses feminism as a lens through which to re-examine the great inconveniences of womanhood. She looks at sexism in a modern form where outright saying “Women aren’t as capable as men” isn’t acceptable, but suggesting that women might be given a sympathetic few days off to cope with their periods might fly under the radar, not registering as sexist on the same level as the former. She uses feminism to ask why Brazilian waxes, Botox, and a fear of grey hairs are just “part of being a woman.”

Now, gentlemen. You, too, should read this book. If Moran can change my perspective on my every day life I imagine, she will be useful to you as well. If you have thought to yourself that women didn’t make sense and wished for a guide, here it is. Here is all of our so-called “illogical” qualities unveiled and examined. Here is a discussion on what it all means and why.

If you read this book, as I hope you will, I recommend you keep on hand a package of sticky-note “tabs” for marking passages that strike you. The passages that strike you will be the ones you see yourself described in, the passages of subject matter you never gave a second thought to before and yet find perplexing now, and the passages you want to read to everyone who will listen, like boyfriends and best friends and everyone else; Ideas you think need to be shared.

So, if you are ready for a discussion free from frills, free from vanity or a self-preserving avoidance of embarrassment, obtain yourself a copy of this book and enjoy.