Caitlin Moran is a British culture writer/arts reporter/ feminist thinker, and How To Be A Woman is her 2011 memoir/ collection of feminist essays that had been sitting on my shelf for far too long. How To Be a Woman is structured as both a chronological progression of Moran’s life events and a feminist opinion tied to that event (ie: the first chapter is “I Start Bleeding”, which is both an account of her first period, as well as a discussion on masturbation, women and porn; another chapter is “I Need a Bra”, which is both about her first underwear experiences and a diatribe on/ demand for comfortable underwear for women).
Although Moran is smart and entertaining and I generally agree with her (yes to feminism! Yes to comfortable underwear!), I didn’t find myself fist pumping in solidarity the way I expected. On reflection, part of this is likely because this book is now almost 10 years old, so a lot of the points she’s focused on are a little dated (ie: the chapter on pubic hair removal, where Moran seems to be resigned to a future of hairless ladies, has somewhat swung back the other way- last year there were articles about Goop’s love of a full nether fringe, and think pieces on how Amber Rose was bringing back full pubes). The other disappointing part was that some of Moran’s arguments lack nuance. Her argument that I had the biggest issues with was her claim that women haven’t ‘done as much important stuff’ as men and we should stop trying to pretend we have. This point is in service of a larger argument that women’s contributions shouldn’t be judged by past contributions, as women are only just starting to do ‘important stuff’. My issue with this argument isn’t that she’s outright wrong, but rather that it depends on a) what you define important stuff as; and b) who is writing history.
Finally, I think my overall enjoyment was lessened by my high expectations. I really loved How to Build a Girl, her novelization of her own growing up, and so my expectations for How To Be a Woman were very high and the results didn’t quite measure up. (If you’re only going to read one Moran book, I would highly recommend How to Build a Girl.)