Caitlin Moran, a columnist for The Times of London, is frequently dubbed the “British Tina Fey.”
How to Be a Woman is not only a feminist memoir, it is a humanist manifesto- a hilarious one. Do not be fooled by what you think you know of feminists. Ms. Moran trumps all preachy tomes that came before, and she throws preconceived notions about who and what a feminist is out the window. Her honest storytelling possesses the ability to rekindle the feminist discussion, and to coax closet feminists out into the open.
What is so wrong with feminism anyway? Ms. Moran cites that only 29 percent of American women describe themselves as feminists. Therefore, she knows her subject matter will encounter automatic resistance. She tackles an array of touchy subjects, from abortion and the dishevelment of childbirth, to the costly preening credo placed upon women by society. She stands up for feminism bravely, without apologies, and she wonders why women (and men) fail to do the same: ‘What do you think feminism is, ladies?’ ‘What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry?’
Ms. Moran’s narrative follows significant milestones of her life, from the age of thirteen to her present mid-thirties. And while the events are muliebrity based, they are also simply human. We feel awkward, self-conscious, uncomfortable, joyous and resilient, right along with her. She communicates with a conversational writing style that lightens any possibility of sanctimonious overtones. You are just another friend over to her house for an evening of funny, albeit poignant, stories.
Case in point, as a child of the nineties Moran is still slowly emerging from her grunge phase and encounters serious dilemmas with the business of fashion. What woman cannot relate to the ‘nothing to wear’ predicament? Moran hits the bull’s eye: “When a woman says, ‘I have nothing to wear!’ what she really means is, ‘There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.’” She pinpoints how entrenched we are in sexism, to the point that we hardly notice it. Women are what they wear, and unlike men, women are required to be primped and poised to be taken seriously.
If you think you know something about feminism, this memoir is for you. And if you are confident you know everything about feminism? Then this memoir is definitely for you. How to Be a Woman is so much more than its title. Caitlin Moran rollicks through the human experience with one frustrating and good-humored experience after another. Her expedition offers much to breach the gender gap, but only if you dare to pick this book up and read.
How to Be a Woman
By Caitlin Moran
(Harper Perennial, Paperback, 320pp.)