Alright. Fine. Read this, but then you really must leg it to your local bookshop/e-tailer and buy Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman at the earliest possible moment. The columnist, Twitterist, and regular top-ist of ‘girls that would be fun to drink gin with lists’, has navigated everything from armpits to Z-list celebrity in her mission to to decode feminism for the now-ties.
Ever since an oafish, spitting, boily faced drunk penned me in to the corner of a grotty Brighton pub and slurred “you’re not one of those feminist types, are you” after I’d politely asked him to stop referring to my breasts as separate entities, I’ve had no trouble declaring myself to be a feminist.
But it can be hard balancing what should be straightforward – the equal opportunities, values and treatment for all bit – with the more nebulous aspects of modern life. How do you balance a feeling that cultural pressure to be ever young, thin and beautiful is fundamentally wrong with a basic wish to look good? How do you celebrate your own sexuality whilst feeling so uneasy about porn encroaching on everyday life? Why – and this is something that bothers me more and more as I get older – are there thongs, and why are they so keen to be worn internally?
In How to be a Woman, Caitlin Moran walks this path for us, tackling all of these things as she weaves in and out of her own life-story. It’s heartwarming and pretty inspiring, and the passages on fat and body image should be compulsory reading in secondary school. It’s also not judgemental. How to be a Woman might not want to take pole dancing classes, or wax its muff, or wear a thong itself – but the book’s strength lies in the fact that the beef is always with the causes of these things, rather than the women who choose to partake themselves. And in fact, if these things are done with glee rather than anxiety, fear or any sense of obligation, it’s something to be celebrated regardless.
I’ve read some fairly scathing reviews from feminists about the book, but I think they’re missing the point. How to be a Woman knows it’s not a heavyweight feminist text. It’s not supposed to be. Heavyweight feminist texts are not read by normal women, because normal women have millions of other things to worry about. This is intelligent but accessible feminism for everyone. It’s also terribly funny, and romping through it on my morning train ride inspired a lot of curious glances from nearby, more austere looking commuters. Oh, if only they knew I was giggling about wanking and knob jokes…
How to be a Woman is out now in paperback.