Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Book Review: How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

I wasn't familiar with Caitlin Moran before getting a review pitch for it from Harper Collins.  I am a huge fan of humorous essays/memoirs and seeing this compared to Peggy Orenstein, Tina Fey, and Jenny Lawson ensured that I'd be reading it.  It's basically a combination of memoir and thoughts on feminism and what it means to be a woman.  Moran's take on feminism is fairly unique.  Her basic guide for deciding whether or not a woman is being discriminated against is whether or not a response would differ based on gender.  She's everything but strident and harsh in her approach to feminism and she's obviously open-minded.  She doesn't advocate for single-mindedness, but she asks for people from all sides of charged arguments to be polite and let others be polite in return.

Writing/Entertainment Value (I combine the two for humor)
I love Moran's style.  It's intensely casual, very sarcastic, and very British, which, of course, appeals to me.  However, you should know that Moran's style is not necessarily...ladylike.  She can be immature and vulgar (in a very funny way), but you should be aware going into it that it's not always nice.  It's also very direct.  She writes about every.single.part of being a woman: the first chapter involves pubic hair, periods, and masturbation. 

I've seen several reviews, including one from Bestie, that were really put off by the tone and subject matter.  I, on the other hand, wasn't bothered by the not-for-mixed-company themes and the very frank discussion of bodies and sex.  I think in certain settings (a book I read in private for example) that discussing those things, and even laughing about them, can be quite appropriate.  For those of us who think it's funny.  What I'm saying is, if you don't like that kind of thing, that's cool, this isn't for you and I respect that.  But for me, this didn't cross the line into crude humor.  In my opinion, it was done in an intelligent and thoughtful way that made me think more deeply about the world's expectations for women - after I got done laughing.

I loved it.  I loved how she talks to women who have children, how she talks to women who DON'T have children, how she addresses the media and the world's standards of beauty.  And she does it in a way that I think appeals to a wider audience than women who identify themselves as feminists.  Other than the too-crude critique, the other criticism I've seen is that it's not feminist enough.  Moran isn't taking an intellectual stand in the book, but that didn't bother me.  She's taking a social stand and a rational stand.  She not only appeals to the part of human nature that wants to be kind and fair, she also appeals to those who might stop listening to a lecture, but will learn from an open, lighthearted discussion.  I highly recommend giving it a try.

Thank you to Harper Collins for sending me a copy to review.  Look back here tomorrow for my review of Moran's recently published collection of columns and articles.


  1. I really want to read this book! I have heard nothing but good things about it!

  2. Okay, I am intrigued. I put it on hold at my library. Thanks for the review!
    Kim D from SC