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This book review is going to be a two-parter. That is because I am utterly confused on how I feel about ‘How to be a Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, and cannot – for the life of me – make sense of my thoughts about it. So, although I will be writing my (hard to follow) thoughts on it now, I will be reading it again and will write about it again – after my second read through.

This does probably mean that this Part 1 post won’t make much sense. No change there then.

I don’t really know where to start with this book, so the end seems as good a place as any. On the first read through I felt that it took until the second to last page for me to have that eureka moment and understand the moral/point (or at least my view of the moral/point) of Caitlin Moran’s words. Whether that’s through my own deficiencies, I’m not sure, but let’s not rule anything out this early on. Caitlin takes us through the feminist issues she has come across in her journey to becoming the confident and self-assured woman she is today (or rather  five years ago when she was 35) with the help of her teen diary and general life experiences.

But getting right into the book, to me, the majority of it felt like one big name-dropping boast, more of it – read about how much sex and drugs I’ve had in my time, and the rest – women generally are doing it all wrong. I’m not convinced that’s the angle she was going for, but that’s how it came across to me. A book written because it could be. But at the same time it felt revolutionary and made certain things suddenly make more sense (body hair for one – don’t get rid of it for anyone but yourself); and one that I should tell everyone I know about – defending it to the end (THIS SHOULD BE ON THE SYLLABUS!). See? I’m confusing myself.

As with any book, only the best reviews are picked, ‘Funniest book of the year’, ‘The book every woman should read’. Inside the cover, more raving reviews, ‘Laugh-out-loud funny, warm, humane and brilliantly written’, ‘It’s the feminist handbook: honest enough to show women as they really are, without subscribing to stereotypes,’ And they go on. Well I really didn’t find this book overly funny or relatable (some, yes), and I found reading about childbirth so terrifying that it’s put me off wanting children – even more! My mum will not be happy about this. What did I miss in this book that the reviewers clearly saw?

It made me feel happy, sad, naive, bored, angry, confused, nothing, horrified to the point of having to text my friend about it; this book has made me feel it all, but did I enjoy it? Was I meant to? Did I miss the point of it? Am I thinking about it too much? I just don’t know.

However, in saying that, I do feel like I learnt something from it. A simple form of question for life to try and figure out if something is sexist or not, ‘would a man be asked this?’, ‘are the men doing this?’ These types of questions are useful for both sides (add gender as appropriate) to measure inequality and make a change for the better if you feel something is not right.

‘How to be a Woman’ also confirms the fact that being a feminist doesn’t mean you have to hate men. Men are not the enemy. We’re all guilty of oppressing women in the U.K. and slowing the progress of equality, in some form or other. Many women are expected to now do a full-time job AND still look after the household like we’re living in the fifties. Yet women who do decide to sacrifice their career and stay at home to run the house and family are often looked down upon by other women for not keeping the job and family juggling going ‘like the rest of us’ (a collective ‘us’, I don’t have a family to look after – I just have a job). The same goes for stay-at-home-dads, society hasn’t quite grasped this one either. Caitlin reminds us how women have only recently been seen as being on a level playing field with men, so it’s going to take time for both sides to adjust fully and figure out what everyone’s role is.

But I digress, the point is, I’m keen to give this book another go and decide once and for all what my opinion of it is. So I will go away and do just that. Be sure to check back for Part 2 of the review.

I’d love to know if anyone else had read this and what you thought of it?

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10 thoughts on “How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran – Review Part 1

  1. I haven’t read it so I can’t say. Childbirth however, although extremely uncomfortable, is not quite the horror story we all like to tell. Those are fishing tales, brags about our survival and accomplishment. 😉

  2. It’s okay if you didn’t like it! I really didn’t enjoy either of her books. I found How to be a Woman predictable, boring, obvious, and crass just for the sake of being crass. Whilst parts of it did challenge me to think about how gender inequality manifests itself, I mostly just found it a bit “meh”. And YES to the name dropping!

    • Yes it is crass, it certainly didn’t need as much throughout the book. I suppose in the end it’s a book saying to women, make your own choices, as long as you’re not going to let down the sisterhood. But I’ll save that judgement for the end.

  3. I read it when it first came out when I was an impressionable teenager who was just learning about feminism. I can see why it’s not everyones cup of tea – in particular I found her v chatty way of writing and over use of capitals a bit off putting at times (other times I love the down to earth tone)
    To me the point of the book is the irony of the title – there is no set way to be a woman, Caitlin is just one woman documenting her experiences. I do like it though, she is pretty funny and doesn’t hold back in her opinions, which is refreshing!

    • Agree with everything you’ve said, that’s why I found my own thoughts confusing, there were elements I agreed with and plenty more I didn’t. Pushing opinions as facts for women was one no for me, but then again we can only go from our life experiences. I’m doing it again – not forming a real opinion. I’ll work on it. Have you read any other feminism books you would recommend?

  4. Pingback: The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K.Rowling – Review | Lisa Tiller

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