Book Review: Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”

How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran came to my attention through a recent piece in the New York Times Magazine that quoted her on breasts: “It doesn’t matter if your breasts sag because the only people likely to see them are going to approach them in an attitude of immense gratefulness, i.e., hungry children and men who are about to get laid.”

Since I’ve just recently been bra-shopping, she had me at “It doesn’t matter.”

I had to put down the magazine and run to add the book to my library queue. Now, I can hardly put the book down. Why? Because Moran so wonderfully, cattily, with loving self-deprecation and witty force, reclaims the phrase ‘strident feminist’ that you’d be crazy not to want to be one.

She attacks every angle of her coming of age with raging humor, throwing exclamation points like Amazonian spears. Sample chapter titles:

    • I Start Bleeding!
    • I Become Furry!
    • I Am a Feminist!
    • I Need a Bra!
    • I Go Lap-dancing!

Through it all runs her portrait of a family–large, working-class; a time–the 1980s-90s; and a place–Wolverhampton, Britain; which gives context to her struggle to figure out How To Be A Woman.

But best of all is her rant on porn. I want to stand in the street and read it aloud from atop my soapbox. It’s too long to quote here, (you go girl) but here’s the gist:

One kind of porn is is glaringly overavailable, while the kind we really need is rarely found.

Hit the Internet and you find a vast monoculture of screwing in which an unimaginative encounter between a recognizably human man and a highly stylized female creature ends with the man’s ejaculation in joyless messy close-up.

Take it away, Caitlin: “After the brief promise of the sexual revolution freeing up women’s sexual lexicon, it’s been closed right down again, into this narrow, uncomfortable, exploitative series of cartoons. It’s just…not very nice. Not polite. It’s harshing our mellow.”

The problem she identifies with all this? First: “In the 21st century, children and teenagers get the majority of their sex education from the Internet.” And from that follows: “The sexual imagery of your teenage years is the most potent you’ll ever have. It dictates desires for the rest of your life…. you want to make sure that whatever you’re thinking about in that [orgasmic] state, it has an element of…joy to it.”

Caitlin Moran wants your children to stumble on “free-range porn” — erotic imagery that shows sex as something two people do together, for mutual pleasure, and where there’s an orgasm for everyone at the end of it. In How To Be A Woman she nailed her thesis to the wall like Martin Luther.

I’m loving this book.

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About first person productions

My blog "True Stories Well Told" is a place for people who read and write about real life. I’ve been leading life writing groups since 2004. I teach, coach memoir writers 1:1, and help people publish and share their life stories.
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One Response to Book Review: Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be A Woman”

  1. Pingback: MADISON-AREA WOMEN: It’s time to tell your story! | True Stories Well Told

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