Book Review

REVIEW: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

How to Be a WomanHow to Be a Woman
Caitlin Moran
Kindle edition (borrowed from library)

Synopsis: Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women’s lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother.
(brief quote from Goodreads synopsis.  Click image to go to Goodreads page)

This could be a touchy subject for some people, so I invite calm, rational discussion in the comments.

I saw a review by Julie at julie’s chick lit (I mentioned this in my last WWW post) on this book and decided I wanted to check it out.  There were definitely moments when I did laugh out loud (but more toward the beginning of the book).

Anyway, I did read a couple of reviews for this on Goodreads (when I was a little more than halfway through the book), and some people really enjoyed it and others didn’t care for it at all.  Some seemed kind of harsh in their comments, but we’re all entitled to our own opinions!

To be quite honest, it seemed that the concept of feminism wasn’t necessarily the main point throughout the book, even if that might have been the intention.  So to me, I took this as a memoir, which happened to discuss feminism, and enjoyed it for what it was.  (I will agree with one negative reviewer that it seemed Moran only mentioned Germaine Greer as her go-to feminist and references to other feminists were lacking).

There are points I agree with, such as: the negative connotation we associate with the word “feminism”, that we don’t want to “take over”, just get our share of things, and the fact that Hollywood, the press, and the gossip rags really influence people to an extreme degree.  Take, for instance, the following quote:

My beautician told me she has had girls of 12 and 13 coming in for Brazilians. (page 76)

That is absolutely ridiculous!!

When talking about how negative the word feminist has become, Moran laments that there is no other word to use; we don’t have alternatives.  To that end, she stresses:

We need the only word we have ever had to describe “making the world equal for men and women.” (page 79)

I wholeheartedly agree.  So many people assume a feminist is a man-hater, angry with everyone and everything, dresses a certain way, acts a certain way, and most often people assume the woman (let’s face it, most people who call themselves feminists are women…so more power to the men who use this as an identifier!) is a lesbian.  None of these are necessarily true of a feminist.  I consider myself a feminist and don’t identify with any of the above.   We need to reclaim this word for exactly what it means.

Another quote I enjoyed was:

What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be.

Moran definitely hit the nail on the head in some aspects about how crazy women can act, too, with a twist of humor.  (We probably find these things funny because we can either absolutely imagine it happening, have heard a friend react in a similar way, or maybe we are the ones who’ve acted this way).  She talks about how some women blow things out of proportion and assume there are hidden meanings behind everything a man does.  For example, she mentions a friend who went out on a couple dates with a guy and then the friend noticed the guy added a song to his “likes” on his Facebook page.  Moran’s friend automatically assumed it was significant because it was a private message to her since they had talked about that very song not that long before he updated his Facebook page. (page 238).

One thing I was getting a bit frustrated with, though, was that she seemed to generalize and lump women altogether.  I think it’s one thing to say “most women” or “some women” but to make it sound like she’s referring to “all women” got a little annoying.

Overall, it was enjoyable. Moran does raise some good points that I’m sure I will dwell on, or points that will sneak up on me at one time or another.  (But I definitely don’t look at this as a go-to for feminist discussion)

A random feminist moment of my own: I would always get frustrated in English class in high school when the (female) teacher would say she needed two of the boys to get the boxes of the next book we’d be reading in class.  I always wanted to ask why the teacher was asking for the boys when girls can carry boxes too!

One thing I think is really great is the rise of women in the workplace.  In my department, for example, of the 5 directors 3 are women.  That’s great!  One is the director of a group consisting entirely of women, a second has almost all women within her group, and the third female director’s direct reports below are split pretty evenly between men and women.  It’s really inspiring to see such strong women in the workplace and I look to them as role models.

So I guess that’s my bit on this.  I’ve been thinking about what to write for this review since I started reading the book.  I kind of wish I had written some things down, because I feel it’s not as polished as I wanted it to be.  But I also didn’t want it to sound like an essay! (I highlighted a few passages on the Kindle so I would remember to quote them here, but other than that I didn’t really utilize the “make a note” feature on the Kindle either).  So, sorry if this seems half-assed, not fully thought out, etc.  And I think this is long enough now…(Also, the Bruins are in overtime, so I’m kind of distracted…man listen to that crowd!…and now they’re going into overtime!!)

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12 thoughts on “REVIEW: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

    1. Thanks! I enjoy going to weddings actually. But I’m not married myself yet and it certainly isn’t something I’ve been planning my whole life!

      I don’t know if I will read her other one… I’ll have to read the synopsis and reviews… are you going to read it?

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  1. Love your review here and agree with your points. I’m torn in one aspect, though, because sometimes women can be their own worst enemies. Moran does take issue with how woman can act crazy, which is totally true, but part of me wants to “support” those women (as a feminist) and the other part shakes her head in shame at them. I guess the cray-crays get us all stereotyped, just as the diehard ballbusters also get feminists lumped into the category with them.
    I did like Moran’s method of making a point about something while kind of laughing it off at the same time, but only after the fact. Some of the time I wondered where she was going with her statements. She and many other feminist moms have the weight of the world on their shoulders trying to instill their feminist values into their daughters in hopes they grow into strong, independent young women. I know I hope my son is a feminist as well.
    “Moranthology” is on my list, because I’d like to read her past columns since I was never aware of her British writing career. I think she’s sharp-witted, and I follow her on Twitter, so it will be interesting to read the work that I guess sparked this book being written.

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    1. Thanks!

      I absolutely agree that we are our own worst enemies, and other women’s worst critics.

      I agree with you about laughing after the fact, or wondering where she was going with her point. Sometimes, it veered completely off from feminism, which made me look at this as more of a memoir of someone who identifies herself as a feminist, rather than an actual book on feminism using her own experiences to highlight her points, you know?

      And yes, it has to be difficult raising children (no matter if they’re boys or girls) to break stereotypes and treat people equally and with respect when there is so much out there to affect the development of their personalities, minds, etc.

      Still debating on Moranthology; if it’s going to be similar to this book, I may pass…I’m interested to see what you think of it, since we seem to have similar opinions on this one.

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  2. Great review! I’ve only ever had two male bosses and I currently work on a team of 11 women and 2 men. And almost half of the leadership team,maybe more and including the President, are women.

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    1. Thank you!

      Wow, that’s great! I really like to see strong, successful women in higher positions within companies; it really shows how the world is changing and (hopefully) becoming more equal.

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      1. I agree! And the best part is and that I always remember is that I worked at a Jiffy Lube in high school and two of the four assistant managers from my time there were women and two of the shops in our district were run by women. It was just really cool to see them in a profession that you never see them!

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