Feminism – But not as you know it: Caitlin Moran’s Guide on How to Be a Woman

The Times critic and columnist, Caitlin Moran has always been an funny, outspoken and well-celebrated writer. A sample of writing will only show you about her modes of thinking: this article about what to wear to interview Lady Gaga is just one example of the various issues which she hops around on, bring up issues which also ring true . By turns both funny and thoughful, Caitlin Moran comes across as a very likeable character (emphasised by the Interviewer Award of 2011 she recently received).

It is no wonder then, that her latest work-slash-memoirs, How to be a Woman has already received  a lot of attention and positive praise, and is the subject of many (online and off) debates. Projecting the message that ‘yes, it’s okay to be a feminist and still have fun’, Moran answers questions for women of today about what is considered acceptable in calling yourself a feminist.Describing her own experiences such as her thirteenth birthday party, having children (with graphic details of childbirth), examining the growing desire for women to have plastic surgery and of course women’s relationships with men, Moran vividly suggests the idea that anyone with a bit of respect for themselves can be a feminist (and still look good). The self-confessed Kirsty Allsop lookalike meanders through a part-autobiographical and part humourous and philosophical ideas, with a writing technique that has developed extraordinarily since her first novel (published when she was only 15!)

Rather than being a  competition for the moral high ground, the message projected here is that there is no *real* guide to being a feminist: in this day and techno-age where women are becoming more and more independent and the times are a-changing, Moran acknowledges the fact that not everyone has to be a hardcore radical feminist as was the case a few decades ago. Although there are some issues that not everyone agrees with (I am a littke skeptical about Lady Gaga being a beacon of feminism, for example), the point that I believe Moran validly makes here is that being a feminist doesn’t always mean you can’t enjoy fashion, men or life. I have read others’ views describing this as lightweight, ‘lipstick feminism’, but I would think that this book is not meant to be the last word on defining feminism, and I would agree with Moran’s view that there are some issues and myths out there concerning women that need to be addressed. It is definitely true that there are women out there who will be asking questions such as ‘can I look sexy and still be a feminist?’, and Moran is right to also question the whole idea of a branded feminism which only some radicals can lay claim to. That is not to say that she undermines the work of feminists in history who have led the way for the women of today, but rather shows that not everyone has to rage against men and make ourselves miserable. Just as I have heard the saying that that ‘you don’t need to act like a man to be a feminist’, I think that Moran has the right to express her views that some women may want to live the whole bubble-gum lifestyle. Whether we agree or not with it, it’s a question of choice for many women.

How to be a Woman is available to buy at Amazon (cheapskates like myself can just visit the local library).

Has anyone read this book? What are your views?

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