How To Be a Woman

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Sometimes there is books you didn’t think you would read. But then you join a book club and their selection is How to Be a Woman. To be honest, it was sort of hate at first sight (the first thing I learned about it was that there was much talk of pubic hair), but I wanted to give it a fair shot anyways – and I completed the book. It wasn’t even as bad as I feared going in although ultimately, it didn’t work for me.

It is written in a sort of but not completely essay kind of style – which is one of the genres I am still learning to read and didn’t feel a natural affinity to. In each essay Moran describes a scene from her own life, expands this to how women live and concludes with how they should live if they were strident feminists. It is a little bit a mix between a memoir and a feminist manifest, but in trying to be both, it lacks somewhat.

While the humor was not really style (many of the jokes are at the expense of her younger self), I cannot help but admit the book was rather readable. The latter part of the book had some interesting topics (the first half consisted of the more juvenile topics like the one on the pubic hair, and what should one call their boobs). Especially the essay on abortion was powerful and left an impression on me.

My biggest problem however with the book was that I could not at all relate with the women Moran was describing. Her focus on the daily issues that women face and that I had never given a second thought before actually made me question myself. Have I been doing the women thing wrong? Am I such an atypical woman that these are not the responses I have when put in that situation? And in fact, it got me wondering, whether this might be partially due to a generation gap. I was a teenager roughly 20 years later than Moran, and maybe we have learned a little bit more since in the way of struggling out from under the grip of the patriarchy. That, or maybe it is just me who doesn’t care about the things I am supposed to worry about.

How To Be a Woman – Caitlin Moran

9 thoughts on “How To Be a Woman

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    1. Yes, I think today the debate is much more about the subtle sexism which is described very well in Invisible Women for example – rather than the more obvious points that Moran points out in her book.

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  1. I’m pretty sure you’re not doing it wrong – or at least, if you are, so am I. I have friends who are strident feminists, and we almost never react the same way to the daily things, and I have never found myself struggling under any patriachy – and I’m in Moran’s age range. Everybody’s exerience is colored by too many differing factors, so really, there’s no wrong or right way to BE a woman. I’m hoping the author meant that title satirically, because otherwise I think I might be offended by it. I don’t need a man to tell me how to be me, but I certainly don’t need a women telling me how either.

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    1. Thank you and you’re absolutely right of course. I felt a bit too much with Moran’s book that she was condemning a certain life style for women and then promoting a single one how to live. Sure, she says “you do you” but it is sort of in the undertones. That I didn’t like.

      I personally much preferred Invisible Women – I felt it is a more modern feminist book that looks less at the obvious sexism and more at little hidden things. And – I think you would like it as well – as it is all backed by data! One of the main problems – that I found quite striking – was that data is often not gender-disaggragated and therefor hiding differences, but I have never filled in a questionnaire where my gender wasn’t asked 🤷 So I feel that data should be there, if people could be bothered to actually use it.

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      1. Is this the Invisible Women written by Caroline Criado Perez? I’m looking it up and it turns out it’s a very popular title to use. I’d be very interested to read it – I’ll happily read anything backed up by data. 🙂 And I agree – there’s no way researchers don’t have mountains of aggragated by gender data; I too have filled out a million forms and questionnairs over the years and never once did they NOT ask for gender. If they’re not using it, why ask for it??

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      2. Exactly!
        Yes, I should have mentioned its the one by Caroline Criado Perez (it is still very early where I am). It was everywhere when I was last in London and I am very glad I brought a copy home with me 🙂

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