How to Be a Woman

Published on the Deaf Auntie website on 12th June 2013, a website by Laraine Callow.

Caitlin Moran’s book is half autobiography, half feminist call to arms. It takes a look at her life and her experiences through a feminist lens; from relationships, to childbirth, to equal pay for women; this is a no-nonsense, laugh-out-loud look at what it means to be a woman in the twenty-first century.

For people new to feminism, her book is a brilliant introduction to the fundamentals. She writes, for example, about how women’s bodies are a battleground: the impossible standards women are held up to in a society that values appearance over achievement. 

Women need to view themselves as whole human beings – as people with complex personalities, people who deserve to be on an equal footing with men. Women should aim to be active agents in their own lives. Her book also covers the over-sexualisation of society, motherhood, and choosing not to have children.

The central point of her argument is that we all need to identify as feminist (yes, even men) and stop feeling ashamed of the word, of being associated with a movement that is often alienating to people who might be afraid of being seen as ‘man-hating,’ for example. Feminism is the pursuit of equality, of liberation from stereotypical ideals of the feminine/masculine – a world where we can finally just be ourselves. It is recognising that all of us have the power to call for an equal society, if only more of us took up the baton.

For those of us who are not new to feminism, this book doesn’t cover anything new; what it does do, however, is encourage us to approach women’s issues in a more light-hearted and positive way. She makes a couple of points that I didn’t agree with – she laments the lack of young, engaged feminists in the UK, whilst it has been my experience that feminism is very much alive and kicking with young women today. There are sites such as the F-Word, Everyday Sexism, and Vagenda, not to mention a wealth of feminist blogs and campaigns.

She doesn’t discuss intersectional identity politics and issues, such as Black and Asian women, LGBT or disabled women; and in some places her arguments seem to only apply to middle-class women. She also has a problematic stance on Muslim women and the practice of wearing a hijab.

However, if you want a readable, hilarious and engaging introduction on ‘How to be a Woman’ – this is the book for you.

In How to be a Woman, journalist and writer Caitlin Moran writes about her life and feminist politics. She discusses important topics facing women today, such as motherhood, self-esteem and role models, and why she thinks we need feminism more than ever.

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