How To Be a Woman

In the last six months I’ve read a bunch of books, many of them by funny women, but none of them have impacted me as much as How To Be A Woman, by Caitlin Moran.

Book cover for

She lays bare many of the underlying reasons of the angst I feel about being a woman in these modern days. At least as a woman into her late 30s, because admittedly she hasn’t reached middle age yet. Best of all she does so in a thoroughly readable, entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny manner. The things she points outs here is so on point and truthful that I am going to make my daughters read this book when they are about 12. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to any woman who thinks about her place in this world, and any man who wants to understand more about real women.

Each chapter marks a different sort of milestone from being a girl to turning into a woman. She’s restarting the conversation for feminism. Not the angry man-hating feminism that people may have prejudices toward the word, but rather the strident insistence of equality and good manners towards one another.

Some of great passages/quotes:

  • Chapter 11 “I Get into Fashion!”—”How women look is considered generally interchangeable with who we are—and, therefore, often goes on to dictate what will happen to us next. So when women fret over what to wear in the morning, it’s not because we want to be an international style icon. […] No—what we’re trying to do is work out if everyone that day will “understand” what we’re wearing; if we’re “saying” the right thing, in a very nuanced conversation.  […] When a woman says, “I have nothing to wear!” what she really means is, “There’s nothing here for who I’m supposed to be today.” [Jen: This by far is the truest thing said here.]
  • Chapter 5 “I Need A Bra!” and her hilarious discourse about underwear and the styles shrinking through the years to being much too small.—”A case in point: a few months ago, I was on a crowded tube with a friend of mine, who gradually grew paler and quieter until she finally leaned forward and admitted that her knickers were so skimpy, her front bottom had eaten them entirely. ‘I’m currently wearing them on my clit—like a little hat,’ she said.”
  • Chapter 7 “I Encounter Some Sexism!”— “Ladies, we are at a massive disadvantage in the workplace. Your male peers are flirting with their male bosses constantly. The average workplace is like f*cking Bromancing the Stone. That’s basically what male bonding is. Flirting. They’re flirting with each other playing golf,[…] —and sadly, flirting with each other in after-hours visits to strip clubs and pubs. They are bonding with each other over their biological similarities. If the only way you can bond with them is over your biological differences, you go for it. Feel pressured to actually f*ck them if you do? Then don’t flirt.”
  • Chapter 7 again “Modern sexism has become cunning. Sly. Codified. […]A closet misogynist has a vast array of words, comments, phrases, and attitudes that he can employ to subtly put a woman down or disconcert her, but without it being immediately apparent that that is what he is actually doing. […] how can you tell when some sexism is happening to you?  Well, in this matter, what ultimately aids us is to simply apply this question to the issue: Is this polite? If we—the entire population of the earth, male and female alike—are just essentially, “the guys,” then was one of the guys just…uncouth to a fellow guy? Don’t call it sexism. Call it “manners” instead. When a woman blinks a little, shakes her head like Columbo, and says, “I’m sorry, but that sounded a little…uncivil,” a man is apt to apologize. Because even the most rampant bigot on earth has no defense against a charge of simply being rude.
  • Chapter 14 “Intervention”—”As I have said, in the same way that you can tell if some sexism is happening to you by asking the question, “Is this polite, or not?” you can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, “And are the men doing this, as well?” If they aren’t, chances are you’re dealing with what we strident feminists refer to as ‘some total f*cking bullsh*t.'”

So please, give it a read, I dare you to argue that it doesn’t give you some food for thought about being a woman in 2014.

~Jen

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