I wrote this review for Bookmans.com in the summer of 2012. When Bookmans did a website redesign and migrated their website database, we unpublished all but 30 posts. I tweaked this review to park it here for now.
Put down 50 Shades of Gray. I’ve got something equally smutty but infinitely smarter to recommend. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran is a feminist manifesto like none you’ve read. Most of us don’t go around reading feminist manifestos but in any case this one is definitely for everyone — even if you are a dude and maybe even especially so.
How to Be a Woman passes my funny-lady-memoir test. I still long to be Moran’s friend even after I read the last word of her foul-mouthed, opinionated, TMI account of every experience from menstruation to pornography to abortion. You will be horrified if you hate the word vagina even as Moran herself declines the usage in favor of a more literary word. If this describes you, please read One Call Away: Answering Life’s Challenges with Unshakable Faith
(Affiliate Link) by Brenda Warner and Jennifer Schuchmann. Warner’s story is compelling and has everything memoir readers love including football. But if you think you can take Moran’s in-your-face drive for equality, then give How to Be a Woman a consensual whirl.
Despite the title, How to Be a Woman isn’t a “how to” ala Badass: A Hard-Earned Guide to Living Life with Style and (the Right) Attitude
(rehab your bitchy reputation by adopting a baby from another country) or memoir ala Tina Fey’s Bossypants
(the current yardstick for memoirs by female comedic writers). It’s a face off with the status quo and an assertion of equality. Also unlike the authors of both of those books, Moran is British, but not the look-down-your-nose-at-people sort. Well, she may be but How to Be a Woman doesn’t leave you feeling judged the way reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
does. Of course Kingsolver is a Tucson legend and not at all British. I’m losing my way here. The point is that Moran shares her lessons as Jesus shared his — through allegory. If you want a peek into her life, you are obligated to read the lessons she gained from her experiences. (There are three Affiliate Links in this paragraph and if you’re going to buy one of those books, make it Badass.)
But wait; there’s more! Moran has a newer book on the shelves titled Moranthology
(Affiliate Link) in which she tackles “THE REST OF THE WORLD: Ghostbusters, Twitter, caffeine, panic attacks, Michael Jackson’s memorial service, being a middle-class marijuana addict, Doctor Who, binge-drinking, Downton Abbey, pandas, [her] own tragically early death, and [her] repeated failure to get anyone to adopt the nickname [she has] chosen for [her]self: ‘Puffin’.” Someone buy it quick(ly*).
* What? She’s a journalist and is probably into grammar and AP Style and stuff. I don’t wish to offend because I want her to contact me on Twitter again and be my BFF and ignore that I’m not properly footnoting.
I didn’t get the day off, but I did make time to read How to Be a Woman and to endear myself to Moran I will make time for Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch (the penultimate Affiliate Link).