on 14 August 2011
...which I'm not, you understand. I've a decade on Caitin and grew up with the feminist debate raging about mine ears. For a while now I've been sighing heavily at how it seemed to have fallen off the cultural radar - no one seemed to be talking about it any more, let alone calling themselves a feminist. And now here's Ms Moran, putting the debate about what it means to be a woman in the 21st century not just back on the agenda, but in the non-fiction top 10. Hoo-blooming-ray! Look, there's heaps about this book that's annoying. The incessant CAPITAL LETTERS. The surfeit of screamers. Initially I felt like I was being shouted at, that the jokes weren't all funny, and this was a memoir masquerading as polemic. But unlike other reviewers who thought it petered out, I warmed to How to Be a Woman hugely. The writing seemed to calm down, become less personal, more thoughtful. So by the end I was converted. I've just been to buy a copy for my teenage goddaughter. She told me her ambition was to 'get married and go to parties' (presumably not in that order). So I hiked her by her beautiful long hair to the nearest bookshop and thrust a copy into her perfectly manicured hand. 'Read this,' I said. 'It's funny'. She may not agree with all or even any of it. But I think she's much more likely to actually read it than Germaine Greer or Simone de Beauvoir, and if it makes her think - just a bit - then I'll be pleased. And if she gains just a smidge more ambition, I'll be cockahoop. So if you've never read a book on feminism, read this one. And if you've read a few, read it too. It's contemporary, strident and wise. You'll also have a laugh, and crikey, there are a lot worse ways to spend your time.
on 30 July 2011
I'm giving this book 3 stars as an average based on the fact that at the beginning I thought I would be giving it 5 but by the end I wanted to give it just 1.
My girlfriend has been asking me to read this book for a while (for the record I am male but like to think I am as liberal as they come). Eventually I acquiesced and started reading with few expectations (I had never heard of Caitlin Moran before I picked this up). I thought the prologue was great. It was genuinely funny (even made me laugh out loud a couple of times which almost never happens), well written, and engaging. The next few chapters were just good, though I felt like it could have done with some ruthless editing of the bits that weren't quite so funny or poignant to make it great. But towards the middle of the book things started to go downhill, pretty steeply.
One of the problems with the book is that the author talks as if everything is black or white, gloriously righteous or disgustingly evil. In the beginning when she is talking about obvious things (woman should have the same opportunities as men, etc..) this is fine. It's when she gets into more debatable arguments (strip clubs= evil, burlesque shows + pole dancing lessons= fantastic), even about things that I agree on (e.g. pro-choice, aethiesm) that this starts to grate. She treats the idea that any opinion other than her own could have any validity with contempt and doesn't really put forward any cogent arguments for her reasoning (but basically devolves into semi-coherent rants over and over again- and this is coming from someone who actually agrees with the broad points she is making!!).
She talks in sweeping generalizations and sometimes contradicts herself. More and more so as it goes on the book reads as if it has been written in a rush and never re-read or edited. When I started reading I was actually thinking the author is someone I would love to have round for dinner to have a conversation with, by the end of the book that idea seems more like an opportunity I'd run a mile from because I envision she would not let anyone else get a word in edgeways, shout down any opposing opinions and to be honest, I'm not sure she's actually a very nice person.
Something I also came to realize through the course of the book is although I think MOST of her opinions are right, it comes across as if she doesn't think they are right because she's sat down and tried to think things through objectively. It's because things have pissed her off or got in her way and so she has come up with arguments (and not necessarily well thought out ones) to justify the way she already feels.
Would also like to point out that making a joke about a child covered in napalm is never funny, particuarly when you are trying to take the moral high ground. And also that I have never read anything about Oprah's arse but quite lot about China's growing economy, if it's the other way round for the author and it pisses her off so much perhaps she should stop buying Grazia and Heat and perpetuating the culture of criticizing the appearance of successful women she claims to be so against.
Essentially I really enjoyed this book when I started it but by the time I finished I was so irritated it took me an hour and a half to get to sleep last night :(
on 20 September 2012
I was deeply, deeply unimpressed by this book. I think the main problem is it continually being touted as 'the next wave of feminism' or as some kind of modern feminist keystone, rather than what it actually is: a rather unexciting memoir interspersed with lots of "I am right listen to me CAPS LOCK" rants. If I'd expected the latter, maybe I wouldn't have felt so totally let down. Honestly, the only reason I finished the darn thing was so I could write a fully informed review explaining how much I disliked it, and why.
Firstly, the structure of the book is haphazard at best. It starts off fairly well, but once Moran moves from a fairly straightforward autobiographical account of her childhood, any sort of attempt at structure falls to pieces. It's a pretty disorganised bunch of vaguely-related anecdotes and angry rants. To be fair, it's probably quite difficult to write a part-autobiography-part-faux-feminist-manifesto and keep a good structure, and maybe I could have overlooked it if the content was good. But it wasn't.
I hate the way Moran presents her opinions. (Note: I don't necessarily hate the opinions themselves., but the presentation drives me crazy.) It's full of contradictions and dogma. She likes to tell you exactly what is ok, and exactly what is not. There isn't much middle ground. Just because HER wedding was a disaster and a waste of money, she tells you NOT to have a wedding. Right. It couldn't possibly be that her wedding didn't suit her and her husband's personal taste and needs, it is the case that weddings are stupid and you shouldn't have one. Strip clubs are WRONG. Burlesque is RIGHT. Katie Price is WRONG. Lady Gaga is RIGHT. Heels are WRONG. Leopard print is RIGHT.
... You get the idea. She contradicts herself constantly (eg. kids make you into a super human and once you're a mum you are better than Obama/don't feel the pressure to have kids) and it is incredibly frustrating.
However, what I hate even more is the extent of her dedication to social justice. She rants for pages and pages about the pressures put on women - and I sincerely believe she does care - but then in the next instant, will write off entire groups of people with shocking generalisations. She makes a disparaging comment about men running around pretending to be goblins on World of Warcraft - thanks, Moran. Because only MEN play video games, and it's ok to poke fun at the losers who do that, right? But god forbid you mention the glass ceiling and she'll explode. For someone so concerned with social equality, she is far too ready to write off other groups of people and judge them in the same way she's asking people not to judge women. It hacks me off.
Which brings me on nicely to the constant pop culture references she feels obliged to throw in as often as possible. A lot of the time, her references are solid, and she at least knows something about what she's referencing, but then it comes to video games, or manga (she calls Gaga a 'manga cartoon'), and she is embarrassingly uninformed - it feels like she's just chucking in the references like "HEY I KNOW SOME STUFF." It's fine that she doesn't know anything about some things - just stop pretending to. Stop writing about them. And worst of all, stop disparaging them.
She writes to shock, without actually being particularly shocking. When she does shock, it's in an offensive way - the Napalm joke obviously offended a lot of other people, myself included. Why did she think that was ok? How is that consistent with her philosophy? Again, it felt like she was just throwing in a reference to say "hey look I know about a famous photograph".
The chapter about her abortion was frustrating, and I wanted to like it - as she does say, it's not something often talked about, and I would have been interested for her to actually address the stigma. Instead, she implies that there is more stigma attached to being a mother aborting than a teenager aborting. It's like she's trying to big up her own circumstance - that just isn't true, at all. She dismisses one method of abortion as something that "everyone says" just "freaks you out", which really angered me. I'm not asking her to be a source of accurate medical information, but to just dismiss one legitimate method that many women go through just off-hand, without having actually experienced it - it seemed kind of irresponsible, to me. I just think a little research would have gone a long way. When it comes to the description of her abortion - as with childbirth - she seems to enjoy fear-mongering. Again, that might genuinely be her experience, but I think she gets carried away in making it sound like poor little Caitlin enduring all these terrible things - when SO MANY people go through this, she's hardly special. Too much drama. Then, she dismisses out of hand anyone who dares to feel upset after an abortion, because PROPER feminists wouldn't. Like her (unsurprisingly.)
It all boils down to Moran being RIGHT, about everything. Which leads to an awful lot of sweeping statements about incredibly complicated ethical (and occasionally religious) issues - which deserve thorough consideration and carefully constructed arguments. Moran doesn't do this. Instead, she capitalises angrily and yells about her opinions.
Moran's mostly right about the problems with modern society. They need to be addressed. What we really need isn't more dogma, but the opening up of a platform to discuss them. I don't think Moran's book does that.
on 21 May 2013
Was given this by someone who'd heard it was really funny. To be fair, in the first half there are some funny parts and the author starts to make some good points. Sadly, she seems to lose her focus (i.e. how to be a modern woman) getting increasingly self-absorbed and because of this - and her fixation with drinking etc - I agree with the reader who says the author writes like a teenager. She does not properly tackle issues facing many women and just seems to aspire to being a stereotypical 'lad'. There are at least 2 of us who wouldn't want to be the kind of woman she portrays: I lent it to a friend who'd heard it was good and she lost interest halfway and gave it back! Am not even sure whether to put it in a charity bag as I don't want to subject anyone else to the dispiriting experience.
As the book went on (and on) it was more depressing than inspiring and the last chapters seemed like the old school stories we wrote as kids - when we ran out of time and "they all went home and had tea" - in this case, a rushed attempt to crowbar the original purpose back in. Seriously disappointing.
To sum up: this should be entitled "How to be a Caitlin Moran."
on 3 October 2012
I was given this for Christmas, so at least I didn't waste my own money on it.
Moran has her funny moments, true, but even the average pub bore is amusing occasionally. That's what this book reminded me of - the loud-mouthed know-all who's a scream fo five minutes, after which you'd chew your own foot off to create an excuse to get away.
Enough has already been said about her smugness, childish writing style and presentation of her own opinions as indisputable FACTS, so I won't say much more about that.
Two points though.
Despite what she says, homogenising both genders into a generic "the guys" isn't OK and it's definitely not feminist.
Also, I'm sure all my childless sisters out there will be as thrilled as I was to know Moran approves of our life choice - as long as we're achieving our full potential or "saving the world". No slobbing allowed for us, it seems!
How To Be A Woman has been called the new Female Eunuch, or feminism for teenage girls. It's neither. Having read Greer at 15, I'd advise any girl geninely interested in gender politics to bypass Moran and do the same.
on 21 October 2014
She seems to think obsessively about sex, body image and talking about the way city women would behave. I found the book ended up a bore. Not about being any typical women I know. I admit I didn't finish the book as it was uninteresting and shallow. I found it waffled. I must be uneducated in porn as didn't understand all the stuff she was going on about and don't want to know. There are so many other things in life which I feel are about being a woman. I may have just not understood the book and got her wrong?
on 27 February 2012
I had fairly average expectations of this book from the beginning, having recieved mixed reviews. The most disappointing part was probably the fact that it seemed to have potential; the first few chapters did really make me laugh, and were full of interesting anecdotes. However, the book quickly became an uncomfortable read. One particular thing (that I'm not certain has been commented on?) is the excessive Nazi jokes. This may seem like no big deal, but it was unnecessary for the topic, and the frequent Hitler/Nazi references were off-putting at best.
Another issue was the 14th chapter on 'role models'. This chapter seemed hugely out of place, largely based on opinion, and not especially related to the author. The chapter was just odd, and didn't quite fit with the rest of the book. The author just doesn't seem to have made up her mind whether the book is serious or funny - the constant jokes and humourous tone at the beginning keeps the book light, while still dealing with some important issues, while some of the later chapters are really serious, and completely change the book's tone.
On top of this, the author leaves no room for argument. She states her opinion as if it is fact, while often her opinions came across as a little skewed, and sometimes offensive. As I've said, I was only so disappointed by this book because the beginning set a higher standard than the way in which it ended. The ending was unsatisfying, and did not truly conclude the content of the book, in my opinion. And a purely structural point: much of this book was just a rant. Not really a well-structured novel, but more a stream-of-conciousness style (and not in a good way).
Not only did I not enjoy this book, but afterwards felt regretful for having read it. Really, really disappointed.
on 29 July 2011
I bought this book on a whim, having read a couple of rather mixed reviews. In that context, I was anticipating something entertaining and mildly stimulating. I was not expecting Isiah Berlin. But even against those less-than-demanding criteria, this book disappoints hugely.
Caitlin Moran entered journalism as a teenager, after winning competitions in national broadsheets including The Observer and The Times. Tellingly, these are omitted from this largely autobiographical book, which instead has her entering journalism at 16 when she went to work for Melody Maker. No doubt this version of history is more consistent with the edgy rise from working class obscurity she seeks to portray. I'm three years younger than Moran, and used to read her columns in my parents' copy of the Times, until I left home at 18, switched my allegiance to The Guardian, and lost track of her. So it was a strange experience to pick up this book and discover that, in terms of her attitudes and prose style, she seems to have become frozen in time as that precocious 16 year old - a kind of journalistic Dorian Gray. But what was endearing in a teenager is utterly infuriating - and oddly jarring- in a mature woman. The language is relentlessly mannered, with copious use of capitals and outdated slang from the 90s. This I could forgive if the book contained a single original idea, but the content is as banal, derivative and vacuous as the prose.
Take the chapter where she bemoans the lack of suitable female role models, and bizarrely juxtaposes Philip Roth with Demi Moore, Kim Cattrall and Madonna. This is simply baffling- comparing not so much apples and oranges as apples and donkeys. I don't even think she's trying to make the arguably valid but hardly original point that male writers tend towards the magisterial, zeitgeist-defining, century-spanning 'great novel', whereas women writers have tended to excel more at the (less esteemed) minute examination of the interior, domestic life. If she were, she might have found Margaret Attwood, Helen Simpson, or Anne Tyler more illuminating comparators than Moore et al. But by this stage you have started to form the impression that Moran's vision is entirely bounded by the confines of her media existence- a suspicion confirmed when you reach the Acknowledgements section and realise that, family aside, you recognise a good half of these names from the narrow world of broadsheet and TV journalism.
Ultimately, this is not a book about feminism at all- it's a not terribly interesting memoir with a spurious theme bolted on. Moran wants to validate her own preferences (burlesque clubs but not strip joints; Lady Gaga but not Katie Price), but she does not have the creativity or intellectual ability of, say, Camille Paglia, to do so convincingly. And speaking of Paglia, here's a funny thing. Only one feminist writer/thinker is namechecked in the entire book- Germaine Greer. If you are purporting to write a book about modern feminism, I'm not sure whether that speaks to arrogance, ignorance, or extreme laziness, but it's hardly impressive.
It could be argued that this book has some utility if it introduces WAG-obsessed young female readers of celebrity gossip magazines to a semblance of feminist ideas, in a language they'll readily identify with. But as a commentary on modern feminism for the mature, intelligent woman, it's a dead loss. If that's what you're looking for, give this a miss and try Natasha Walter, Maureen Dowd or Barbara Ehrenreich instead.
on 12 August 2011
I really like Moran's descriptions of her life, frank, funny and original. Where this falls down for me is in two ways - firstly when she's not writing about actual happenings but ideas she really does repeat herself an awful lot - taking a whole para to say something three times three slightly different ways. This is something I really hate about newspaper journalism and I suspect that's where she picked up the habit. Secondly, partly because of this, she goes on and on about feminism and fat culture and god knows what else in ways that just aren't engaging. A shame, as I say, because what she writes about her experiences is really interesting. I'm glad I didn't buy this book - and it's going swiftly back to the library.
on 9 December 2015
I really wanted to like this book - a friend recommended it, but the truth is, it's just a bit rubbish. It's like reading a three hundred page rant. For the first twenty pages it's okay, but then it just gets boring. I got to page 98 and then gave up.
It's also rather 'light', one of those books where you can run your eye down the page disinterestedly and pick it all up. It's just not very deep or engrossing or interesting.
And in truth, Moran's just a bit annoying and slightly dictatorial. Apparently real feminists wear big knickers. Real feminists have a full set of pubic hair. Real feminists hate porn. Real feminists... Bla bla bla bla bla... yawn...
Save yourself some time and don't bother buying this. It'll disappoint you.