The Crooked Bookshelf: My review of Caitlin Moran’s “How to be a Woman”



1913 – Suffragette throws herself under the King’s horse.

1969 – Feminists storm Miss World.

NOW – Caitlin Moran rewrites The Female Eunuch from a bar stool and demands to know why pants are getting smaller.

There’s never been a better time to be a woman: we have the vote and the Pill, and we haven’t been burnt as witches since 1727. However, a few nagging questions do remain…
Why are we supposed to get Brazilians? Should you get Botox? Do men secretly hate us? What should you call your vagina? Why does your bra hurt? And why does everyone ask you when you’re going to have a baby?

Part memoir, part rant, Caitlin Moran answers these questions and more in How To Be A Woman – following her from her terrible 13th birthday (‘I am 13 stone, have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me’) through adolescence, the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, TopShop, motherhood and beyond.

I got this book as a part of my Xmas book gift pack from The Boyfriend (every year, he asks me for a list of books, he leaves with his backpack empty, comes back a couple of hours later with it full, then wraps them up in Xmas-like duct tape and presents me with my January – April reading material) and I was so excited that I started in on it right away.

I had heard so many great things about it, and listened to her various interviews on the book and had made up my mind that I would read this book and love it. And I am so glad I did!

“How to be a Woman” is a modern day feminist manifesto that breaks down all the politeness of modern political discourse (heh heh) with some plain speaking, frankness that makes your toes curl and memories that act as a backdrop to a girl growing into a feminist. A Strident Feminist.

Because, if you’re not a strident feminist, then you really haven’t thought of it. As Caitlin says:

Here,is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your underpants. a) Do you have a vagina? And b) Do you want to be in charge of it? If you said “yes” to both questions,then congratulations! You’re a feminist.

The fact of the matter is, feminism has taken it fair share of blows in the last few years, culminating in a god-awful amount of women, particularly young women, who refuse to identify themselves as feminists. Personally, this is not only appalling to me but it is completely nonsensical.

You like voting? Like driving by yourself and choosing your own spouse and determining how many kids you have? Do you like modern medicine for women? Damn, even the legality of wearing pants and having a career – or more importantly having the choice to wear pants or have a career – you owe to feminism and all the men and women who came before you. How can you deny that? It’s like people denying the Holocaust, or racially prejudiced jail sentencing or other such things. Nonsensical.

And kind of self-destructive.

You don’t want feminism? Please, ladies and gentlemen. You really do.

And not only do these points come across so brilliantly – but Moran is hilarious. She uses her own life, which was plenty colourful and so very British, and a very straight forward set of language tools, and creates a world where those that rail against feminism look absolutely absurd.

And that is, for me, the reason why this book is so grand and so needed.

I highly recommend everyone read it! It’s political, sure, and a lot of people don’t like politics. But this doesn’t read like politics, it reads like a hilarious memoir that is steeped in common sense and observation.

There are parts where my heart truly broke for Moran, and there were parts where she made me shudder. But most of all, this book made me think. Because even though I have been a feminist for as long as I can remember, it always bears analyzing again to revitalize my position.

Go buy this book. Please go read it. The world thanks you. 🙂

I leave you with these, in case my words didn’t convince you:


Caitlin’s Website:





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s