How to be a girl? How to be a woman? Far from pretending to be a guide or to establish a pattern to follow, Caitlin Moran, an English journalist and book author, has written “How to Be a Woman” to help readers understand what means to be a woman or a girl nowadays. The non-fiction book includes her views on feminism by telling stories of her own early life, trying to break with the idea of feminists as man-haters or too radical activists. Her style, which is humoristic and absolutely not academic, makes the reader feel like talking with and older friend giving advice about life.
She presents an analysis of the everyday troubles a young woman has to face. She talks about heels (“do we believe that wearing heels is an intrinsic part of being a woman, despite knowing it doesn’t work?”), sexual awakening, small underwear and compulsory depilation, but also about more complex topics like abortion or the pornography industry. So it is not a manual to proper femininity but a protest against what it means to be a woman in today’s society. She calls these young women to embrace feminism, as she believes it is impossible for a woman to have an opinion and not being feminist: “it’s technically impossible for a woman to argue against feminism. Without feminism, you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate on women’s place in society”. Yet she does present a guide to identify gender discrimination simply by asking two questions:
‘Are the men doing this, as well? Is it polite?’
This handbook for teenagers and young women is a loud and clear riposte to the old “Good Wife’s Guides”. As a reader, you do not need to agree 100% with all the points made through the book, but you will for sure examine detail by detail the pressures you live under and the ilogic rules you follow. Even if you end up having the same opinion on topics like abortion or marriage, and you decide to still wear heels everyday, at least your view on feminism will probably change. Because her main objective is to be very clear about how feminism embraces all kind of women: the cheesy ones, the ones that stay at home with their kids, the ones in burkas… and about what feminism really is:
‘What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry?’