It’s always Alain de Boton type stuff – media-spotlit intelligentsia writers talking about a zeitgeisty subject in an intelligible way. Clever popcorn.
So, having resisted the publicity around Caitlin Moran’s heavy selling “How to be a woman” for as long as I could, I gave into the inevitable. Moran is not what I expected from a multi-award winning journalist. Fervent, eccentric and hysterically funny, she is entirely without shame. No story is too embarrassing to relate, and it’s impossible not to warm to such barefaced honesty and openness about everything from pubic hair to sexual discrimination. And boy, can she write. Wow. Her writing is a thing of brilliance – bracing, warm, tumultuous, full of humour and bite and entirely inappropriate asides.
Wooed by her idiosyncratic style, you have to agree with Moran on so many things – she is RIGHT ON on women in the workplace, flirting, clothes, children, adolesence, abortion… she revives feminism as something not only relevant but essential, not only modern but of vital importance in the future. Something, importantly, that isn’t an unnecessary outdated aggression, but something funny, true, and so fundamental that to not care about it is pure outrage.
My problem came with Moran’s “mates in a bar” approach – her style is piling up stories that you can relate to from your own experience, or the sort of thing you imagine your friends chatting to you about. And there it hits a barrier for me, as Caitlin and I… well, we couldn’t be much more different and there comes a point when the chummy ‘don’t you agree?’ approach hits a brick wall. This kickback didn’t happen in any of the more important and fundamental parts of her argument – it was the consistent emphasis on “getting off my tits” that started to piss me off. As a person who’s anti-drugs for a fair number of reasons, I find it hard to swallow (sniff?) the line that people who found their wedding days the happiest of their lives were fools who hadn’t taken enough ecstasy. And though drugs pop up regularly, it wasn’t just that. Moran’s lifestyle is quite alien to my own, and the more far-out sooo-wild-man the references became (shagging Vanilla Ice anyone?) the less I felt I could relate to Caitlin’s “we’re all normal old humans together” approach. But after all, I am an old lady in a 26 year old’s body, and far too touchy.
This gripe was not at all the be-all-and-end-all, though, as Caitlin’s warmth and open-heartedness admits different views and practices, so long as they’ve got confidence and belief behind them, rather than fear. I might never hang out with Moran in the sort of Berlin sex club that she enjoys so much in the book, but I’ll stand right by her in her positive re-creation of what feminism means – being “one of the guys” and standing up for what’s fair. And I think she’d care about that more.