How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
Caitlin Moran’s feminist polemic is super smart and hilarious. She tells lots of funny stories of growing up in a large, poor British family, being a bookish, fat, and awkward teenager, and navigating the adult world in sensible shoes, with a drink in her hand. She takes on pornography, body image, princesses, aging, workplace harrassment, strip clubs, marriage, children, abortion, and celebrities.
My favorite parts were probably her rants about body image. She discusses overeating as the addiction of carers, of people who can’t afford to alter their mental state but need to self-soothe. Rather than obsessing about those last five pounds, she says we should be content to be “human-shaped.”
Moran makes feminism palatable for a wider audience by boiling it down to simple, reasonable statements about fairness and politeness, and by delivering her message with a sense of humor. For example:
What is feminism? Simply the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy, and smug they might be.
As I have said, in the same way that you can tell if some sexism is happening to you by asking the question “Is this polite, or not?” you can tell whether some misogynistic societal pressure is being exerted on women by calmly enquiring, “And are the men doing this, as well?”
One of the book’s main ideas is that we should laugh at sexism:
if there is to be a fifth wave of feminism, I would hope that the main thing that distinguishes it from all that came before is that women counter the awkwardness, disconnect, and bullshit of being a modern woman not by shouting at it, internalizing it, or squabbling about it–but by simply pointing at it and going “HA!” instead.
And really, there is power in laughter, in assuming the superior position required in order to laugh at one’s oppressors.
Not everyone will agree with everything Moran says here, but that’s not really the point. She takes a bold stance and sticks to it, arguing with wit and energy. She’s fun to read and makes you think.