How to Be a Woman

“I want a Zero Tolerance policy on All The Patriarchal Bullshit.”
– Caitlin Moran, How to Be a Woman

I was raised feminist.

15moran-articleLargeNot that my parents were burning bras or anything, but it came without question that I was just as strong, powerful, and great as the boys. Growing up, my mom and dad advocated for me when I pushed some gender-traditional boundaries (but yes, I may have also been the one to push them too far…I still hold that the entire talent show laughing incident was Dusty Robinson’s fault, but I digress).

For these and many other reasons, reading Caitlin Moran’s feminist reflections/memoir/soapbox was such a treat.

With raunchy snark she dispatches with many of the central assumptions of someone who picks up such a provocatively titled text:

“But, of course, you might be asking yourself, ‘Am I a feminist? I might not be. I don’t know! I still don’t know what it is! I’m too knackered and confused to work it out. That curtain pole really still isn’t up! I don’t have time to work out if I am a women’s libber! There seems to be a lot to it. WHAT DOES IT MEAN?’
I understand.
So here is the quick way of working out if you’re a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.

a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?

If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”

While I find putting her in the same mold as Tina Fey (A British Tina Fey! the book jacket attests) is a gross mismatch, it actually proves one of her central points – you can’t essentialize what any of this means. To be a ‘feminist’ is different for everyone and can be empowering for everyone. As Moran puts it, she just “thumbs up for the six billion” rather than pro or anti anyone.

A bit of an autodidact, she also frankly reflects on growing up incredibly poor, struggling to find herself and eventually realizing how to be herself: “as the years went on, I realised that what I really want to be, all told, is a human. Just a productive, honest, courteously treated human.”

In fact, this is my central take-away from Moran: if what we do comes from joy and freedom, then it is most likely an empowered act that begins to tear down the constructions that keep anyone from their true potentials.

“Any action a woman engages in from a spirit of joy, and within a similarly safe and joyous environment, falls within the city-walls of feminism. A girl has a right to dance how she wants, when her favourite record comes on.”

And although it’s far from a ‘perfect’ text or a reflection of everyone’s views, Moran adds her voice to a group of modern women so sadly underrepresented in literature: those who protest, who contradict, who struggle – and still live.

***

The Art of the Everyday – February 27: Weekly Book Review! Wherein I attempt to reach my goal of 63 books this year:

The Books Around: 2014

1. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
2. Home by Toni Morrison
3. Grandville by Bryan Talbot
4. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
5. Help Thanks Wow by Anne Lamott
6. Viktor Frankl Recollections by Viktor Frankl
7. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran
8. Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Prachett
9. Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
10. A House for Mr. Biswas by VS Naipaul
11. Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight by Alexandra Fuller
12. On the Mystery by Catherine Keller
13. In the Footsteps of Mr. Kurtz by Michela Wrong
14. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
14. King Leopold’s Ghost by Adam Hochschild
15. Jitterbug Perfume by Tom Robbins
16. The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa
17. The Journey Home by Radhanath Swami
18. Quantum by Manjit Kumar
19. We by Yevgeny Zamyatin
20. Dispatches by Michael Herr
21. Living Thoughts of Kierkegaard Edited by WH Auden
22. The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
23. Wool by Hugh Howey
24. Black Boy by Richard Wright
25. Embracing Defeat by John W. Dower
26. Cane River by Lalita Tademy
27. The Paradise of Bombs by Scott Russell Sanders
28. kira-kira by Cynthia Kadohata
29. Written on the Body by Jeanette Winterson
30. The Permanent Revolution by Leon Trotsky
31. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce
32. Trinity by Leon Uris
33. Omaha Blues by Joseph Lelyveld
34. Airships by Barry Hannah
35. Big Sur by Jack Kerouac
36. Marie Antoinette by Antonia Fraser
37. Passionate Nomad by Jane Fletcher Geniesse
38. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut
39. Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaurder
40. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
41. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
42. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
43. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
44. The Brothers K by David James Duncan
45. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
46. Peter and the Starcatchers by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson
47. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
48. Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
49. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
50. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
51. Full Dark House by Christopher Fowler
52. Bright Shiny Morning by James Frey
53. The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Potzsch
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. Blindness by Jose Saramago
56. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carre
57. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry
58. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera
59. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
60. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
61. Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
62. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
63. Dune by Frank Herbert

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