How To Be A Woman

Caitlin Moran

The book is partly an autobiography, but Caitlin Moran uses the stages of her life as jumping-off points for discussions about issues affecting modern women. For example, the onset of puberty leads into a discussion of why it is now considered necessary for women to shave all pubic hair. Ageing sparks a debate about why so many women attempt to stall their years at the late thirties with extensive cosmetic surgery.

The whole thing is both very entertaining and thought-provoking. As a fellow left-ish liberal, I find little here to disagree with or anything that doesn't just seem like common sense. One of Moran's central observations (I think) is that modern "feminism" seems to have split into a dichotomy of extremist man-haters and the successors to the "new ladettes", for whom freedom is the freedom to flash their knickers or knockers at whoever they want. Her point is that, inevitably, the truth lies somewhere in between; her repeated question is "are the men doing this too?" - and, if not, why not?

The only thing that doesn't strike quite true is the way that she describes "all women" as being subject to a series of pressures - to look young, to get a Brazilian, to slim down, to get married. Now, obviously I am a man in his forties and so miss much of what pressures are applied to teenage or young women (although I expect to find out in about three years when my daughter reaches that age). However, I really don't get the sense from the women my age that they feel the pressures mentioned here to that degree. All of them are well able to distinguish between the simplistic, sensationalist and stupid attitudes of the media ("Get this season's must-have trousers! Don't let your man see your wrinkles!") and real life. I'll have to get one of them to read it and comment.

Anyway, very enjoyable and only made slightly disconcerting by the fact that in her picture on the cover Caitlin looks exactly like my friend Ruth.

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