52 Books, Week 1: How To Be A Woman

It’s only taken a week for me to realise two things. Firstly, I have such a short attention span, I cannot focus on just one book at a time without the promise of something else to read simultaneously. Secondly, I read bloody quickly. Who knew? So what I’m doing is keeping a record of everything I read in my lovely little book journal, while blogging about just one of them each week. I’ll be interested to see quite how quickly I hit the magic number 52, seeing as I’ve read three books in this first week of 2016 (though, granted, two of them were rereads).

How To Be A Woman – Caitlin Moran

Start date: Sunday, 3rd January

End date: Tuesday, 5th January

Reread/New: Reread

This book came out in 2011, though I didn’t read it until roughly a year after it was published. I’m not a massive fan of biographies, and to me, that’s what this seemed to be. I picked it up on a three for two deal when I was visiting my mum, thinking it would at least be something vaguely amusing to read on the train home.

A few hours later, as I choked back an actual scream of laughter at the sentence comparing pornographic closes-ups to “one of the Mitchell brothers, with no eyes, eating a very large, fidgety sausage”, my fellow passengers on the TransPennine Express perhaps wondering if I was going through some kind of mental anguish, I had to admit I had been very wrong about this book.

Before reading How To Be A Woman, I had always called myself a feminist. I didn’t really know why. I knew that I supported gender equality, and that having been raised by a strong, independent single mother had had a lot to do with that.  But it had no focus; it had no definition to me. I had already been trying to keep back tears of laughter at Caitlin Moran’s depiction of her childhood and adolescence before I stumbled upon this particular paragraph:

“Put your hands 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.”

A simplistic summary, perhaps, but it was my thoughts in one succinct nutshell. I wanted to jump up on my seat, as suggested in the book, and start proclaiming “I AM A STRIDENT FEMINIST” for all to hear (though I’d have probably been forcibly removed from the TransPennine Express and would still be languishing in a ditch somewhere south of York).

Rereading this book several years on, despite reading a lot further into feminist canon and making up my own mind about quite a few things, I still identify with much of what Caitlin Moran says. Comparing ‘beautiful’ designer handbags to “Tom Jones’s knackers, with handles” – yes! Exactly! The mental image of Marilyn Manson weeping over bootees in JoJo Maman Bébé – a thought that brings tears of hilarity to my own eyes!

A lot of self-proclaimed feminist texts are hard-hitting and hard to read, and with that comes quite a degree of humourless expression. How To Be A Woman manages to cover meaningful issues from adolescence to abortion, while still making you laugh so hard you snort pasta through your nose. What could be better?

Would I recommend this book? Yes. To anyone, male or female. It’s part autobiography, yes, which I don’t usually enjoy, but it’s also part manifesto, a hilarious and honest call to arms for anyone who wants to just be one of ‘The Guys’. In fact, she has a new book coming out later this year, Moranifesto – I have high hopes that this will carry on in a similar vein and I will most certainly be buying it, in hardback, the day it comes out.

By the way, please do go and follow Caitlin Moran on Twitter, it will be very worth your time.

image My stack from the week – cunningly angled to hide the giant crack in my Kindle

Other Books from Week 1

Trying to Conceive – Genevieve Morton (new read)

Feeding into my current obsession, obviously.

Atonement – Ian McEwan (reread)

A book I read as a teenager, didn’t massively understand but loved it; then studied it for A Level and loved it even more.