How Caitlin Moran changed me with ‘How To Be A Woman’

How to be a woman

It’s not often I throw a book review your way, mainly because I’m the slowest reader on the planet but also because I’m not very good at articulating why I like something. (That said, I have got the art of articulating why I don’t like something down to perfection.)

Today I finished reading Caitlin Moran’s How To Be a Woman, and I feel compelled to shout from the rooftops: READ IT! WOMEN AND MEN EVERYWHERE, READ IT!

If you don’t know who Caitlin Moran is, where have you been? The journalist and comedian first jumped on to my radar a few years ago when every intelligent and wonderful woman in my life was oozing, “Oh I just loooove Caitlin Moran,” so I thought I should probably check her out. If only so I could confidently articulate my dislike of her, should that have been the case.

Well, turns out, I just loooove Caitlin Moran too. And I know I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to making this declaration – and in reading How To Be a Woman – but at least I got there in the end.

There are a couple of things I’m in the process of writing blog posts about where I now feel there’s no point. Instead of my long witterings, my posts will now just read: See “How To Be a Woman” chapter 14. Nothing else. There is nothing else. She has said it all.

I should say that if you don’t really care about Caitlin, her first period, her bastard of an ex-boyfriend or her hilariously disasterous wedding, then probably don’t read her book. But, regardless of your Caitlin feelings, I would really really like everyone to read the following chapters, then come round for tea and cake so that we can talk about it.

  • Chapter 12: Why You Should Have Children. (Caitlin! Why so prescriptive?! I thought we were all about every woman being who she wants to be, not who she should be!)
  • Chapter 13: Why You Shouldn’t Have Children. (Aah! *Relief* I see what you’ve done here, and I like it!)
  • Chapter 15: Abortion. (Wow. I was not expecting this.)

What I loved most about these three chapters is that they made me question myself and my views. Whilst I don’t agree with everything she says I like someone who can remind me that, at the ripe old age of 31, my views are not set in stone and are subject to change. After reading the incredibly graphic description of her first labour (seriously, this is not for the faint-hearted… or the pregnant), as well as the thoughts of a woman who might not want children and the very real experience (and also graphic) of someone enduring abortion, I was left speechless. It took me a while to understand and articulate why these chapters are so important, and I think that quite simply it’s this:

People do not talk about these things. Or rather, they talk about them with a blasé “so when are you going to have kids?”, as if the question, “do you want children?” is not even worth considering. People do not articulate the raw, honest truth behind the things they do and the decisions they make. And they don’t have to – crikey, not everyone wants to broadcast their every thought and move to the entire world à la the blogging community – but these major life decisions are things that cause so much pain for so many women, and the judgement and responsibility that goes with them can sometimes feel too much to bear. There was a time when we didn’t talk about women in the workplace, equal pay and sexism – it just wasn’t the done thing. Nowadays these conversations are not only had between friends at the dinner table, they’re talked about at international conferences all over the word. So whilst I’m not asking you as an individual to start sharing your views all over the world, because I know that some things are just personal, wouldn’t it be good if we could just start the conversation, removing the fear of judgement and shame.