Well, folks, Caitlin Moran's How to Be a Woman (out this July) is one of the funniest, most incisively astute books I've ever read. So why, you might ask, have I been procrastinating about writing this review?
To be honest, I've been racking my brain for a way to say it's a book about feminism without half of you running for the hills, or at the very least, tuning out. Let's admit it: feminism is a hard sell. Moran herself, a brilliant and bawdy UK columnist, addresses this very issue in the book.
“We need to reclaim the word 'feminism'. We need the word 'feminism' back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist - and only 42% of British women - I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of 'liberation for women' is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? 'Vogue' by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
Perhaps by refusing to label themselves as feminist, women hope to avoid appearing any number of things--"unsexy, unfeminine, resentful, angry, or belligerent" being just some of the adjectives lobbed regularly at the women's rights movement. Thankfully, Moran has a better weapon than "strident feminism" or second wave "ball-busting." No, we don't need either of those things. What women need now is honesty. Like any minority group, there's an internalized prejudice among our ranks, and the way around it--the way through it--is real, open discussion.
The best part? Besides its philosophical and political relevance, How to Be a Woman is funny. Laugh-out-loud on the subway funny. I might be biased here, as Moran manages to make jokes about masturbating, Chevy Chase, Star Wars, and Cheers all in one book. She also addresses the music industry, Brazilians, men-as-feminists, abortion, motherhood, porn, as well as common names for one's lady-bits. With cheer and wit, Caitlin Moran throws taboo on the pyre for the sake of truthfulness and the results are brilliant.
So, now that I've done what I most dreaded, in conclusion, everyone should read How to Be a Woman. If not for the debate, at least for the jokes.
PS: if you're a librarian, check out How to Be a Woman on Edelweiss, and let us know what you think!