How to Be a Woman

I first heard about the book How to Be a Woman from a very interesting woman, Tanya Wexler, who had just released a film she directed about the invention of the vibrator (Hysteria, starring Maggie Gyllenhaal). She mentioned that the book was hysterical, which was funny since she was also hysterical and her film was named Hysteria.

ANYWAY, the book was a best seller in the UK, and as soon as it was released in the States I bought it and read it immediately. Not because I had to, but because it was funny. Damn funny. The only reason I didn’t laugh out loud more often as I read it was because a) some of the words are distinctly British, and I wasn’t sure exactly what they meant. And b) I was slightly jealous that Caitlin Moran had written the kind of book I had always wanted to write but couldn’t because of my day job.

I had a sensation while reading it similar to one I had decades ago when I read The Golden Notebook, by Doris Lessing, where she writes about menstruation and sex in a way that is so graphic and personal that I was relieved to understand that I was not alone or unusual. Although, Doris Lessing is decidedly NOT funny. So it was a massive relief that someone had finally, finally, taken the plastic coating off being a woman, put the plastic coating into historical context (briefly, not excessively the way I probably would have done), and then laughed about it in a way that was not shame inducing. Moran is my new heroine! In part because she does not blame men for everything and because she exposes how women sabotage themselves with things like waxing their nether regions, wearing high heels (my pet peeve), and spending excessive amounts of money and attention on weddings. And then there is hair….

Case in point, the Gabby Douglas hair incident in the Olympics. I had just finished reading How to Be a Woman when Gabby Douglas became the first African American woman to win a gold medal in the all-around gymnastics competition, and all people are talking about is her freaking HAIR?

It started on Twitter. But the media—our gloriously mainly non-feminist media, who also lambasted Hillary Clinton for going without makeup (which I thought made her look BEAUTIFUL!)—would not let it drop. It was “NEWS!!!!!!” Gabby’s hair is a mess! OMG! Let’s get a social media conversation going about it! Look, I’m even blogging about it.

All I can say is this: How to Be a Woman should be required reading for all people, starting at age 11. And people in the media, who tend not to be big readers, should be forced to read it twice, and also to listen to it read aloud. (I sent the chapter on being fat to my editors because it’s the most insightful look at WHY women get fat in the first place.)

In addition, using the news or media to attempt to shame young women should be made illegal.

How to Be a Woman. Get it. Read it. Pass it on.

PS. One of my favorite quotes is this one: “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.”

PPS.  I AM A FEMINIST!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



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5 Responses to How to Be a Woman

  1. Bill George August 27, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    I’m on it!
    Thanks for the reading tip.

  2. robin August 27, 2012 at 7:41 am #

    My How to Be a Woman to do list:
    1) Read Maria’s blog review
    2) Read the cover of the recommended book on Amazon- where Moran is referred to as a ” British Tina Fey.” Nice!
    3) Order copies for everyone ( including men) on your holiday list
    4) Remember to be grateful for your own messy hair, and your messy house. Both are a sign of intelligence and your commitment to more important issues.
    Thanks Ms Rodale : D

  3. Donna in Delaware August 27, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    I love British humour. I am an confessed Anglophile. Sometimes I sit with American friends and family watching British TV shows, laughing my behind off, and they’re looking at me, like I’m nuts, because they don’t get it. Thanks Maria, I’ll get the book.

  4. Annie August 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm #

    LOVE this book, too!

    Here’s my favorite bit:
    Are you a feminist? Here’s a quick way of checking, “Put your hands in your underpants,” she advises, then ask: “a. Do you have a vagina? and b. Do you want to be in charge of it?”

  5. Jody Grombach August 29, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    Dear Maria,

    I love what you write here and can’t wait to read this book! Yes!
    I have to say that I tend to love ALL your writings and look forward to seeing your latest in my inbox. You’re the kind of woman I’d love to hang out with on a long afternoon over coffee.
    Thanks for sharing your irreverent insights with all of us.

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