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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!