I do believe that Caitlin Moran and I might have been separated at birth. True, she is a year older than me, we look nothing alike, and there is the whole issue of her being English and me being American. But if I were to believe in sociological/societal/feminist doppelgängers(Doppelgängland? What?), we would belong to each other.
I’m sure I’m not the only person to feel this way. At least, I hope I’m not the only person to feel this way, because there is little to nothing in Moran’s memoir How To Be A Woman that won’t strike a nerve, have you shaking your head in agreement or shaking your fists in rage, resonate like a klaxon blasted directly into your ear canal, or leave you wiping laughter-induced tears from your eyes. Simply put, in the best British way possible, Moran is brilliant.
First, let’s address the f-word. Moran is a feminist. A strident feminist, as she happily states. Apparently, so am I. Strangely, I don’t think I’ve ever really contemplated it all that much. I didn’t necessarily think that I was feminist. I thought I was being logical for thinking things like I have just as much right to play sports; just as much right to have access to education; just as much right to enjoy things like action figures, horror movies, sci-fi, and reject things like Barbie and pink as my favorite color; and just as much right to make decisions for myself, especially when it comes to things that directly affect my welfare, my career, my life.
See? Logical. Apparently, though, not everyone got the same logic memo I did. So all these things make me a feminist. Actually, I think Moran sums up feminism a bit more concisely when she writes: “Do you have a vagina? And do you want to be in charge of it? If you said ‘yes’ to both, then congratulations! You’re a feminist.”
Well, there you go.
Truly, that is Moran’s greatest strength and greatest gift with this memoir: She puts in clear, concise terms her thoughts on the state of modern feminism. Her arguments are valid and, yes, logical. She doesn’t bugger off into insipid, emotional tantrums. She knows what she believes and she knows how to express herself in cogent, hilarious ways about things that really aren’t all that funny.
See, while it’s perfectly all right now for women not to be burned at the stake or drowned in a dunk tank for nothing more than progressive thinking, we’re simply not supposed to think of ourselves as feminists. Feminism has been demonized, vilified. It’s been shrouded in decades of negativity, lobbed at it for no reason other than one: fear. Feminism in its purest, truest form encourages women to think that they are capable of anything, if only given the chance…which is precisely what feminists actually want. Not to annihilate men, castrate them, subjugate them, or any other ridiculous notion. We simply want the same opportunities and rights they have. The right to choose when it comes to the decisions that will affect our life’s ultimate journey.
So what’s there to be afraid of? I’m not sure, really. But the fear is HUGE, denizens. So huge that I watched an entire nation treat a woman of enviable intelligence and experience with horrific disrespect, why? For the “crime” of thinking she could be president. Silly woman, didn’t you get the memo? Sisko was a captain before Janeway, and White men granted the right to vote to those they once viewed as property half a century before they granted the same right to their own wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters.
Whatever the reason for all this fear, Moran puts forth an excellent argument that being a feminist is not a bad thing. Wanting the inalienable right to choose what is best for us is not a bad thing, whether it be choosing how much pubic hair we would like to have, how much sex we would like to have, whether or not we want to marry, whether or not we want children.
The masterpiece of Moran’s memoir, I believe, comes in her chapter on abortion. I daresay I don’t think I’ve ever read a more honest, straightforward, plain-spoken account of this as a woman’s right and as a personal choice. We want the right to choose what happens to our own bodies, without the intervention of people who really have no place in the decision whatsoever.
Even more, this is ultimately the key to solving so many of the lynchpin political issues that seem unending and unfixable: reduce it to its truest form. Freedom of choice. I don’t believe in Christianity, so I stay out of churches. Guess what you need to stay out of if you don’t believe in abortion?
Wow. I think this is the most I’ve written about a BookBin post in a very long time. And there is still so much more I’d love to say. Final word, though, is this: Moran’s memoir is amazing. I think everyone should read it. Everyone. Not just women. Everyone. Thank you so much to my English friends for introducing me to Moran, and special thanks to the lovely LauraPakora for sending me her copy when I discovered that the book wasn’t yet available in this country. You’ve no idea the joy I have taken away from this book 🙂
Final Verdict: I want to hold onto this one for a bit longer before sharing it…and I do want to share it. With anyone and everyone willing to give it a chance. However, I want to thumb through it a bit more first. I also want to compare it to its American counterpart. I simply have to know how some of the exclusively British segments are translated for an American audience. Welcome to another level of my book nerdery.