THE BOOK CLUB WEEKEND IS FINALLY HERE. Antwerp Train Station, you don’t even know what’s about to hit you (more worldwide location information here). In case you missed it, like you could have possibly missed it, we’re discussing Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman. APW Advertising Manager Emily, who kind of specializes in never finishing APW book club picks on time, just described the book as, “Women have boobs! And hair! And pressures! Jokes!” Which frankly is as good a synopsis as any. So, if you haven’t finished the book, you should come anyway, because I pretty much guarantee the best discussion ever.
So! It’s time to provide a list of discussion questions for you to pretend to pay attention to, until you veer off into a discussion of patriarchy, and what beer you should have, and if you can keep your career thriving and have a baby if you want to have a baby, and what it’s really like to be a woman (all of which would mean you’ve done Ms. Moran proud). But until that happens, let’s start with some questions. Some of these are crowd sourced, lots of them are, frankly, from me. And kicker! There is a never before disclosed joke about APW history buried in the questions, and it’s a good one, so I suggest you read the questions carefully.
- Caitlin Moran feels that she’s not good at being a woman, that she’s “doing it wrong.” Do you feel that way? Does everyone? Do men? Did Ad Men invent that feeling to sell beauty products? Are women self-perpetuating that feeling by holding each other to some unspoken standard that expects me to be super-feminist-career-lady, fashionista, and domestic goddess all in the same week? What kind of insidious plot is this?!
- Caitlin Moran says: “These days, sexism is a bit like Meryl Streep, in a new film: sometimes you don’t recognize it straightaway…. Very often, a woman can have left a party, caught the bus home, washed her face, got into bed, read 20 minutes of The Female Eunuch and put the light out before she puts the light back on again, sits bold upright and shouts, ‘Hang on—I’VE JUST HAD SOME SEXISM AT ME. THAT WAS SOME SEXISM! WHEN THAT MAN CALLED ME “SUGAR TITS”—THAT WAS SEXISM, AND NOT JUST AN HONEST MISPRONUNCIATION OF THE NAME “ANDREA.”‘” Have you had some sexism lately? Please discuss.
- “Weddings are our fault, ladies. Every aspect of their pantechnicon of awfulness happened on our watch. And you know what? Not only have we let humanity down, but we’ve let ourselves down, too.” While arguably blaming people for things isn’t helpful, sometimes getting to the root of why things are the way they are is, in fact, helpful. Did we do weddings to ourselves? Or did capitalism take them over, making us extra crazy? What is up with weddings? Discuss.
- Moran says, “We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism.’ We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent of American women would describe themselves as feminists—and only 42 precent 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 SURVEY?” Now, as someone who started a section of her website called Reclaiming Wife (Fact: the real subtitle of Reclaiming Wife was always supposed to be, “Because Wife Is The New Cunt,” but I just never got up the nerve to put it on the internet) I am peculiarly obsessed with reclaiming terms that have the ability to do us good as women. Why? Because I think the way we use language actually affects our day to day reality. So, given that, why do you think only 29% of American women (sob) identify as feminists? What on earth can we do to change that? Why is it still important?
- After Caitlin Moran discusses why you should have kids, she discusses why you shouldn’t have kids. I found this passage particularly compelling, “When people ask working women, ‘When are you going to have a baby?’ what they’re really asking is, ‘When are you going to leave?’” Do you think there is a way for women to have babies and not stop making things (as Ms. Moran rather awesomely demonstrates with this book). What sort of change would we need to make this more possible?
- The getting drunk with Lady Gaga story. Ok. I know this isn’t technically a question, but I still think you should discuss it.
- Moran tells a lot of stories from the “broke years.” She was giving interviews as a celebrity in a house that had no electricity. It’s a good reminder that fame does not necessarily indicate wealth. Do we ignore the reality of the lives of celebs? It’s easy to judge a topless reality star in a hot tub, or a stripper, or a porn actress, but are we overlooking the complexity of the person when we ignore their motivations? Are we demonizing and dehumanizing those we don’t approve of, if we pretend they don’t have bills to pay? What about Moran’s ignorance about paying her taxes? She seemed woefully unprepared to handle her own finances. Did you feel this same way at the age of 20? Do you feel like you’re knowledgeable enough to make good financial decisions now? Do you think men are better prepared than women or do we all make the same mistakes?
- In the postscript, we have this kicker, “I want CHOICE. I want VARIETY. I want MORE. I want WOMEN. I want women to have more of the world, not just because it would be fairer, but because it would be better. More exciting. Reordered. Reinvented.” What things made by women have you seen recently that you loved? What things made by women have you seen lately that you hated? What would you like to see more of?
Have fun ladies. Stay safe. Get tipsy.
And when you’re done, please email a quick paragraph on your bookclub meetup to Maddie at maddie at apracticalwedding dot com. And upload pictures into the APW Flickr pool, pretty pretty please. Don’t make Maddie track you down. Which she will do. But that’s less time she can spend cuddling her dog, and you wouldn’t do that to a girl, would you? So email her by Sunday night, lovelies.