APW Book Club Questions: Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

Caitlin Moran How To Be A Woman plus ChocolateTHE 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.


Picture: when I bought an exceedingly large number of Caitlin Moran books at Heathrow, they inexplicably made me buy a chocolate bar for each book, so I could get each book for half off. I think the clerk vastly misunderstood the concept of buy-one-get-one-free, but there we are.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • ElfPuddle

    Maddie, we won’t be emailing you about ATL by Sunday night since we’re meeting on Monday. We will, however, email you ASAP if you want us to.

    Apparently, we’re Southern, and y’all will just have to wait for our precious selves. ;)

    • Maddie

      Send it anyway! Also, the dog forgives you. For what it’s worth.

      • ElfPuddle

        The forgiveness of a dog means a lot!
        Give poochums a squeeze for me!

  • I demand a photo of every book club group standing on chairs and shouting “FEMINISM! FAT! CUNT! WIFE! WIFE IS THE NEW CUNT!” In fact, video would be even better.

    • meg


    • This, we can do.

      • YESSSSS!!! I shall insist. I may be the only one… but I doubt it :)

  • “…they inexplicably made me buy a chocolate bar for each book”

    But at least Dairy Milks are delicious.

  • FawMo

    Our Seattle book club STARTS Sunday at 4pm. We’ll do our best to get you good stuff. Pinky promise.

  • Hello people, from what I checked on the APW Facebook thingy there are no meetups happening in Edmonton, AB. Is this a sad reality for me? Am I all alone? Does anyone want to talk to me about this book? I special ordered it for crying out loud! Hahaha

    But seriously, anyone?

    • meg

      We will talk about it online next week, but I hope SOMEONE wants to meet with you!

      • Emily

        oh yay! i want to talk about it online next week. this post made me excited.

      • Josephine

        Ooh, where will we talk online?

    • Brenda F

      Oh my goodness! I’m in Edmonton, haven’t read the book but I’d be ecstatic to do a meet-up if, you know, a freelance project wasn’t on the verge of exploding. But knowing there’s a fellow APWer in Edmonton is exciting! I’d be up for a remedial meet-up or something.

    • Maddie

      I think there is a Skype or G+ book club meeting happening tomorrow, which I’m sure the organizers would be happy to let you in on (how many people can you fit in a Skype chat?) :) If you’re interested, e-mail me at maddie (at) apracticalwedding (dot) com and I will put you in touch!

  • Maddie

    That photo is where my dreams live.

  • I think “Because Wife Is the New Cunt” needs to be the logo for the next APW tote bag….

    • Emily

      i think this might have to become my married motto. “I’m STILL EDGY!” not that, you know, i’m edgy as an unmarried woman, but in theory. it sounds cool.

    • meg

      I’ve wanted to make these tote bags for two years.

  • 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.”‘”

    So many quotation marks! Huzzah for proper grammar!

    • Katie

      I had a list of questions that I was going to contribute, and then missed the post requesting crowd sourced questions (bad Team Practical member), but this was totally on that list. The rest of the list I’m taking with me to the LA meetup!

      And the correctly formed quotation marks make me happy.

  • Yay Antwerp train station, tomorrow :)

  • Jo

    Like you had to bury a joke to get us to read these. This stuff is irresistible!! :)

    • meg


  • Hmmm… this “cunt” thing may well turn me onto the idea of liking the word “wife”… maybe… didn’t think it would happen, as usually I can’t stand the word.

    • I have to say, until reading this book “cunt” was easily my least favorite word in the English language. Ever. And so when I got to the chapter where she goes on about this word, I thought, “oh boy, here we go with the ‘it just doesn’t carry the same connotation as it does in the US, it’s not a big deal'”, which I still think is total garbage since it is most often (in USian film/pop culture) big burly dudes with cockney accents that use it to denigrate everyone including themselves. I was not expecting to have my mind changed on the absolute no-goodness of this word. I’m still not sure it is changed, but I’m reconsidering.

      (PS – regardless of how much I dislike the word “cunt”, I still think it’s a pretty good joke. I might not buy the totebag, but I totally think someone should.)

      • I am with you. I have the same gutteral reaction to the C-word that I do the N-word. Well, OK, no. The N-word is worse. Way worse. But this is #2 for me, and as much as it should be a distant 2, logically, it’s not. I really hate it almost as much.

        I think this is because I grew up in a house that was pretty free in the cursing in front of me from a young age, and nothing was off-limits. Nothing, that is, except the C-word and the N-word. (Look at me, I won’t even TYPE them!)

      • meg

        LADIES! LADIES! How have you not all read Cunt: A Declaration of Independence (Live Girls) We’ve been working on reclaiming this word for, oh, well over 15 years at least. It’s now one of my personal favorites when used properly.

        • I KNOW. I do need to read it. I saw it in a bookstore in Seneca Falls YEARS ago and almost bought it. I wish I had spoken up about my reservations of the words to my friends at the time, because they would have (necessarily) peer-pressured me.

          Not that I have a good excuse now. Clearly, I don’t.

          Next APW book club, perhaps? :)

        • ElfPuddle

          Or Eve Ensler! How have y’all not seen “The Vagina Monologues”?

          • Amanda

            I ama feminist. I am a woman. I am an english teacher. Words matter. The C word has never been used in a positive manner. It has never honored or upheld women. To ” reclaim” it holds that it is a word that was previously claimed positively. Yes, we should claim pride in our gender, we should strive for equality and respect and honor. We should fight and fight and fight for a world that honors all people and genders. We should not claim a hate fueled word. It is a word with a history, a history that ” reclaiming” this hideous word only whitewashes. It is a word i want no part of, because I am not my vagina, i am my brain, my heart, my spirit, my whole body. I am no more empowered by using the c word than i am the n word. I refuse to find honor in a word based inn hatred.

          • I have, multiple times, and I LOVE IT. That’s the only skit that makes me cringe.

            Amanda below actually sums it up a little better than I did … and it’s exactly how my mother feels about the word.

            (I’m not crazy about ‘bitch,’ either, though that one doesn’t bother me as much for some reason.)

          • Lizzie

            My favorite use of “cunt” is in Lady Chatterly’s Lover, when her lover tells her that she’s the “best bit o’ cunt left on earth”. In context, it is really sweet and really sexy.

  • I wish I had made more of an effort to get my hands on this book. I didn’t, because I had plans for this weekend that would have made it impossible to day-trip to NYC or Boston, but now the husband is under the weather, so our plans together have been postponed, and I’m suddenly free. And without the book that I can’t just go buy or get from the library. And it looks like the best yet. (And they’ve all been pretty fantastic.)

    • Heh, I’m still going, and I haven’t read the book either. :) I figure (hope) bringing my own experiences and opinions will facilitate discussion just as much.

  • Amanda

    Please tell me that the photo above was taken some time ago, and that you haven’t miraculously saved all the chocolate bars until now.