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

Yesterday I mentioned that I spent a chunk of my vacation rather greedily gobbling up books, and well, I needed to clue you in about one of those books in particular. Thanks to a recommendation from Cate, I snapped up Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman in the Heathrow Airport. We can’t get it easily in the States, but I’d been told it was amazing and contributing to an ongoing discussion of feminism in the media in the UK. (Why don’t we have that Stateside? I want to know!)

So I picked it up, and my mind was blown. Because, you guys, this is one of those rare books that feels like it was written for me in particular. It felt like it was written for you guys in particular. It is a book with our names on it. It is a funny, feminist, honest discussion of what it’s like to be a woman today. It was, rather obviously, the next APW book club pick. I couldn’t help it. It picked itself.

Because here is the thing: I’m a feminist. Obviously. But I’m not a very angry one (unless you get me started on name change and children’s last names on a personal level, and then I’m quite pissed off). I’m more the funny kind of feminist. And there is not anywhere near enough of that going around, if you ask me. So while How To Be A Woman isn’t technically about weddings or marriage (though she touches a bit on both), we’ll be reading it. In fact, I’m going to go so far as to make all of you in the US order it from the UK, because it’s that good.

Specifically, it’s this good:

In case you were wondering how many copies you should buy of a book that you want to give out to everyone (perhaps a sane wedding book by someone you know, coming out at the end of the year?), the answer is five. It would have been more, if I thought I could fit them in our carry-on luggage at Heathrow, but five will do. Because Caitlin Moran says things like this:

However, whilst chipping in your six penn’orth on what it’s actually like—rather than what we pretend it’s like—to be a woman is vital, we still also need a bit of analysis-y, argument-y, ‘this needs to change-y’ stuff. You know. Feminism.

And this:

I don’t know if we can talk about ‘waves’ of feminism any more—by my reckoning, the next wave would be the fifth, and I suspect it’s around the fifth wave that you stop referring to individual waves, and start to refer, simply, to an incoming tide.

But if there is to be a fifth wave of feminism, I would hope that the main thing that distinguishes it from all that came before is that women counter the awkwardness, disconnect and bullshit of being a modern woman not by shouting at it, internalizing it or squabbling about it—but by simply pointing at it, and going ‘HA!’ instead.

And this:

For women, finding a sympathetic, non-judgmental arena is just as important as getting the right to vote. We needed not just the right legislation, but the right atmosphere, too, before we can finally start to found our canons—then, eventually, cities and empires.

And if that’s not what we’re trying to do around these parts, then I don’t know what the hell’s going on around here.

And that’s not even mentioning all the talk about minge, and pants (which I have to endlessly remember means underwear and not trousers), and why you should have babies, and why you shouldn’t have babies, and sexism. And then there is the bit where she posits that, while we can lay the blame for lots of things on the doorstep of men:

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.

And that is why I consider the work of reclaiming weddings that we’re working at here at APW to be fundamentally feminist work. That, and getting drunk worldwide while discussing How To Be A Woman. Feminist life is hard, y’all. You’re welcome in advance.

So pick your date to meetup ladies. There will be plenty to discuss.

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