I have finished the 26th book for the book challenge. It was How To Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran.
Moran begins her book at her thirteenth birthday and takes certain milestones in her life and writes a chapter on each, explaining how each milestone helped her in her understanding of what it is to be a woman. She has a wonderful sense of humor about her impoverished upbringing in Wolverhampton as an overweight young girl with no friends who is chased by a group of boys on her thirteenth birthday, as she terms Her Worst Birthday Ever. But her birthday is also good because at thirteen she can now check out books from the adult section of the library and she proceeds to do that with regularity, checking out romance novels as well as good literature. She talks about the lack of proper clothing in her home for the children, how she had two tee-shirts and one shirt, and her mother’s hand-me-down underwear. She shared a bed with her sisters and the dog, and ate a chunk of cheese on a fork, a cheese lollipop.
Her next chapter recounts her experience with first getting her period, and with her sister Cassie soon getting hers, and what a traumatic experience that was with the dog eating the sanitary napkins. Having your period was something that was to be endured for thirty years. Moran then explores the issue of body hair, specifically the issue of pubic hair, and the recent trend of waxing the body to rid it of all traces of hair. She is decidedly against the modern trend of the pain and the notion the hair is nasty and needs to be removed. She also explores the topic of breasts, getting them and then what happens to them after one has children and they are stretched out from breast-feeding.
She also explores the issue of feminism and boldly states that she is a feminist and admires feminists such as Germaine Greer, even as a young girl. She tackles the topic of bras. an issue women of all ages have learned to dread because most women do not really have a handle on their correct bra size and either wear a size too large or too small. All women have had an experience with a too small bra that they have rejoiced when they have taken off, and Moran is no exception. She talks about body image and the fact that she was always an overweight teen (she was FAT!) and finally lost the excess weight. But she takes this opportunity to also talk about anorexia nervosa.
Moran is a journalist, working for a music magazine, and she encountered sexism in her job and she writes about that in one chapter of her book. She also write about her first experience of being in love, which was a terrible thing. He was “an arse” who treated her terribly, and she finally woke up and left him after eighteen month of hell. She recounts her experience of visiting a strip club with another writer and how demeaning these places are to women, how they were taken for Russian prostitutes and thrown out of the strip club for trying to cut into the girls business. She then tells the story of her wedding, how she had a “destination wedding” at a monastery by the seaside where all her relatives and friends came to stay a few days after Christmas, when she should have just gone to the registrar.
Moran talks about fashion and women and how important clothes are to women, or at least how important women view clothing and fashion. Why do we look so much to name brands? Why is it so important to have a name brand purse for an outrageous sum of money than just a good size bag for a reasonable amount of money? Moran explores this issue. And she also talks about shoes.
She talks about children. She has two girls and talks about their birth and they joys they bring to her, and they pain they brought as she brought them into the world. And her fears and joys as she raises them. And she talks about why people don’t have children and why they are happy with that decision. She also talks about female role models, such as Lady Gaga, and what women do with these role models.
In the only really serious chapter in the book, Moran recounts her abortion. When she was still breast-feeding her second infant daughter, she discovered she was pregnant. She knew that she could not be a mother again and decided to have an abortion. She describes her thinking and the procedure and the lack of guilt she felt. She believes she did the right thing then and still believes it.
In her postscript, she says that she is still learning how to be a woman. She still has to raise teenagers, go through menopause. She still has much to learn. But she will leave that for another day.
This was a wonderful book. Moran is a skilled writer with a wonderful sense of humor, yet she can be serious and make you think about serious issues that women face. I really enjoyed this book, as a woman and as a reader.