I’ve just finished reading How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Nervous as to whether the book would live up to what I’d hoped, the first few lines were about a chubby 13 year old girl running away from yobs. Brilliant, I thought, who doesn’t want to read about the misfortune of a fat teenager running away from bullies, good ol’ schadenfreude.
And the rest of the book was just as good, listing Moran’s life like a guide to, well, being a woman. But, how can this teach you to be woman, I kept thinking. I know it’s not literally a self-help book, but surely, all it is is a funny memoir, right?
And even if that’s all I was to take from it, I’d still got a pretty good deal, but it wasn’t until I was part way through that I realised, I could learn something from this book, more than I’ve ever learnt from any book before…
The magic of the book for me was this: I think feminism is great. I think, who the hell doesn’t want to be a feminist because if you’re not then surely you’re anti-feminist, you either are, or you aren’t, but the stereotypes that surround feminism, ie flat shoes, flat hair, flat chest, flat life, are enough to make the most feminine of feminists hide in a corner, most un-feministicly.
I’ve mentioned in brave moments that I am a feminist and ignored that one raised eyebrow, squinty smile thing that you often get back, and after a while, I kind of thought, well this is stupid, I’m just not going to label myself. Even to the point that, whilst having an incredibly heated discussion about my never-ending views on feminism, I ended it with “but I’d never actually call myself a feminist…” in retort to ‘the squinty face’. Inside, the Greer part of my brain kicked me in the head and shouted “GET THE HELL OVER IT, YOU GIRLY WIMP. WHAT KIND OF FEMINIST ARE YOU?!”
So, grabbing this book from my bookshelf as it nestled in between Women of the Revolution and The Bell Jar, I put it in my bag and headed off to sink myself into it on the tube.
Always conscious that people will gaze at what you’re reading and instantly judge you, I held the book close to my chest, in fear of ‘the squinty face’. Then, as each page turned, I suddenly realised, being a feminist is something to be proud of. We’re living in the future already, and yet, so few women will happily stand there and say “yes, I’m a feminist, and what?”, because doesn’t being a feminist means you hate men, you don’t wear makeup and you don’t like shoes? I don’t hate men, I wear makeup and I love shoes, but I still believe in the rights of women and I still stand up against sexism.
I thought that it meant I couldn’t be a proper feminist if I thought that the idea of staying at home with kids was quite nice actually, I thought I couldn’t be a proper feminist if I quivered at the thought of the guy I fancied asking me on a date, but it’s all about choices. If, as a choice, I took the decision to stay at home and raise children when the time came, it doesn’t mean that I’m selling out, it means that, as a woman, I’ve made that choice. If my knees are knocking together when Dan from HR comes over and asks me to go to the pub for a drink after work, I can still be a feminist with knees that knock together, because Dan from HR hasn’t grabbed my arse and asked me to make him a steak pie at the same time.
Of course, Dan from HR doesn’t even exist, there is no HR in my office, I’m probably actually meant to be HR, but that’s not the point. The point is, there’s nothing to be ashamed about, and Caitlin Moran is the hero who showed me this.
So, as I finished the book this morning, I held it high on my tube journey, happy and confident that I was reading a book that was filled with chapters called “I Don’t Know What To Call My Breasts” and “Abortion”, ready to face the world in my new suede boots and a slick a red lippy, proud to call myself a feminist.