Post-post feminist literature and Caitlin Moran
Today, whilst standing minding my own business as usual, I happened to glance over the shoulder of a woman sitting next to me, at her book. Intrigued as to what book would have such odd, italicized sub-titles, I cast a cursory glance at the title in the top corner of the page. Strong, Independent (so far so good) – and Lonely – Women. I promptly did a double take – but my initial reading was correct. Ah, I thought to myself, despite her highly sparkling, very long fingernails, she is an ironic feminist. How nice. (Not that being a feminist and having long, sparkly nails are mutually exclusive, of course. I bet Simone de Beauvoir would have loved some sparkly nail polish).
My curiosity thus awakened, I kept reading. The subtitle around the middle of the page read How to be a girl around the house. Surely, I thought, that would simply amount to having a vagina and being in a house? But perhaps this was some sort of self-indulgence chapter, a kind of Zooey Deschanel-y “dance to rock music in your frilly underpants” thing?
Do not fix the toilet, the sink, or indeed anything. Let him do it.
Now I was not only curious, but severely confused. How can not fixing the toilet help you be a girl? How, in fact, can a book instruct anyone on being a girl? Unless it was directed at men?
Again in bold:
Do not paint, mow the lawn, take out the garbage or lift anything heavy. This is his job.
Now incredulity was complete.
The book was, it appeared, not ironic at all. Nor was it feminist. Or even post-feminist. It was in fact a full on, 50s relic style guide to “how to trap a man by pretending to be helpless, weak, and everything you are naturally not”. Fight your instincts, it seemed to be saying.
As I was walking from the tube, I started thinking about the impact books can have on people. It is pretty immense. That is why I would like to counter the Strong, Independent – and Lonely – Women with my thoughts on Caitlin Moran’s How to be a Woman.
I’m neither ‘pro-women’ nor ‘anti-men’. I’m just ‘Thumbs up for the six billion’.
17 girls liked it. No boys.
(though that may also have to do with the fact that I posted it with a picture of Suffraggette Mrs Banks from Mary Poppins. And the complete lyrics of “Sister Suffragette”).
Whilst bringing feminism unashamedly to the masses, this book is a hilarious romp through, well, being a woman. It covers every part of being a woman today, including what sort of pants you should wear (the answer is, of course, whichever pants you like). And because Caitlin Moran is, as her twitter says, “a woman, yes, but also funny”, she had me snorting out loud on the tube in an extremely unladylike manner, but also completely unashamed of being unladylike.
Such is my faith in this book that I think it can reclaim the word feminism, and banish the idea of feminism being this unattractive, crazy, no-bra no-men kind of thing. Because books CAN and DO matter. Feminism is just about equality, not about women over men or men over women, and Moran manages to balance this view between extraordinarily poignant thruths and extraordinarily funny truths.
Everyone (yes, you men as well. Especially you.) should read this.
How to be a Woman made me realize that this “being a woman” can be done in a multitude of ways. 3 billion ways, in fact. That every woman is, just by being an adult, a woman. There is no rulebook. And you are also allowed to be funny. And you may, even, fix the toilet. But you are still allowed to be a feminist even if you can’t fix it. Or if you have long sparkly nails, or don’t wear grannypants, or really fancy Alexander Skarsgård.
If everyone read How to be a Woman, it would be such a huge step for equality that it would render books such as Strong, Independent –and lonely – Women obsolete museum objects, to be laughed at until gasping, and/or make us grateful for the work of Mrs Banks and others, such as crinolines, hair mascara, corsets, chastity belts and buffalo trainers.
So read it.