The Story: Feminism was originally personified by a generation of women angry with the patriarchal status quo, but then, over time, it became something of a dirty word. But for younger women who don’t understand the anger, how can we talk about sexism, stereotypes and other issues in a way that makes sense? Times of London columnist Caitlin Moran provides the answer: riotous examples from real life. She takes aim at the “awkwardness and disconnect” of being a modern woman by “simply pointing at it and going ‘HA!’ ”
The Inspiration: The issue of feminism had been on Moran’s mind for most of her life. It wasn’t until she had a meeting with her current literary agent that she blurted out she wanted to write a book on the subject, surprising herself most of all. “It was such a hoot to do,” Moran says. “I didn’t think I was allowed to write a book like this.” She came up with the manuscript in a feverish five-month burst to meet her deadline, because “women all go on holiday in June, and in the U.K. that’s the only time they really buy a lot of books.” Moran’s aim was to write “like a big sister,” she says. “I just feel women have to put up with so much crap, and when they hear the word feminism it doesn’t reach them, it’s boring. I wrote it for someone who might be a single mum, reads gossip mags, shouty kinds of things. I hoped it might be something she’d want to read.”
Why We Loved It: How many feminist polemics will have you laughing so hard you’re almost crying? Moran cuts through the soft-focus and hemming and hawing about a controversial subject, leaning hard on self-deprecation without sliding into self- pity. She makes a compelling case for why stripping in public is loathsome but learning to pole-dance in private is fun and empowering; why it’s okay not to feel guilty about having an abortion or refusing a Brazilian wax; why pornography itself isn’t bad but the industry is sexist; and why society lets slide appalling behaviour directed at women. How to Be a Woman approaches the subject from a personal point of view that’s side-splittingly funny but will make anyone of either gender want to get up on a nearby chair and shout “I am a feminist!” — which is just what Moran advocates.
How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran, $18.