Tuesday, 13 March 2012

'How To Be A Woman' by Caitlin Moran

Let me start by saying I was really looking forward to this book. I'm a fan of Caitlin Moran's columns in Saturday's Times and the book itself, which has been billed as a feminist manifesto to rival Germaine Greeer's The Female Eunuch, has been widely popular (in the UK at least).  It has garnered innumerable 5* reviews in the mainstream press and has even won the Galaxy Book of the Year Award last year.  With all this positive buzz, this was going to be one great reading experience, right?

Wrong!  I'm currently half-way through, and struggling to make it to the end.  Although I have only 150 pages to go, they are dragging out before me like a yawning abyss. These last pages are as insurmountable as Everest would be, if I was ever crazy enough to try to climb it - indeed, 800 pages of War and Peace would be preferable to 150 pages of How To Be A Woman.

The main problem with this book lies in the author's rather unique style.  Although she is undoubtedly a talented and funny writer, her reliance on capital letters and endless exclamation marks is extremely annoying - if not downright off-putting.  Any writer worth their salt will tell you that the words on the page should be sufficient to get the point across, while a single exclamation mark, and perhaps the odd italic, is all that is needed to add emphasis.  Overuse of capitals makes the writer come across as belligerent and, in Moran's case, slightly mad.  More often than not, while reading this book, I found myself thinking 'STOP SHOUTING AT ME, YOU LUNATIC!! JUST CALM THE HELL DOWN!!!!'  And as such, any point she was trying to make was simply lost on me.

Another issue I have with this book it's is crudeness.  Note to the author - it is not necessary to mention the c-word and f-word on every other page to prove your feminist credentials.  We are no longer in the 1970s - you do not have to resort to shock tactics to drive home your feministic point. In fact, maybe if you made an effort to drag yourself out of the gutter occasionally, your argument may be better received.  Also, as a reader, I have no desire to be subjected to an entire chapter devoted to your quest to find a suitable name for your vagina and that of your new-born daughter.

And don't get me started on the Twitter-isms and abbreviations she has incorporated into the text.  Is it too much to expect to read actual words in a book?  Surely it isn't beyond the realms of reasonableness to expect a writer to type 'to be honest' instead of 'tbh'??  Whether this is laziness or just an ill-advised affectation is unclear, but coupled with the fact that the text is littered with spelling and grammatical errors, it gives the impression that the book was nothing more than a sloppy rush-job, a cynical and hurried attempt to capitalise on the author's current popularity as a newspaper columnist. 

On that note, I'd advise anyone considering buying this book to stick instead to her journalistic ramblings - because, if How To Be A Woman proves anything at all, it is the fact that Ms Moran's writing is bearable only in very small doses.


  1. This. I was looking forward to it but, like you, found the crudeness offputting (tasting your own menstrual blood? Nope, never did that)and I hated the birth section too. It hurts and it's hideous, yes, I don't need to read a whole chapter on how yours was the worst birth ever in the history of humanity. Got half way through, threw it away. I don't worry about being attacked on Twitter by her though, she only ever talks to her fellow journos!

  2. Thanks for your comments! And for what it's worth, we're not the only readers unimpressed with the book - Germaine Greer wrote a scathing review in The Times. Here's a snippet:

    "A good deal of the argument in How to be a Woman is with someone called Germaine Greer or Goddess Greer, who bears a fitful resemblance to myself. This straw woman tells women to taste their own menstrual blood (I didn’t), went off sex in the Eighties (more correct to say that sex went off me), opposed the election of a transsexual lecturer at “Newnham Ladies College” (there was no such election) and so forth. More disconcerting is the way that Moran revisits themes that I have written thousands of words about, and even made TV documentaries about, the C-word and pornography for two, and restates my case in pretty much the same terms, with not the faintest suspicion that anyone has ever said any such thing ever before."

  3. I've found HOW TO BE A WOMAN very inspiring and witty, and also VERY funny -weird for an "essay" about feminism. Hope it will have success, especially among young girls, many of which consider "feminism" a dated word, and think there is not need to worry about these issues anymore.