‘Rather than bun fight over who gets to nominate our chosen book, we decided to join forces to pitch our view that Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman (2011) is a heavy contender for the Pineapple Prize 2012.
We both read this book upon publication in early 2011, and Moran’s non-fictional prose blew our socks off. How To Be A Woman rewrites Germaine Greer’s feminist classic The Female Eunuch and asks what it means to be a woman in the 21st century. However, it is also a hilariously funny women’s lib text for women in the 21st century. As Amy Weir so eloquently suggests: “It’s less about bra burning and boardroom quotas and more about bikini waxing and botox (she vehemently detests both – yelling ‘grow your little minge-fro back!’ ) but every bit as empowering”. If that still doesn’t appeal, how about Laurie Penny’s description of it being “like [Nancy Friday’s] My Secret Garden as written by Lady Gaga in a skip in Wolverhampton, with knob gags”?
As a bestseller and recent winner of ‘Book of the Year’ (as voted by the public), How To Be A Woman isn’t exactly crying out for attention. However, we both feel that its importance to contemporary women’s writing cannot be overlooked. Line after line, Moran’s modern witty text combines moving memoir-esque insights from her own experience with “you-go-girl” feminist style ranting; it is exceptionally funny but also covers a range of deeply important topics, most prominently her reclamation for ‘the f word’:
“We need to reclaim the word ‘feminism’. We need the word ‘feminism’ back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29% of American women would describe themselves as feminist – and only 42% of British women – I used to think, What do you think feminism IS, ladies? What part of ‘liberation for women’ is not for you? Is it freedom to vote? The right not to be owned by the man you marry? The campaign for equal pay? ‘Vogue’ by Madonna? Jeans? Did all that good shit GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF THE SURVEY?”
Do we agree with Moran’s version of feminism wholeheartedly? Of course not: there are a number of issues that any reader will disagree with, in terms of one’s own personal viewpoints of womanhood and feminist politics. But scrupulousness of argument is not the driving force of Moran’s book: How To Be A Woman derives its power from writing about feminism in such an accessible, informal way that it seems like an utterly commonsensical concept. And HURRAH for that, as the good lady herself might write.’
Claire O’Callaghan, University of Leicester
Amy Rushton, Goldsmiths (University of London)