Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Feminist Review: "How to be a Woman"

“Women did not invent dust. The sticky residue that collects on the kettle does not come out of women’s vaginas. It is not oestrogen that covers the dinner plates in tomato sauce, fishfinger crumbs and bits of mash. My uterus did not run upstairs and throw all of the kids’ clothes on the floor and put jam on the banister. And it is not my tits that have skewed the global economy towards domestic work for women” (82).

Was a truer statement ever uttered by a woman? I think not. Welcome to the hilarious, feminist world of Caitlin Moran: British TV presenter, journalist, music lover and writer of the funniest thing I’ve read in about 3 months: How to be a Woman. Moran swears her way (amidst a well-stocked playground of cultural references) to a practical, real-time discussion of the current state of women in the world today.

That little jewel I provided for you up above should be considered a fine representation of the entire tone of her book: one of good logic and slapstick sarcasm.

She starts at the beginning of becoming a woman, literally. Her first chapter is entitled, “I Begin Bleeding!” and deals with the obvious, menstruation. Well, that and pornography, and puberty, and her family, and her unfortunate dog, oh and how she didn’t have any friends growing up in a really poor family with seven kids, sharing a room (and a bed) with a few sisters. In reality though, besides the hilarity of that stuff, she also sets the stage for a discussion about the female journey, the journey to becoming a woman. Every woman has to navigate through similar things, the body, friends, family, and of course, trying to figure out just whom we want to be when we grow up and how being a woman is going to fit into all that.

Subsequent chapters deal with the ever-embarrassing body hair (chapter two, “I Become Furry!”) and most importantly, why she believes women should not be getting Brazilian wax jobs. She makes quite a good case for it, too. Pornography and the infantalization of women has something to do with it in her eyes, and well, after reading her arguments, I think I agree. However, the better part of her argument is what she intends to do about it; she suggests some hygienic trimming, but that in order to be a woman, we should grow a proper muff (her words). That’s right, ladies, let yourself rejoice in an afro-style mound of hair and have a party; oddly enough, it legitimately sounds like a blast!

Lest such a frank image of undesirable hair scare you off from this entertaining and thought-provoking read, her book includes so much more: A brilliant (and spot-on, I think) discussion of stripping, burlesque shows and exercise-based pole dancing classes. Exploring our sexuality as women should be an act of fun, empowerment and creativity for a woman, not part of a dark, sleazy showroom where a man is in control of the situation. How she gets to that conclusion and how it ties in to stripping, burlesque shows and exercise-based pole dancing classes is information that you’ll have to read the book to discover.

The book is filled with even more fun times: the birth of her children; her wedding, “my bridesmaid was a six-foot-two gay man called Charlie, who was wearing silver trousers and a pink cape” (189); fashion; and even an indictment against culture for always asking a women (and only women) when they intend to have children, “You never get asked to ask Marilyn Manson if he’s been hanging around in JoJo Maman Bebe, touching tiny booties and crying” (239). I even learned about a creature called a “womble,” which is apparently a fictional creature meant for a children’s television show or something; I’m not really sure.

Now, that doesn’t mean I agree with everything she says; however, I love that she says everything with no apologies. She is a “strident feminist,” and she believes we should reclaim those words, and she does it firmly, with no shame and no squeamishness, which is to me, exactly what feminists are working for. We’re not out blogging and banging doors to agree with everyone; we’re out there to have differences and assert the individual (even the individual interpretations of feminism), and I admire women who do so with strength and confidence and humor and swearing and British spelling.

And wombles.

No comments:

Post a Comment