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English department


How to Be A Woman by Caitlin Moran

Women Unite Under Moran's Feminist Flag

First glance at the title, How to be a Woman, and a prospective buyer could mistake the book as a guide in becoming a woman. And in some ways it is. It is a guide in Caitlin Moran’s exploration of becoming the woman she is today.

Moran essentially discusses important womanly markers in her life and reveals what her experience taught her as she slowly, painfully transformed into a woman. She honestly recounts her awkward, naive days as an adolescent girl even thinking menstruation was optional. Her adulthood is no easier as she explores love, sexism, marriage, and motherhood. She is no less awkward and in many ways still naive even thinking income tax was optional. However, she recounts her awkward, naive moments to discuss what it means to be a woman and a feminist in this generation.

Moran uses very casual mode of writing to connect with her audience. She is having a conversation with her readers; she is a friend who has something to say. And as a friend, she confides in you some of the most intimate details to you; she trusts you, “The blood on the sheets is depressing––not dramatic and red, like murder, but brown and tedious, like an accident. It looks like I am rusty inside and am now breaking.” Going with the conversation tone, she keeps most of her sentences short, making the pace fast, “So I am learning about flirting. Not for business––just for fun. God, it’s tricky”.

The chapters do not indicate some sort of chronological order of Moran’s life; however, the chapter titles reveal the womanly markers she will discuss in the chapter itself. Her first chapter titled, ‘I Start Bleeding!,’ is not a conventional chapter title, and the reader gets a sense that this will not be a book filled with conventional chapter titles as ‘I Become Furry!’ comes right after.

Moran wants to make her readers her friend, to help them understand where she is coming from. She doesn’t hold anything back; that is not in her nature. However, this style could also make some of her readers uncomfortable. She is not afraid to put words such as vagina, fuck, and smutty in all capital letters. She wants to make sure that her true self comes through her words, and to do so, she doesn’t censor herself. Moran’s enthusiastic nature comes out very naturally with her exclamation points and her all capital lettered words. And even though at times it was funny like when she talks about her pointless, enthusiastic diary entries as a child, her enthusiasm starts to get tiring pretty quickly. The reader might confuse her enthusiasm with her attempt to emphasize as she all capitalizes to make both of these points. If she had decided to italicize to make emphasize, it could have took out some of her all capitalized words, which would have made her narrative less tiring.

Her awkward, naive stories are funny, cringe-worthy, and relatable. However, it isn’t all funs and games for her. Moran also shows her serious side as well, the intelligent, ‘brain in a jar’ woman she is. She wants to connect with her readers, because she has something to discuss. She wants women and men, especially women, to stop dropping the ball in the fight for equality for all sexes. She doesn’t want women to go radical burning their bras, but she also doesn’t want us to ignore the inequality happening all around us in subtle ways. Moran wants women to reclaim the word feminist for ourselves into something to celebrate, something to fight for.

Moran does not claim that she knows the right way to become a woman. Instead she explores and celebrates her journey in becoming a woman. And in doing so she invites other women reading her book to do the same. Every woman is an individual on their own journey, becoming their own woman. And she calls these women to embrace it, celebrate it. The book may have its problems; however, it neither slows nor bogs down Moran’s narrative. Her feminist flag still waves proudly by the end of the book, and you may find yourself helping her hold that flag up proudly.

By: JENNIFER KANG