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Showing 1-10 of 581 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 728 reviews
on August 10, 2016
How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran
I’m a feminist, a strident feminist and a male. I have been for a long time. In 1965 I fought against women’s hours, which required college women to be in their dorms by 11:00 p.m. at Indiana University, while men were allowed to roam free all night. I’ve been married to a strident feminist since 1967, and recommend that path to anyone. So I’m reasonably well versed in feminist culture over the years.

How to Be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran, is, hands down, the best source on feminism I’ve ever encountered. It surely helps that it is hilarious. It also helps that at least half the barbs are directed at herself, and most of the rest at other women. (Actually, she lets men off pretty easy.) She is shockingly frank about all sorts of socially unacceptable conduct in which she has engaged, such as binge drinking, drug use and promiscuity. But shining through is a deep understanding of things that women routinely experience from puberty through early middle age, and how to live and grow through them. Again and again she raises up values I value.

To make it appropriate to all genders, I would restate her best known quote as: Feminism is believing that if you have a vagina you should be in charge of it.

Her championing of guilt-free abortion is radical, finding it just as appropriate as deciding to bear a child. "By whatever rationale you use, ending a pregnancy 12 weeks into gestation is incalculably more moral than bringing an unwanted child into this world." She quotes a like minded friend: “It’s one of the top four best things I ever did—after marrying my husband, having my son, and getting a fixed quote on the loft conversion.”

The trauma of her first pubic hairs resonates, I assure my female friends, quite fully with me as a male.

I’m not sure quite how old young people should be before reading this book. It does unabashedly relate experiences that will make parents (and grandparents, teachers, etc.) cringe. But I’m not sure that it makes those experiences attractive, and much of what I know of those from 15 to 25 makes me think their culture normalizes such tales so universally that this book only puts them in a real world context that is OK with me. Such stories will be surely old hat to the bulk of college sophomores, and probably to many a high schooler, and too many in middle school.

I’m not sure quite how liberated adults should be before reading this book. I surely have friends who will be shocked that I would recommend such trash. But I do. One person’s trash is another’s treasure. This book is a rare treasure.
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on July 25, 2014
Rating 3/10

Seriously, I quote the book three times. However, I don't know how this book can be ruined....

Honestly, this review is tricky. How to be a Woman was first recommended to me by a friend after discussing the fact that I had recently read Jessica Valenti’s Full Frontal Feminism: A Young Woman’s Guide to Why Feminism Matters. I immediately ordered the book from Amazon, mostly because I trusted the friend and I am a sucker for a book with an eye-catching cover. Caitlin Moran sold me with her shock of white running through her hair and the fact that she is not being dubbed as the ‘new face of feminism’.

I was an easy sell.

Somewhere, lost in the recesses of my brain, was the remembrance of not actually getting much from Valenti’s book and the fact that maybe using it as a guide for further book purchases was not my smartest idea.

So, yes, if I am completely truthful, I did not enjoy this book. I think I don’t particularly like Caitlin Morgan as a person. I don’t relate to her in the least. We would not have been friends in real life. I put the book down several times and almost didn’t pick it up again, yet sheer determination pushed me through. However, this wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read. I simply don’t think it was meant for me. (And that doesn’t mean it isn’t meant for you, dear reader!… but then, maybe it does.)

What I liked about the book:

Moran makes some very good points. For example, the word ‘feminism’ has been skewed overtime to represent something ugly and bad. Feminists are frequently seen as very low creatures, aiming to destroy men and piss on family virtues. This simply isn’t true. On the word ‘feminism’ she states:

“We need the word “Feminism” back real bad. When statistics come in saying that only 29 percent 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 s*** GET ON YOUR NERVES? Or were you just DRUNK AT THE TIME OF SURVEY?

These days, however, I am much calmer- since I realized that it’s technically impossible for a woman to argue against feminism. Without feminism, you wouldn’t be allowed to have a debate on a woman’s place in society. You’d be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor- biting on a wooden spoon, so as not to disturb the men’s card game before going back to hoeing the rutabaga field.” (p.75)

These sections of the book are gold… for someone who maybe doesn’t already realize they are a feminist. However, I am fully aware of the gender inequalities in my life and already associate myself with the label “feminist” without any hesitation. (Feminism is a GOOD thing. For everyone!)

In this sense, the book is probably more prolific for younger girls, as the ‘ah ha!’ moments for me were non-existent.

I appreciated that Moran comes from a low income family and is open to talking about the struggles with some element of humor (maybe I didn’t GET the humor, but at least it was there).

I also appreciated some of the variety of chapters represented. For example, she discusses fat shaming and the view of women who choose to remain childless. These are topics we should be discussing (and perhaps aren’t discussed enough), but I was left thinking that I perhaps would have enjoyed them more as short essays I read over the span of a year or so, and not in a book to be read in one sitting.

I certainly got waaay too much Caitlin Moran.

I seem to be doing a terrible job at discussing the positives…

Moving forward.

What I didn’t like about the book:

She uses an excessive number of exclamation points and it appears that her keyboard is frequently set on caps lock.

I did not need an entire chapter on what to name your breasts and vagina. I have never called mine anything other than breasts and vagina (even if, in Moran’s opinion, that is simply so clinical no woman does that except in a medical setting) nor have I ever made this a common discussion with other women. Additionally, I don’t readily know any other women who have, and I don’t consider her application of twitter to be remotely scientific enough to make broad sweeping statements about the topic. I was this close to putting the book down for good here, but I’m glad I didn’t because the very next chapter was the one on discovering feminism, which I will admit to having some good points.

Caitlin Moran does something I used to do in high school and early college. My sister called it using ‘Bekah-isims’. Basically, (what you have probably already surmised) a Bekahism was something I would say with complete confidence and give the appearance of being correct enough to be true… even if maybe I wasn’t 100% sure. Bekahisms usually occurred when I was relatively sure of what I was saying, though, infrequently was a it ever applied with any sort of research or data to support the statement.

Moran totally uses Bekahisms… er, Caitlinisms… throughout the entire book. She would make entire arguments (read: chapters) without any evidence of real research other that what she ‘thinks’ to be accurate. I fully believe that she probably thinks what she says sounds good (right even!) and everything she knows in her world supports these claims… but that doesn’t necessarily make it true. I craved a citation or two, but was largely disappointed.

She is offensive and at times uses excessively vulgar language to make a point. This is another one of those problems I had with the book that might be related to my age and maturity level. A younger version of myself probably would have relished these sections, yet now, it just felt like she was trying too hard and the language turned me off to this ‘new feminism’ she’s raving about. For her to at one point discuss political correctness in society and give a definition of PC, she used a lot of offensive terminology. Additionally, she has an entire chapter on fat shaming and how the word ‘fat’ is wielded as a weapon, then turns to use words that can be extremely offensive to another group of people.

I think the best way I can describe this is as an example… in her prolog she states:

“I am, by and large, boundlessly positive. I have all the joyful ebullience of a retard.” (p. 5)

Um, seriously???

I probably re-read that line fifteen times deciding if I was going to continue or not (or to determine if I hallucinated). Did she really just say that? I mean, doesn’t she have an editor to tell her, yes you can be offensive sometimes and be funny, but sometimes crossing a line is a bad, bad, very bad idea? The fact that little tidbits are just thrown around so casually astounded me.

And don’t get me started on the C word. She looooves that one. I was cringing reading an entire damn chapter because of it. (And maybe that was her point. I get it, I do, but I don’t like it and I’m not going to support her when she uses it about 100 times.) Shocking word choices are really not my jam. #sorrynotsorry

Moran and I have very different ideas of humor. I didn’t laugh out loud once. At times I was vaguely amused, but I didn’t find her to be hilarious like so many people find her to be. (But, hell, I’m more of a sarcasm-goes-a-long-way sort of person myself… so there’s that.)

She misused a Harry Potter reference. This is a personal pet peeve of mine, as a massive HP nerd. In the ‘I am fat!’ chapter she says:

“The idea of suggesting we don’t have to be fat- that things could change= is the most distant and alien prospect of all. We’re fat now and we’ll be fat forever and we must never, ever mention it, and that is the end of it. It’s like Harry Potter’s Sorting Hat. We were pulled from the hat maked “Fat: and that is where we must remain, until we die.” (p. 103)

Um, no. Clearly you have never read Harry Potter because the Sorting Hat lets you choose! Ugh. If you’re going to use massively popular pop culture references, please get them right! Huge fail. Huge.

Now, reading all this, you may wonder why I have given this book 3.5 stars instead of zero. Truthfully, I could have rambled on about How to be a Woman for another couple thousand words, but let’s be honest, no one wants to read that. Probably the best way to find out if this book is for you is to go to a local bookstore and read the ‘I am a feminist!’ chapter (Yes, she uses an exclamation point at the end of every chapter). It contains both aspects I loved, and moments I hated. I think it is a well-rounded approach to determining whether or not to spend the dollars on this book.

Additionally, I DO think How to be a Woman is more relevant to younger women who are first discovering feminism and more open to her colorful word choices. I’m no prude, I just found it a tad exhausting. A younger me may not have considered it so. If I ever reproduce and have a daughter, I would probably encourage her to read this in her later-teenage years.

Just a personal note: I ordered this book with Mindy Kaling’s Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) and enjoyed it immensely more than How to be a Woman. If you’re on the fence between the two, go with Kaling.

This review is also available on Goodreads and on my blog Bekah's Bookmark.
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on January 26, 2015
It is extremely rare that I don't finish a book, but I just couldn't finish this one. I noticed that I was not ever excited to pick it up... which was doubly disappointing because I loved Ms. Moran's book "How To Build a Girl" SO MUCH. I tried to think about what the difference was, and I think it basically comes down to the fact that "How To Be a Woman" is completely autobiographical, and "How To Build a Girl" is not-- it's more of a funny narrative about a girl that the reader really does pity and ultimately root for. And I think this fact allows "How To Build a Girl" to come across with a much lighter tone. (What's even more puzzling about my hugely divergent opinion on both books is that I have noticed that some of the details in "How To Build A Girl" are actually autobiographical, because I recognize the redundancies in "How To Be a Woman.")

To be frank, "How To Be a Woman" is just too strident for me... it reads as more of a soapbox rant. Particularly when Ms. Moran writes about feminism. I definitely identify with being a feminist, but I feel like she takes it a bit too far-- to the point where it's almost an antiquated view of the ideal. Then she extends the rant to not wanting to wear high heels or spend money on high-end handbags... and how any "lingerie" other than basic old school granny panties is ridiculous, painful, and unnecessary... which she brings full circle to go so far as to say that certain types of underwear are anti-feminist.

In summary, while I do - as ever - love Ms. Moran's gift for language and metaphor, the TONE of the novel is what prompted my 3-star review. The preaching was just too much for me.
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on January 5, 2013
Caitlin Moran wants to argue in favour of feminism (or at least her take on it), help young women to learn how to be a woman (often learning from Moran's own mistakes), and to introduce humour and satire into the mix. Moran was 35 years old when she wrote this book, at a stage in her life when she had overcome the insecurities of adolescence and the booze-fuelled soul searching of her twenties, but still young enough to empathise with young women undergoing those rites of passage.

The first ten chapters cover the transition through puberty and teenage to the stage of being a `grown up'. She deals with the onset of menstruation, the discovery of masturbation, the anguish of dealing with the physical changes as one heads towards adulthood, and how to deal with relationships. In the fourth chapter she introduces feminism and says that all women should identify as feminist. But there is a good deal of confusion about what this means. At one point she says men should be feminists too, but then says that to be a feminist you need to have a vagina and want to be in charge of it. It's a nice sound bite, but what does it really mean? The question is ignored as we skip to another topic.

In a later chapter she says that sexism has to be re-framed as behaviour that separates people into `winners' and `losers', pointing out that women are usually seen as `losers'. To challenge sexism we have to ask: is this behaviour polite? If it's not, then it's sexist and we should reject it. Frankly I found this silly. If we were all just polite to each other, sexism would disappear? The class system in Britain thrives on an ethic of `politeness' and uses this to thwart challenges to the status quo. Is this what Moran really wants? I had visions of Tony Blair and his ridiculous `respect' slogan as I read the chapter.

The chapters on pornography and fashion, and on what to do about body hair, raise some complex issues but nothing is considered in any detail. Ultimately there are no driving principles that might help a reader get a grip on womanhood. Moran is against removing pubic hair but has no qualms about shaving armpits or waxing legs. The reason for the former is that the fashion is driven, she says, by pornographic film makers, but if she had read some history and anthropology she would have seen that fashions in body hair are far older and more interesting than the porn industry.

There are chapters on marriage and having children, filled with anecdotes from her own experiences. Hopefully these will encourage prospective parents to take antenatal visits and parenting classes seriously. Her second birth was easy, the first a painful disaster - preparation made all the difference. The chapter on abortion is the most cogent and sincere. Moran has previously written a newspaper article on her own decision to have an abortion and the discussion here shows that she has spent a bit more time considering the issues involved. Abortion is a topic that rarely gets intelligent reflection so this was welcome.

The major weakness in the book is the poor writing style. The first eleven chapter headings all end in exclamation marks and the text is riddled with phrases and sentences in capital letters to show she is BEING FUNNY!! or that THIS IS IMPORTANT!!! Moran was a journalist on Melody Maker, a pop music magazine, and contributes articles on entertainment to The Times newspaper, so the tabloid style is understandable, but it too often distracts from the messages in the book. The other key weakness is Moran's poor skills in satire and comic writing. Much of what she writes is not funny at all. I only chuckled to myself once in the course of reading this book and now I can't even recall what that was about. Timing and a twist in context are central to humour and Moran's writing lacks both of these.

While Moran is self-reflective about motherhood and the choice of having children, in other parts of the book she is far less insightful. Consumerism is not really grasped at all. In her chapter on fashion she admits that, like many women, she owns more shoes and bags than she will ever use, but never questions why this is so. She rightly points out that it is not for men - they are utterly uninterested in fashion. Women's fashion is competitive behaviour between and for women. It is wasteful and divisive, but at the same time she is opposed to `sisterhood'. Elsewhere, Moran is critical of celebrities and the celebrity culture we feed, but says nothing about her own role in this as a journalist. Instead, she admires Lady Gaga for her `radical agenda'. But what is radical about media and market manipulation to sell lots of product? Feminism could offer a way off the consumerist treadmill, but Moran doesn't even consider that possibility.

Sexism is fundamentally about power, so Moran's idea of framing it in terms of `winners' and `losers' contains the germ of an interesting discussion. Unfortunately, it never gets off the ground. I was hoping that this book would be funny and incisive, but in the end I found it superficial and often boring to read. In her teenage years, Moran was inspired by Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch. Decades have passed since that was published, but it is still a treasury of ideas and a salutary read, even if humour is absent (Greer is Australian). Women and men of all ages would benefit from reading and re-reading Greer's book, but Moran's audience has been short-changed by this often muddle-headed and sadly unfunny approach to being a woman.
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on March 27, 2015
"When the subject turns to abortion, cosmetic intervention, birth, motherhood, sex, love, work, misogyny, fear, or just how you feel in your own skin, women still often won't tell the truth to each other unless they are very, very drunk."

Caitlin Moran is right. Nowadays, you DO have to be drunk. The last time I heard a female friend relate anything even remotely personal was when L. had too much wine at book club and really tore into her deadbeat ex-husband. (Seriously, you earn $98,000 a year but can't pay child support? You JERK!)

older women who were returning to finish degrees that had been nudged aside for marriage and family. Those broads rocked my world and led me away from the path of righteousness, and I THANK THEM every day for doing so. Thirty years have slipped by, and I've yet to find another group of women to whom I can say ANYTHING and not be judged. And, man, do I ever miss that! Now, if you talk about S-E-X, it's deemed T-M-I. Why is wanting to talk about something we all do too much information? Why does no one wants to go there?

Well, Ms. Moran GOES THERE. From pubic hair (Yes!) to high heels (No!), she lets it all hang out. And what fun it was spending time with her. Though a continent and more than a decade separate us, I may possibly have more in common w/ Moran than any woman I've met in real life. I found her let-your-freak-flag-fly message to be reassuring, entertaining and pants-wettingly funny. Not everyone will like her, or her book. And that's okay. If even thinking about the f-word makes you blush, if you've never concocted an imaginary relationship with a male celebrity, or if you've never touched yourself "down there," put the book down and back away.

If you're like me, you'll love it.

Being a woman . . . after all these years, I'm pretty sure I've been doing it right.
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on May 13, 2016
This is a fun book, often very funny. There are some parts that are thought-provoking and beautifully written: “This is the brutal, root truth of adolescence—that it is often a long, painful campaign of attrition. Those self-harming girls with the latticework of razor cuts on their arms and thighs are just reminding themselves that their body is a battlefield.”

Moran is definitely right that feminism is too important to be discussed only by academics. I think it’s great that female and male celebrities are proud to use the word to describe themselves. Celebrity means a lot in this culture, and if they can help take the stigma away from this word, I say, “Yippee!”

Much of what Moran talks about is the language we use, particularly in regards to women. Because she is British and uses a lot of slang, not all her discussions on language meant a lot to me. I’ve been to England twice and read a lot of British authors, but slang changes quickly, and even here in America I often need someone (Google) to translate Millennials’ English to my Gen-X English.

Many of her thoughts on feminism are similar to mine: “So you don’t want to be owned by your husband? You’re welcome, that was us.” And so on . . .

This is not a fast read, however. It’s at times disjointed, feeling like stream of consciousness thoughts that don’t always seem to logically follow one point to the next. I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t like some books that I simply can’t wait to get back to.
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on January 30, 2016
As a 50 year old woman I can look back on my life and see how this book would have been VERY useful to read at age 15. It does not matter if your life is parallel to Ms. Moran's - or not. Actually, that's the point. For once we have a brave woman who is putting her experience out there for the world to see (and laugh about). I applaud her. Anyone who condemns her, condemns her because they are not as brave, honest or true to themselves. As women we have been dictated on how to behave by mostly religious and political members - that have been predominantly men. We need to unapologetically break the glass ceiling and feel the cool wind of change upon our faces. Ms. Moran reminiscences about the confusion of being an adolescent woman through humor, intelligence and tact. It is a journey I thoroughly enjoyed.
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on May 28, 2016
"So here is the quick way of working out if you're a feminist. Put your hand in your pants.
a) Do you have a vagina? and
b) Do you want to be in charge of it?
If you said 'yes' to both, then congratulations! You're a feminist.”

I read this book as part of a feminist reading club on Goodreads. I had never really thought about being a feminist before. In fact, a feminist to me sounded like one of those red-faced, angry women protesting about something or the other, and always bitching about men. But guess what, being a feminist is about understanding yourself as a woman and defining the role you want to play for yourself in your own life. It's about taking control, it's about asserting our freedoms, and it's about celebrating our interactions with men in a way that is satisfying and fulfilling for both.

Caitlin Moran tells her story in a relatable, humorous, and often irreverent style that did make me stop and think about many issues. Some of her life choices may be questionable, especially in the culture I was raised in, but hey, that's exactly the point. She can --and should-- choose what she believes is right for herself. In the end, I found her courageous for speaking things many of us will shy away from, and to find humor in it too.
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on June 21, 2017
This offered some good writing, and interesting observations. I don't necessarily agree with everything shared, but so what? It makes you think about who we are and whether we are behaving certain ways because we are conditioned that way. The most important point is that it's about who we are, as women, what we experience, as women, and what we want, as women.

Interested in reading it? Go for it. Be prepared to be challenged, for some rough language, and to agree in some parts, and disagree in others.

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on April 4, 2017
a book I really enjoyed reading. It is part a memoar which focus on how it is to grow up and how to be a woman. I found it funny, and I got thoughts going on. I like the point of view and how Caitlin Moran see feminism and how how we should see it instead of how it is today.

Really enjoy reading it and I want to read Caitin Morans other books
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