How to Be a Woman

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Overview

Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her ...

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Overview

Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven't been burned as witches since 1727, life isn't exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by uncertainties and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant talk about babies? And do men secretly hate them?

Caitlin Moran interweaves provocative observations on women's lives with laugh-out-loud funny scenes from her own, from the riot of adolescence to her development as a writer, wife, and mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it's about the workplace, strip clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children—to jump-start a new conversation about feminism. With humor, insight, and verve, How To Be a Woman lays bare the reasons why female rights and empowerment are essential issues not only for women today but also for society itself.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
…remind[s] us, in this era of manufactured outrage, what a truly great rant should look like: rude, energetic and spinning off now and then into jubilant absurdity…None of what she says is new, and it's written in a style that, inevitably, tips here and there from larky into dashed off…But this is to miss the point. The book is so joyful, so free of the piety that has felled many a worthier title and—this is its real value—so liable to find readers who in a million years wouldn't identify with Susan Faludi, that it feels like a rare case of winning the argument…How to Be a Woman is a glorious, timely stand against sexism so ingrained we barely even notice it.
—Emma Brockes
Publishers Weekly
Part memoir, part postmodern feminist rant, this award-winning British TV critic and celebrity writer brings her ingeniously funny views to the States. Moran’s journey into womanhood begins on her 13th birthday when boys throw rocks at her 182-pound body, and her only friend, her sister Caz, hands her a homemade card reminding her to please turn 18 or die soon so Caz can inherit her bedroom. Always resourceful—as the eldest of eight children from Wolverhampton—the author embarrasses herself often enough to become an authority on how to masturbate; name one’s breasts; and forgo a Brazilian bikini wax. She doesn’t politicize feminism; she humanizes it. Everyone, she writes, is automatically an F-word if they own a vagina and want “to be in charge of it.” Empowering women is as easy as saying—without reservation—the word “fat” and filling our handbags with necessities like a safety pin, biscuit, and “something that can absorb huge amounts of liquid.” Beneath the laugh-out-loud humor is genuine insight about the blessings of having—or not having—children. With brutal honesty, she explains why she chose to have an abortion after birthing two healthy daughters with her longtime husband, Pete. Her story is as touching as it is timely. In her brilliant, original voice, Moran successfully entertains and enlightens her audience with hard-won wisdom and wit. (May)
Elle UK
“Half-memoir, half-polemic, and entirely necessary.”
Independent on Sunday (UK)
“Totally brilliant.”
New York Times
“There are lots of things to love about Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman….A glorious, timely stand against sexism so ingrained we barely even notice it. It is, in the dour language [Moran] militates so brilliantly against, a book that needed to be written.”
Marie Claire
“The UK’s answer to Tina Fey, Chelsea Handler, and Lena Dunham all rolled into one.”
The New Yorker
“Moran’s frank wit is appealing.”
Today Show
“A fresh, funny take on modern feminism that shines a light on issues facing every woman, lovingly boiled down to the basics with insight and humor.”
People (3 ½ stars)
“Scathingly funny….Moran makes us think about femininity and feminism, and whether you agree or not, she’s fascinating.”
NPR.org
“A hilarious neo-feminist manifesto….Moran reinvigorates women’s lib with her personal and political polemic.”
Vanity Fair.com
“With her drunk-on-gin-with-my-lady-friends honesty and humor, Moran, a Times of London columnist, snips the man out of manifesto, spinning her message of radically sensible female empowerment.”
Interview Magazine
“Bravely and brilliantly weaves personal anecdotes and cutting insight into a book that is at once instructional, confessional, and a call for change….Moran shifts effortlessly between her own hilarious experiences and larger questions about women’s place in the modern world.”
People

“Scathingly funny….Moran makes us think about femininity and feminism, and whether you agree or not, she’s fascinating.”

Maureen Corrigan
“It is bracing in this season of losing [Nora] Ephron to discover a younger feminist writer who scrimmages with the patriarchy and drop kicks zingers with comic flair….A must-read for anyone curious to find out just how very funny a self-proclaimed ‘strident feminist’ can be.”
Jenny Lawson
“Caitlin Moran taught me more about being a woman than being a woman did. I’m pretty sure I had testicles before I read this book.”
Jenn Doll
“There is a good reason for [its success]: it is pretty phenomenal….[Moran] wrote the book in just 5 months….Chances are you’ll read it in far less time than that, turning down the corners of extra-resonating pages to come back to later.”
Holloway McCandless
“As funny and careerist as Tina Fey’s Bossypants, as divulging as Ayelet Waldman’s Bad Mother and as earthy as Cheryl Strayed’s Wild.”
Peggy Orenstein
“Caitlin Moran is so fabulous, so funny, so freshly feminist. I don’t want to be like her—I want to be her. But if I can’t, at least I can relish her book. You will, too.”
Shannon Carlin
“Her arguments are hilarious and spot on….This isn’t a self-help guide, and Moran’s not really telling you how to be a woman. Instead, she’s giving you permission to laugh: at ourselves, at her, and at anyone who think there’s only one way to be a woman.”
Heller McAlpin
“How funny is Caitlin Moran’s neo-feminist manifesto and memoir, How to Be a Woman? Don’t read it with a full bladder….You could spend a whole book group session flagging favorite lines…..There’s some comfort in Moran’s book coming out so soon after Nora Ephron’s death.”
Zoë Heller
“Caitlin Moran is a feminist heroine for our times. I can’t wait to give this book to my daughters.”
Ayelet Waldman
“Caitlin Moran is the profane, witty and wonky best friend I wish I had. She’s the feminist rock star we need right now; How to Be a Woman is an hilarious delight.”
(3 1/2 stars) - People Magazine
"Scathingly funny….Moran makes us think about femininity and feminism, and whether you agree or not, she’s fascinating."
Zoe Heller
"Caitlin Moran is a feminist heroine for our times. I can’t wait to give this book to my daughters."
Kirkus Reviews
A spirited memoir/manifesto that dares readers to "stand on a chair and shout ‘I AM A FEMINIST.' " With equal amounts snarky brio and righteous anger, Moran brings the discussion of contemporary women's rights down from the ivory tower and into the mainstream. Although women have come a long way from the battles fought by the early suffragettes and the first-wave feminists of the 1960s and '70s, they have also lost ground in some disturbing ways. Society still scrutinizes female sexual behavior for incipient signs of "sluttiness"; girls still grow up dreaming of becoming brides and wives (aka princesses), and pornography and strip clubs still objectify women. Moreover, celebrity culture puts women under a magnifying glass, dismissing their talents in favor of crowing over their physical flaws, their marital status and whether or not they have children. Into this sorry mess strides Moran, a self-deprecating, no-nonsense guide to womanhood. She frames her debate via a series of chapters detailing her own journey toward becoming not only a woman, but also a good person--polite, kind, funny and fundamentally decent. After all, feminism, she argues, is not a form of man hating; it is a celebration of women's potential to effect change and an affirmation of their equality with men. That such an important topic is couched in ribald humor makes reading about Moran's journey hilarious as well as provocative. With nary a hint of embarrassment, she reveals personal anecdotes about her miserable early adolescence as an overweight girl and her evolution into a music journalist who took London by storm on a quest to fall in love--or at least to kiss a lot of boys. She proves equally forthright in her views on abortion, childbearing and high heels. While some American readers may struggle with the British references and slang, they will find their efforts rewarded. Rapturously irreverent, this book should kick-start plenty of useful discussions.
The Barnes & Noble Review

How funny is Caitlin Moran's neo-feminist manifesto and memoir, How to Be a Woman? Don't read it with a full bladder — and not just because in Moran's opinion, "100,000 years of male superiority has its origins in the simple basis that men don't get cystitis." Never mind discussion: you could spend a whole book group session flagging favorite lines. And, although it's decidedly female-centric, open-minded men should enjoy the ribald humor and privileged view. Here she is, for example, excoriating high heels, which she thinks are suitable for "only ten people in the world, tops?. And six of those are drag queens": "Women wear heels because they think they make their legs look thinner, end of. They think that by effectively walking on tiptoes, they're slimming their legs down from a size 14 to a size 10. But they aren't, of course. There is a precedent for a big fat leg dwindling away into a point — and it's on a pig."

Moran, a wildly entertaining, award-winning, profane, and prolific London Times columnist born in 1975, takes up where one of her heroes, Germaine Greer, left off in The Female Eunuch. While she acknowledges the importance of traditional feminist issues like pay inequality and domestic abuse, her focus is on smaller indignities, including such painful trappings of nouvelle womanhood as skimpy underpants and torturous bikini waxes. Just as New York's Mayor Giuliani once adopted a zero-tolerance policy toward graffiti and broken windows, she argues, we must do the same for these sexist "broken windows." Why? Because "if we live in a climate where female pubic hair is considered distasteful, or famous and powerful women are constantly pilloried for being too fat or too thin, or badly dressed, then, eventually people start breaking into women, and lighting fires in them." Moran's brand of consciousness-raising stresses the importance not just of equality but of politeness and respect.

Like Tina Fey's memoir, Bossypants, which also takes on sexism with humor, Moran's book opens with the onset of her period, a rude awakening for which she was woefully ill prepared. Both writers prove that, contrary to bad images of yore, even strident feminists can be funny. But unlike Fey, who had a comfortable American childhood, Moran, the oldest of eight children, grew up poor in a three-bedroom council house in Wolverhampton, England. Her father, barely mentioned except when he shows up at her wedding smelling of whisky in a shoplifted suit and shoes, was a rock musician. Her mother — well, her mother was busy. When thirteen-year-old Moran follows her into the bathroom to ask whether menstruation will hurt, "Even though she is doing a wee and holding a sleeping baby [and is eight months pregnant!], she is also sorting out a white wash from the washing basket." Her mother has time for just one bewildering answer before they're interrupted by the crying baby: "Yeah?. But it's okay."

Dry towels, new undies, and privacy were all in equally short supply in the Moran household. The whole family was seriously overweight, which Moran attributes in part to their snack of choice, cheese lollipops — chunks of cheddar on a fork. Her sisters made it clear how much they were looking forward to her moving out and ceding her space to them. Her formal education stopped at eleven. Still, she not only survived but thrived, with her "boundlessly positive?ebullience" intact. She read vociferously, changing her name from Catherine to Caitlin after becoming obsessed by a Jilly Cooper novel when she was thirteen. She left home permanently at sixteen, writing her way into early jobs covering pop culture at Melody Maker and, not much later, The Times. By twenty-four, she was happily married to a fellow critic at The Times, and by twenty-seven she had two daughters.

In two dialectic chapters, "Why You Should Have Children" and "Why You Shouldn't Have Children," Moran discusses some of the pros and cons of procreating. Interestingly, even in a later chapter about her decision to terminate a pregnancy that would have resulted in a third child, she doesn't explicitly cite her mother's overly fecund example as a cautionary deterrent. But she does make a strong case for a woman's right to choose, and the paramount importance of a baby being "wanted, desired, and cared for by a reasonably sane, stable mother." She doesn't mince words when describing the pain of childbirth but notes that the joys of motherhood are "like being mugged by Cupid."

There's some comfort in Moran's book coming out so soon after Nora Ephron's death. How to Be a Woman is a welcome successor to such witty classics of female frankness as Ephron's "A Few Words About Breasts," "I Feel Bad About My Neck," and "On Maintenance." Like Ephron's, Moran's default mode is barbed humor and self-deprecation. She's near-maniacally exuberant — her text is exclamation point-happy — though less susceptible to the enchantments of fashion and the trappings of femininity than Ephron was.

Not for her the skimpy undies she calls "arse-trinkets," symptomatic of what she calls "pantorexia": "These tight, elasticated partitions across the mid- derrière are, in terms of both comfort and aesthetics, as cruel as the partition between India and Pakistan." And further, because the personal is after all political: "It cannot have gone unnoticed that, as a country, our power has waned in synchronicity with the waning of our undies?. Now that the average British woman could pack a week's worth of underpants into a matchbox, we have little more than dominion over the Bailiwick of Jersey and the Isle of Man."

The temptation is to just keep quoting. She's got riffs on names for her various body parts and rants on the preponderance of sleeveless dresses, going all-caps to emphasize her vexation: "IF EVERY WOMAN IN THIS COUNTRY WERE ALLOWED TO COVER HER UPPER ARMS, AS GOD INTENDED, PRESCRIPTIONS OF XANAX WOULD HALVE IN A FORTNIGHT." She comments trenchantly that "normal women buy clothes to make them look good; whereas the fashion industry buys models to make the clothes look good."

Moran is at her most brilliant on Brazilian bikini waxes, an unwelcome result of boys learning about sex from watching Internet porn, where hairlessness rules. These boys grow up to be "as panicked by pubic hair as Victorian art critic John Ruskin apparently was in 1848." Proclaiming herself "vagina retro," she exclaims, "I can't believe we've got to the point where it's basically costing us money to have a vagina. They're making us pay for maintenance and upkeep of our lulus, like they're a communal garden. It's a stealth tax."

But the jokes aside, How to Be a Woman offers plenty to discuss. Sexism, Moran warns, can be hard to scope out these days, "a bit like Meryl Streep in a new film: sometimes you don't recognize it straightaway." Are facelifts and stilettos really signs of deeper societal prejudices or just silly fashions? Is the pressure for women (but not men) to have children external or internal? How restrictive is the so-called glass ceiling? Moran claims that it's hard to see precisely because it's made of glass: "What we need is for more birds to fly above it and shit all over it, so we can see it properly." A clarion call to soar unimpeded in feminist skies.

Further reading: If you're up for more feminist-inflected humor, Tina Fey's aforementioned Bossypants includes plenty of sparkling discussion of balancing children and work and making it in the formerly predominantly male world of stand-up comics and television. Nora Ephron's Crazy Salad: Some Things About Women, published in 1975, the year Moran was born, and I Feel Bad About My Neck (2006) are joyously snappy reads. Crazy Salad includes not just Ephron's classic essay about breasts but "Dealing with the, uh, Problem" — in which she took on feminine hygiene sprays, an earlier attempt to make women self-conscious about their vaginas. In a more academic vein, Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch (1970) will take you back to Moran's inspirational source. Like Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (1949), reading it now underscores how far we've come. But, as Moran comes to realize, the goal isn't to learn how to be a woman but something much more important: how to be human.

Heller McAlpin is a New York–based critic who reviews books for NPR.org, The Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Christian Science Monitor, and other publications.

Reviewer: Heller McAlpin

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780091940744
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/2012

Meet the Author

Caitlin Moran was named the Columnist of the Year by the British Press Awards in 2010, and Critic and Interviewer of the Year in 2011 for her work at the Times of London. You can follow Caitlin on Twitter @caitlinmoran.

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Read an Excerpt

How to Be a Woman


By Caitlin Moran

HarperCollins Publishers

Copyright © 2012 Caitlin Moran
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-06-212429-6


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

I Start Bleeding!


So, I had assumed it was optional. I know that women bleed every month, but I didn't think it was going to happen to me. I'd presumed I would be able to opt out of it - perhaps from sheer unwillingness. It honestly doesn't look that much use or fun, and I can't see any way I can fit it into my schedule.

I'm just not going to bother! I think to myself, cheerfully, as I do my ten sit ups a night. Captain Moran is opting out! I am taking my "By the Time I'm 18" list very seriously. My "Loose [sic] Weight" campaign has stepped up a gear - not only am I still not eating ginger nuts, but I'm also doing ten sit ups and ten push ups a night. We don't have any full length mirrors in the house, so I've no idea how I'm doing, but I imagine that, at this rate, my boot camp regime will have me as slender as Winona Ryder by Christmas.

I'd only found out about periods four months ago, anyway. My mother never told us about them - "I thought you'd picked it all up from Moonlighting," she said vaguely, when, years later, I asked her about it - and it's only when I came across a Tampax leaflet, stuffed in the hedge outside our house by a passing schoolgirl, that I'd discovered what the whole menstrual deal was.

"I don't want to talk about this," Caz says, when I come into the bedroom with the leaflet and try to show it to her. "But have you seen?" I ask her, sitting on the end of her bed. She moves to the other end of the bed. Caz doesn't like "nearness:" It makes her extremely irascible. In a three bedroom council [subsidized] house with seven people in it, she is almost perpetually furious.

"Look - this is the womb, and this is the vagina, and the Tampax expands width ways, to fill the ... burrow," I say.

I've only skim read the leaflet. To be honest, it has blown my mind quite badly. The cross section of the female reproductive system looks complicated, and impractical - like one of those very expensive Rotastak hamster cages, with tunnels going everywhere. Again, I'm not really sure I want in on all of this. I think I thought I was just made of solid meat - from my pelvis to my neck - with the kidneys wedged in there somewhere. Like a sausage. I dunno. Anatomy isn't my strong point. I like romantic 19th century novels, where girls faint in the rain, and Spike Milligan's war memoirs. There isn't much menstruation in either. This all seems a bit.... unnecessary.

"And it happens every month," I say to Caz. Caz is now actually lying, fully dressed, under her duvet, wearing Wellington boots. "I want you to go away," her voice says from under the duvet. "I'm pretending you're dead. I can't think of anything I want to do less than talk about menstruation with you."

I trail away.

"Nil desperandum!" I say to myself. "There's always someone I can go to for a sympathetic ear and a bowlful of cheery chat!" The stupid new dog is under my bed. She has gotten pregnant by the small dog, Oscar, who lives across the road. None of us can quite work out how this has happened, as Oscar is one of those small yappy type dogs, only slightly bigger than a family size tin of baked beans, and the stupid new dog is a fully grown German shepherd.

"She must have actually dug a hole in the ground, to squat in," Caz says in disgust. "She must have been gagging for it. Your dog is a whore."

"I'm going to become a woman soon, dog," I say. The dog licks her vagina. I have noticed the dog always does this when I talk to her. I have not yet worked out what I think about this, but I think I might be a bit sad about it.

"I found a leaflet, and it says I'll be starting my period soon," I continue. "I'll be honest, dog - I'm a bit worried. I think it's going to hurt."

I look into the dog's eyes. She is as stupid as a barrel of toes. Galaxies of nothing are going on in her eyes.

I get up.

"I'm going to talk to Mum," I explain. The dog remains under my bed, looking, as always, deeply nervous about being a dog. I track Mum down on the toilet. She's now eight months pregnant, and holding the sleeping one-year old Cheryl while trying to do a wee.

I sit on the edge of the bath.

"Mum?" I say.

For some reason, I think I am allowed only one question about this. One shot at the "menstrual cycle conversation."

"Yes?" she answers. Even though she is doing a wee and holding a sleeping baby, she is also sorting out a whites wash from the washing basket.

"You know - my period?" I whisper.

"Yes?" she says.

"Will it hurt?" I ask.

Mum thinks for a minute.

"Yeah," she says, in the end. "But it's okay."

The baby then starts crying, so she never explains why it's okay. It remains unexplained.

Three weeks later, my period starts. I find it to be a deeply cheerful event. It starts in the car on the way to Central Library in town, and I have to walk all around the nonfiction section for half an hour, desperately hoping it won't show, before Dad takes us all home again.

"My first period started: yuk," I write in my diary.

"I don't think Judy Garland ever had a period," I tell the dog, unhappily, later that night. I am watching myself cry in a small hand mirror. "Or Cd Charisma. Or Gene Kelly."

The bag of Pennywise sanitary napkins my mum keeps on the back of the bathroom door has become my business now, too. I feel a sad jealousy of all my younger siblings who are still "outside the bag." The napkins are thick and cheap - stuck into my knickers, they feel like a mattress between my legs.

"It feels like a mattress between my legs," I tell Caz.

We're playing one of our Sindy games. Four hours in and Caz's Sindy, Bonnie, is secretly murdering everyone on a luxury cruise ship.

My Sindy, Layla, is trying to solve the mystery. The one-legged Action Man, Bernard, is dating both of them simultaneously.

We argue constantly over the ownership of Bernard, even though he actually belongs to Eddie. Neither of us want our Sindy to be single.

"A horrible, thick mattress," I continue. "Like in The Princess and the Pea."

"How long are they?" Caz asks.

Ten minutes later, and six Pennywise sanitary napkins are laid out, like a dormitory, with Sindys sleeping on them.

"Well, this is lucky!" I say. "Like when we found out that a Brussels sprout looks exactly like a Sindy cabbage. See, Caz - this is the bright side of menstruation!"

Because the sanitary napkins are cheap, they shred between my thighs when I walk, and become ineffective and leaky. I give up walking for the duration of my period. My first period lasts three months. I think this is perfectly normal. I faint quite regularly. I become so anemic my finger and toenails become very pale blue. I don't tell Mum, because I've asked my question about periods. Now I just have to get on with them.

The blood on the sheets is depressing - not dramatic and red, like a murder, but brown and tedious, like an accident. It looks like I am rusty inside and am now breaking. In an effort to avoid hand washing stains out every morning, I take to stuffing huge bundles of toilet paper in my knickers, along with the useless sanitary napkins, and lying very, very still all night. Sometimes there are huge blood clots, which look like raw liver. I presume this is the lining of my womb, coming off in inch-thick slices, and that this is just how visceral menstruation is. It all adds to a dreary sense that something terribly wrong is going on, but that it is against the rules of the game to ever mention it. Frequently, I think about all the women through history who've had to deal with this ferocious bullshit with just rags and cold water.

No wonder women have been oppressed by men for so long, I think, scouring my knickers with a nail brush and coal-tar soap in the bathroom. Getting dried blood out of cotton is a bitch. We were all too busy scrubbing to agitate for the vote until the twin sink was invented.

Even though she's two years younger than me, Caz starts her period six months after me - just as I'm starting my second one. She comes crying into my bedroom when everyone else is asleep and whispers the awful words, "My period's started."

I show her the bag of sanitary napkins on the back of the bath bathroom door and tell her what to do.

"Put them in your knickers, and don't walk for three months," I say. "It's easy."

"Will it hurt?" she asks, eyes wide.

"Yes," I say in an adult and noble manner. "But it's okay."

"Why is it okay?" she asks.

"I don't know," I say.

"Well, why are you saying it, then?" she asks.

"I don't know."

"Jesus. Why do you bother talking? The stuff that comes out of your mouth."

Caz gets horrific cramps - she spends her periods in the bedroom with the curtains drawn, covered in hot water bottles, shouting "Fuck off" at anyone who tries to come into the room. As part of being a hippie, my mother doesn't "believe" in painkillers and urges us to research herbal remedies. We read that sage is supposed to help and sitting in bed eating handfuls of sage and onion stuffing, crying. Neither of us can believe that we're going to have to put up with this for the next 30 years.

"I don't want children anyway," Caz says. "So I am getting nothing out of this whatsoever. I want my entire reproductive system taken out and replaced with spare lungs, for when I start smoking. I want that option. This is pointless."

At this juncture, it seems there is absolutely nothing to recommend being a woman. Sex hormones are a bitch that have turned me from a blithe child into a bleeding, weeping, fainting washer-woman. These hormones do not make me feel feminine: every night, I lie in bed feeling wretched, and the bulge of my sanitary napkin in my knickers looks like a cock.

I take everything off, sadly, while I get my nightie out of the drawer. When I turn around again, the dog has slunk out from under the bed and started to eat my bloody sanitary napkin. There are bits of shredded, red cotton all over the floor, and my knickers are hanging out of her mouth. She stares at me, desperately.

"Oh, God - your dog's a lesbian vampire," Caz says from her bed, turning over to sleep.

I go to retrieve my knickers, and faint.

In the midst of this hormonal gloom, however, the cavalry finally arrives, over the hill, jangling its spurs, with epaulettes shining in the sun: my green library card. Now I'm 13, I can get adult books out of the library, without having to borrow my parents' cards. And that means I can get secret books out. Dirty books. Books with sex in them.

"I've been having these dreams," I tell the dog as we walk to the library. The library is on the other side of the Green - a gigantic, desolate stretch of grass, where one must be constantly on the lookout for the Yobs. It doesn't do to boldly walk in the middle of it - this leaves one exposed. You must stick to the outer edges, near the houses, so that if you get attacked the people who live in the houses can get a good view of you getting your head kicked in without having to fetch their binoculars.

"Dreams about ... men," I continue. I look at the dog. The dog looks back at me. I think the dog deserves to know the whole truth of what is going on here. I owe her that much, at least. "I'm in love with Chevy Chase," I tell the dog, in a sudden, joyful burst. "I saw him in the video to Paul Simon's 'You Can Call Me Al,' from the 1986 Graceland album, on Warner Bros., and I just can't stop thinking about him. I had this dream where he kissed me, and his mouth felt exciting. I'm going to ask Dad if we can get The Three Amigos out of the video shop on Friday."

Requesting The Three Amigos from the video shop will be a bold move - the next video for rental has already been earmarked as Howard the Duck. I will have to pull a lot of fancy footwork but it will be worth it. I have not told the dog yet but the thought of kissing Chevy Chase has made me so excited that yesterday I listened to "You Can Call Me Al" 16 times on repeat, imagining him touching my face while Paul Simon plays the bass solo. I am so hot for Chevy. I have even imagined what my first line to him will be - the one that will capture his heart.

"Chevy Chase?" I will say, at a party very closely modeled on the ones I've seen on Dynasty. "Any relation to Cannock Chase?" Cannock Chase is just off the A5 to Stafford. LA born movie star and comedian Chevy is going to both get, and love, this joke. Of course, I have had crushes before. Well, one. It didn't go very well. When I was seven, I saw an episode of Buck Rogers and fell in love with that dumb American space cowboy, so obviously based on Han Solo they might as well have called him San Holo and had him ride around in the Fillennium Malcon with Bewchacca. As the new love chemicals rushed through me - Bucknesium and Rogerstonin - I discovered what love is and found that it's just feeling very ... interested. More interested than I had been about anything before.
(Continues...)


Excerpted from How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. Copyright © 2012 by Caitlin Moran. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Worst Birthday Ever 1

Chapter 1 I Start Bleeding! 15

Chapter 2 I Become Furry! 41

Chapter 3 I Don't Know What To Call My Breasts! 57

Chapter 4 I Am A Feminist! 71

Chapter 5 I Need A Bra! 89

Chapter 6 I Am Fat! 103

Chapter 7 I Encounter Some Sexism! 119

Chapter 8 I Am In Love! 143

Chapter 9 I Go Lap-dancing! 165

Chapter 10 I Get Married! 177

Chapter 11 I Get Into Fashion! 195

Chapter 12 Why You Should Have Children 217

Chapter 13 Why You Shouldn't Have Children 235

Chapter 14 Role Models And What We Do With Them 247

Chapter 15 Abortion 269

Chapter 16 Intervention 285

Postscript 297

Acknowledgements 311

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Interviews & Essays

Jenny Lawson, author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened,
interviews
Caitlin Moran, author of How To Be a Woman

Jenny Lawson: In the first chapter of your book you use the words “irascible,” “subjugated,” “portentously,” and “nil desperandum.” Do you think you're smarter than me?

Caitlin Moran: There's no WAY I'm smarter than you, because you have never smoked so much marijuana you tried to get a stoned wasp and a worm to fight by putting them in a jar together.

Lawson: Up until two days ago I thought that Germaine Greer and Greer Garson were the same people. Am I going to have my feminist card revoked?

Moran: It's okay! NO AMERICANS KNOW WHO GERMAINE GREER IS! NEITHER DO EUROPEANS! She appears to be a "Britain only" femnomenon (I hope you've seen what I've done there. Made a very ugly portmanteau word.) I've found out that in Europe, you have to translate "Germaine Greer" as "Simone de Beauvoir." They get it then. And THEN you tell them about how Greer appeared on the cover of Oz magazine with her marmoset on full display, and their minds get blown all over again.

Lawson: Is there anything you've written that you wish you could go back and change?

Moran: I honestly wish I'd put more shagging in. I REALLY want to write pornography. Beautiful filthy hot porn in which chicks get their rocks off in beautifully decorated rooms and/or a hayrick during the Harvest.

Lawson: If you could be anything in the world, what would you be?

Moran: I would be THE PERSON IN A BAR BUYING YOU A JUG OF MARGARITAS, JENNY LAWSON. Stop living in another country! I want to take you to a certain club in East London where they have a pool on the roof, and we jump in, pissed. When it's only 6pm.

Lawson: What part of your book are you most proud of?

CM: LITERALLY all of it - I tried to write it with such good heart, as a love-letter to all the ladies in the world wondering if it's just THEM thinking this is all bullshit. IT NEVER IS! WE'RE ALL THINKING IT! But, aside from that, remembering that my sister called my dog "a lesbian vampire" when it ate my sanitary pad. The whole thing was just WRONG.

Caitlin Moran, author of How To Be a Woman,
interviews
Jenny Lawson, author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened

Caitlin Moran: Do you feel you've ever actually gone too far? Is there something you wouldn't write about?

Jenny Lawson: Surprisingly, I do have a lot of boundaries, even considering how filter-less I am about myself. I don't write other people's stories and I don't write things that I think will hurt anyone in the long run.

Caitlin Moran: Would you actually like it if the world changed so much you were considered normal?

Jenny Lawson: If the world changed enough that I would be considered normal then that would mean that everyone else in the world was dysfunctionally weird and vaguely dangerous. Even my gynecologist. Um…no. I don't think I'd like that at all.

Caitlin Moran: Which writers did you read and go "I could steal/use/love what they're doing there"?

Jenny Lawson: Dorothy Parker. I want to go back in time and kidnap her and feed her martinis while I take credit for all of her work. That's not crazy. Probably.

Caitlin Moran: If you could have a stuffed animal doing anything, what would it be? Would you be freaked out if someone made you a Jenny Lawson Squirrel, or Raccoon?

Jenny Lawson: I want a tiny (died of old age) mouse with curlers in her hair and a blowdryer in her hand. Or maybe a small raccoon in jams just to remind me of my childhood.

Caitlin Moran: If the internet didn't exist, what would you do with your time?

Jenny Lawson: I'd probably invent the internet. Starting with twitter.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 67 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(27)

4 Star

(18)

3 Star

(8)

2 Star

(7)

1 Star

(7)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 67 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2012

    Terrific--But Not For Everyone

    This is a terrific, provocative and thought provoking book on feminisim and all things, "woman," in general; however, it is not for everyone's tastes.

    ***If you are easily offended by four letter words on a broad, or body-specific basis--you'll probably want to stay away. Moran is an intelligent, articulate writer, but she gleefully embraces her vulgarities, even defending her use of one particularly offensive word. While the language can be blunt, it simply comes across as being HER, her personality and her view of womanhood; for me, it did not come across as a blatant attempt to be shocking--it's just who she is, her experience. I found it alternately appropriate, funny and question-raising; I had no problem with it--but some readers might.

    ***As Moran is English, based in London and the book was originally published there--there are many references to British personalities, pop culture and every day life that some readers will not be familiar with. If it's bothersome, be prepared to do some Googling.

    ***A feminist-treatise, this is also a memoir; Moran is "no holds barred" on her personal revelations. At times, this reads as "TMI" with raw, humiliating, cringe-worthy recounts of her coming of age: as one of 8 kids she relates, with brutal honesty, the traumas of being welfare-poor to the point her hand-me-downs included her mother's old underpants and the stifling lack of privacy.

    ***Her sister, Caz, emerges as a prize scene-stealing supporting character--some of the best lines are from her

    ***Moran is a wickedly funny, highly intelligent writer and thinker; don't assume because this book is funny, it's not serious. It tackles everything from body image/hair/functions, to sex, marriage, kids and abortion. It is a perfect read for discussion with your closest friends as Moran talks about these subjects in intimate ways that many of us wish we could emmulate.

    I find her views refreshing and bold--and comforting: it reminds us that being a woman--struggling to come into our womanhood--is traumatic, often gross, humilating and heartbreaking. Yet Moran reminds us we are not alone in our "female" struggles and ultimately, to find joy, in who and what we are.

    Not for everyone's taste, but for those who jump in--I think you will enjoy the ride--this is a worthwhile read that absolutely needs to be discussed, laughed over, and debated.

    32 out of 33 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 20, 2012

    Absolutely hilarious (and thought provoking)!

    Caitlin Moran's How To Be a Woman is wildly funny and at the same time a great introduction to a modern idea of what it means to be a feminist. To quote the author, "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." Moran tackles everything from menstruation to masturbation, hair removal, underwear size, and abortion in a very honest and hilarious fashion. As a side note, I learned about this book when Caitlin and Jenny Lawson aka The Blogess (who is also ridiculously funny and the author of Let's Pretend This Never Happened) interviewed each other.

    11 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2012

    good feminist rant with humor

    This book is an unapologetic feminist rant, wrapped in an entertaining autobiography. It treats some very important issues with thought-provoking comments, but also is peppered with a good deal of humor. There are some really important take-away messages that nicely summarize the situation for women and our place in society. I really liked how she suggested that asking simple questions could help assess important problems like harassment and oppression/inequality: "is that polite?" and "are the men doing this?"

    There is a lot of strong language that may be off-putting to some readers, and as the author is from the U.K. there is some usage that may be unfamiliar to US readers. In addition, there is quite a bit of slang that may be unfamiliar to readers who are not as steeped in popular culture, but it does not interfere with the reading of the book (and can be entertaining to look up). This is the sort of book that our daughters should read and consider, but it might be better (depending on the daughter's age) if we didn't know they were reading it!

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Not funny

    I was very excited to read this. Once I started I was disappointed almost immediately. I gave it a chance and kept plugging away at it hoping it would get funny. It never did. Had to stop reading it. It is very rare for me to not finish a book. Yes, it was that bad.

    4 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2012

    I bought this book because it was described as the British versi

    I bought this book because it was described as the British version of Jenny Lawson's book, which I loved. After reading 80 pages of How To Be A Woman, I am not planning on finishing it. Its humor is sub par compared to Let's Pretend This Never Happened. I hope my mother doesn't pick this book up off our bookshelf and be horrified to read that 13 year olds are masturbating, and getting bikini waxes and fingered. It wasn't true for me 7 years ago when I was that age, and I really don't think that much has changed since then. It's just a really weird book so far, but I suppose that is Britain for ya?
    Anyway, if you're interested in the subject of feminism, this book should suit your fancy; otherwise, don't pick it up expecting a similar book to Jenny Lawson's!

    4 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    For me, this book was a revelation. It didn't move anyone out of

    For me, this book was a revelation. It didn't move anyone out of my
    "top ten" list, but I hope my daughters read it when they are
    18ish. they are strident feminists at age 6 and 9. ya know....because
    that's how all kids are born.....as strident feminists. which is the
    exact thing about this book that causes me to call it a revelation.
    feminism isn't something you aspire too, or want. being a feminist isn't
    something you become. it's the opposite of feminism that's unnatural and
    enforced on us by people that don't have our best interests at heart. we
    are all born with the tools. they get taken away. this book helped me
    realize that I don't want those tools taken away from my kids. for that
    reason, I think *you* should read it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 6, 2012

    A must read for women AND men

    Everyone, male or female, should read this book. Funny, fierce, and relevant as hell. The cover says it's a British Bossypants, but its much funnier, and more important, than that. Mixes memoir, humor, and polemic in a wonderfully readable way. Yeah, if you're squeamish and too precious for profanity it probably won't be your cup of tea. But women's bodies and lives are messy and real, and the way women's bodies and lives are cheapened and commodified, especially by the pronography industry, deserves to be called the bull**** that it is. Caitlin Moran comes across as someone you'd love to have a pint or two with down at the pub.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 5, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Thought provoking, funny

    No, it's not Jenny Lawson - she's a different kind of funny. This has some similar moments BUT is more of memoir/polemic. Happy to see feminism is alive and well in the world. Definitely worth reading!

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 20, 2013

    Caitlin absolutely nails it

    This is a hilariously vulgar and accurate book about what some women experience with life. Only a snobbish bore wouldn't be able to find a good laugh in this book! Caitlin shares a very intimate part of what most women endure in their lives. Her profanity and honesty may bother some. But as a fellow user of profanity in a male dominated world where women are encouraged to be more ladylike with the way we speak, it is a breath of fresh air.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 14, 2012

    Do not waste your time

    All I can say about this book is that I with I had not bought it. It was boring to me.

    2 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2012

    Can not finish...

    Not good, do not buy!

    2 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 8, 2012

    Fantastic read... necessary for anyone who has or likes vaginas.

    Hilarious. I laughed so much while nursing my toddler that i woke her up. I would love to use excerpts of this in the feminism course i am teaching this fall.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Nothing funny about it and I was disappointed. I was laughing l

    Nothing funny about it and I was disappointed. I was laughing like a maniac while reading Jenny Lawrence's book, I love Chelsea Handler and Jen Lancaster, I anticipated this book to be in that genre. Repulsive, nothing funny about it offensive, never cracked a smile.

    2 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2013

    I don't understand why these books are published... the world do

    I don't understand why these books are published... the world doesn't need to know about her abortion, and all other terrible things she's done.  

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

    Rambles on and on

    I`m sure some people woukd like this, but she just goes off on tangents. A five minute story turns into an hour of uninteresting tales.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2012

    No Stars for You

    A MAJOR waste of my $ and time - one of the first books I couldn't even stand to read more than a few pages and I really did try!!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2012

    One woman's funny and honest (sometimes painfully so) account of

    One woman's funny and honest (sometimes painfully so) account of her experience as a woman. If you are on the prudish side this book is not for you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Not funny

    LAME I WAS EXITED AT FIRST THEN AT THE BEGGING IT WAS LAME

    1 out of 21 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 24, 2014

    Important Read

    If you are of the female gender, read this book! READ IT!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2013

    Maybe if I was British?

    There was some humor and I definitely appreciated the overall message, but I found this to be quite difficult to finish and I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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