I am a feminist. You’d be amazed at the reactions that this statement provokes. To me it seems fairly logical – of course I’m a feminist – but if it comes up in conversation and I make that statement, I am often met with raised eyebrows, surprise, and people backing away from me. You see, feminism nowadays has connotations of misandry, bad footwear, unshaved armpits and shouting, and no-one wants anything to do with any of that.
It irks me no end when young women say “I’m not a feminist” with a slightly disdainful air. If you’re unmarried and independent, if you have voted, if you have had third level education, if you have had enjoyed a fulfilling sex life with more than one partner, if you have a career, if you have gone on the pill, you are enjoying the benefits of feminism and should at least be grateful to all those women who fought for your right to live your life in the way you see fit. However with the rise of porn culture, pole dancing as “empowerment”, Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian, female chauvinist pigs and Girls Gone Wild, feminism doesn’t get a look in.
Caitlin Moran explores this in her book How To Be a Woman which I only got around to reading last week despite the fact that lots of people told me I’d enjoy it when it was first published in 2011. In the prologue to her book Moran explains that when she had questions relating to female issues in her life she turned to feminism to see if it could provide answers. Instead she found that “feminism…has ground to a halt” – it has been relegated to the back burner, to the world of academia, and appears to have become somewhat stagnant as a result. She wrote How To Be a Woman to address these issues and perhaps reignite some much needed discussion amongst a wider audience.
Moran discusses topics such as menstruation, lap dancing, abortion, children, fashion, cosmetic surgery, and sex in her trademark conversational witty style. In every chapter she starts with an anecdote from her own life and uses that as a platform to explore the wider issues around that topic. Some of the anecdotes are so funny that I actually laughed out loud while reading the book (a rare event), such as the time she and her sister, crippled with period pain, gorged themselves with sage and onion stuffing as they’d heard that sage is good for cramps.
I agreed with a lot of Moran’s opinions and those I didn’t agree with were still interesting and thought provoking. How To Be a Woman is a great introduction to feminism and would be a brilliant gift for any girl or woman in your life. In a world where women in Ireland have to travel abroad for an abortion, where women routinely earn 30% less than men for the same job, where female politicians are judged on their looks and not their policies, we need more women to identify proudly as feminists and to continue to fight to close the equality gap.