Caitlin Moran: Feminism can be funny

Caitlin Moran is gobby, stroppy, shockingly honest, wise and has some great one-liners. Photo / Supplied
Caitlin Moran is gobby, stroppy, shockingly honest, wise and has some great one-liners. Photo / Supplied

Well, it is in the hands of straight-talking Caitlin Moran, writes Nicky Pellegrino.

Although I consider myself a feminist, usually I'd run a mile from books on the subject, suspecting they're all dreary, disapproving rants. Then my Facebook friends in the UK started talking about How To be A Woman by Caitlin Moran (Ebury Press, $37.99). And since it's been a stayer in the Amazon top 10, I had to check it out.

All I can say is Moran is some sort of genius. She has managed to redefine feminism thoughtfully and hilariously, producing a book that women will want to read on a topic we all thought we'd heard enough about. Also, if there were prizes for the quirkiest use of slang terms for a vagina it would definitely win.

Moran is a well-known newspaper columnist in the UK and her style is confessional and confronting, so letting her loose on an entire book about feminism was bound to be provocative. What she's come up with is part memoir, part polemic and one of the funniest things I've read in ages.

It opens in 1988 as Moran turns 13. The eldest of eight kids growing up in a cramped council house, she is far from ready for what happens next - body hair, periods, stretch marks, boobs, a sudden fascination with the naughty passages in books.

As she takes us along on her journey to womanhood, Moran shares many of her opinions too, verbalising stuff women think but rarely get around to saying, and doing it so much better than most of us. From female fantasies to the tyranny of waxing, childbirth, abortion, Botox and designer handbags, she is gobby, stroppy, shockingly honest, wise and armed with a fund of great one-liners. Take the long and very funny section on the trend for the Brazilian and the sudden unacceptability of a natural pelt of pubic hair. "I am aware that my views on waxing run contrary to current thinking," Moran tells us. "As far as pubic hair is concerned, I am like someone in a pub, tearfully recalling how exciting it was to go into Woolworths and buy the new Adam Ant single on seven-inch vinyl. I am 'vagina retro'."

While it's all outrageously good fun, there were times when I wanted a little less feminist diatribe and a little more Caitlin, to know more about her family, her dating disasters and how she managed to score a job on one of Britain's coolest music papers at the age of 16. Somehow, Moran manages to be incredibly up-front about her personal life yet she still left me wanting more. I'm also not convinced I buy into her theory that what women want and need is to be treated like one of The Guys or that sexism is just another form of bad manners. But I love how she writes about the important, and the less important, stuff in a way that is barstool chatty.

This is a book that needed to be written. Share it with your book club, give it to your teenage daughter - or son. In fact, any man who complains of not having a clue what goes on in women's heads should be presented with a copy.

I finished How To Be A Woman wondering if there was any way I could possibly make Caitlin Moran be my friend. I'm working on this.

- Herald on Sunday

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Herald on Sunday books editor Nicky Pellegrino has worked as a journalist on newspapers and magazines in the UK and New Zealand and is the author of seven internationally successful novels including Recipe For Life and The Food Of Love Cookery School. Her next book is set in Venice and is about happiness. When not working Nicky likes cooking for friends, drinking red wine, riding her horses and lying in bed reading other people’s novels.

Read more by Nicky Pellegrino

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