How to be a Strident Feminist

18 Jul

I’ve almost finished Caitlin Moran’s book, How to be a Woman, and it really is brilliant. This time last week, I was undecided about her. But I had booked tickets to go see her and Guardian columnist Grace Dent at Bookslam last Thursday, so I figured I’d give the book a read on my way there. I’m not sure why exactly I had been sceptical before; possibly because I slightly mistrusted the idea of a ‘light-hearted, comic approach’ to feminism. Several friends told me to read it, they said I’d love it. I occasionally had read her column in the Times magazine and thought it funny.  I’d read a long extract in one of the weekend papers and definitely laughed. But I still didn’t think it was for me. But as soon as I starting reading the first chapter, entitled ‘I Start to Bleed!,’ I was instantly charmed. I laughed out loud, on the bus and on the tube. I loved the first four chapters so much, I was getting people to read little bits in order to tempt them into reading it too! And I wasn’t even ready to lend it to them; I hadn’t even finished! I realised that, ideally, the quickest way for me to get all my friends to read it would be to simply organise an evening where I could just read it to all of them, in one go. Kill 10 birds with one stone, so to speak. But I haven’t got round to it yet, as I’m still reading.

While the second part of the book becomes more autobiographical – we see Moran face work, men, marriage and babies – the early parts about her childhood and relevant rants about pornography, puberty and adolescence, were just great. Moran manages to deal with some quite big topics – the confusing and daunting questions that both men and women inevitably puzzle over at some point in their lives – in a light-hearted, down-to-earth way that I thought was incredibly funny, clever and brimming with common-sense. Above all, her writing demystifies and de-stigmatises the word ‘feminist’ and reminds us why calling oneself a ‘strident feminist’ is absolutely necessary for both sexes today. And on top of all that, it is a joyous, and fascinating story about growing up with grunge and Britpop in England during the 80s and 90s. Reading at Bookslam, Moran brought even more hilarity to her selected passages and the notably female audience laughed throughout. I thought she was totally charming and clever. A perfect role model for other strident feminists in training.

Also on the bill that night was Grace Dent, whose How to Leave Twitter, I knew nothing about. It made no difference, however; she was brilliantly funny and much thigh-slapping ensued. There was also a reading by debut novelist, Peter Salmon, whose Coffee Story follows a family history across time and space, From England and Ethiopia to Cuba and the USA. Although Salmon read well and I was quite interested by his new book, the ladies were the stars of the evening for me and, I think, the majority of the audience. And I did something I have not done since I was about eight years old: I asked for an autograph. From Caitlin Moran. And she gave it to me. Right on sister, Right on.


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