This book was a gift from my friend C., who wants to chat about the content with me, so I read with a critical eye – and came away with the feeling that this book, while in some places moving and funny, is just not for me. It is not a self help book, more a polemic. In parts. In parts it is the story of Caitlin Moran’s adolescence and adulthood, her job as a music reporter and later columnist for major newspapers: her teenage struggle with weight and identity, her mildly disastrous wedding to (literally) the man of her dreams, the horror story of her first child’s birth, along with that time she hung out with Lady Gaga – a very nice, down to earth human being. For me, these were the parts with worth, with humanity – when she was being specific, when she was talking with brashness and grace about her own life.
The other side, the polemic – well, there are many many points in which her ideas of feminism fall flat for me. Mostly it’s in the urge I have to say CITATION NEEDED quite a lot. After every fact, after ‘every woman feels this way/does this’ i.e. has loads of shoes she doesn’t wear, has a terrible wedding, wants or wanted at some point to be a princess. In other places, she even states that women are not a monolith and that the problem with the patriarchy is that women are presumed to act the same.
Furthermore the idea that we can resist the dominant modes of expression by, as Moran suggests, simply ‘being hot’ and ‘laughing’ seems a little bit less active than I would like. Laugh it off, rather than engage, because if you are engaging, speaking out, you turn into a shrew, and become less attractive. I’m happy enough to be a truthful nag or a tiny long nosed mouseish creature, if the alternative is to pretend what is said or done doesn’t hurt me or trap me in a genderised cage.
So, problematic to say the least. I did appreciate her resistance to the Sex and The City gleeful capitalism, WAG aspiration and Princess-passivity (that is pushed on young girls and women through disney and the pink parade of toys they are exposed to). There were some points where the jokes fall flat for me because they are not based in truth ( and where I felt the need to read parts out to D, in order to vent my disagreement) and at others I was quietly snorting to myself. For a really more thorough tackling of this book, I’d direct you to Victoria’s review over at Eve’s Alexandria – she articulates a lot of what I found problematic, in a far more eloquent way.
To end this on a more positive note – I just wanted to post a picture of my swag. I’ve never really had swag before, except once when I was a runner up in a script-writing competition as a teenager. I don’t know if a messenger bag full of prizes count. Anyway, ‘swag’ is a fun word to say, and even more fun to get when you are talking about books:
From left to right:
The first two are chapbooks from the feminist press Birds of Lace, which I won by replying to a tweet on St Valentine’s Day. ‘Meet the Lavenders’ by Carrie Murphy is a poetry collection, ‘The Birdwisher’ by Anna Joy Springer, which describes itself as ‘a murder mystery for very old young adults’.
The next three are: a small yellow book of poetry called Trees of the Twentieth Century by Stephen Sturgeon, which was given away as part of a subscription to Hobart (the journal next to Trees is issue 13), and most suprising of all, included the Hobart package, a copy of Who Was Changed and Who Was Dead by Barbara Comyns, which had long gone out of print until Dorothy press brought it back.
The cover of the novel, so lovely and murky, was illustrated by Yelena Bryksenkova, who in my dreams will illustrate the cover of my novels. I’ve been a fan of Dorothy press since I first heard of it – it’s a small affair which only publish books by women, and they seem to take up works that I immediately want to read, but have until now not been able to afford.
Thank you Birds of Lace and Hobart – and hooray for swag. (I had to write it one more time)