How to Be a Woman
Harper Perennial, 2012
320 pp., $15.99
Naomi Schaefer Riley
Caitlin Moran, a columnist for the Times of London, has been hailed as a "feminist heroine for our times." And her brand of feminism has proved quite popular: her breakthrough book, How to Be a Woman, has sold several hundred thousand copies.
Moran's story is certainly a tale of empowerment. She grew up dirt-poor in a large family, and she was overweight to boot. From being forced to wear hand-me-down underwear to getting a baguette with cream cheese instead of cake for her 13th birthday, she recounts a childhood at once pathetic and laced with absurdity. But then the story shifts.
Still a teenager, Moran starts writing for music magazines and begins to work her way up, going quickly from getting chased home by boys throwing rocks at her to getting hit on by her bosses at the office. "One of the section editors calls me over to his desk and tells me that the feature I've just filed could be a cover story, 'So why don't you sit on my lap while we talk about it?' " Moran agrees. " 'Lost your circulation yet?' I ask cheerfully, as he sweats and coughs. I get my first cover. He spends ten minutes in the conference room, banging his thighs until he gets the circulation back in his legs."
She begins to get a reputation around the office for kissing many of her colleagues and then starts to worry about the reaction. "On the one hand, I can see why I have become a bit of a running gag in the office. I am, let's be fair, acting like a sexed-up lady Pac-Man—running around flapping my mouth open and closed, gobbling up people's faces. It's certainly worth a good 100 gags or so. Hell, I am making about 50 on the topic myself." As she acknowledges herself, Moran acts in a way that leads people to obvious conclusions. But then she takes them to task for daring to reach those conclusions.
In a previous era, Moran explains, sexist behavior was obvious. Men chased women around desks and whistled when they walked by. These days, though, the sexism is more subtle. One woman told Moran ...