Author Caitlin MoranSince when did "feminism" become the new f-bomb? Caitlin Moran's 'How to Be A Woman', a UK bestseller, aims to rehab the maligned term while dishing Gaga, Brazilian waxing, the wonder of motherhood, and why porn could be a beautiful thing-but isn't. "Without feminism, you wouldn't be allowed to have a debate on women's place in society," writes the London Times award-winning columnist, "You'd be too busy giving birth on the kitchen floor--biting down on a wooden spoon, so as not to disturb the men's card game….The more women argue loudly, against feminism, the more they both prove it exists and that they enjoy its hard-won privileges."
Part memoir, part manifesto, Moran's work was a hit with British readers and now she's ambushing United States with her rambunctious mix of teenage confessional, social critique, and celebrity gossip. Scared of political rants? Fear not, Moran hacks through the prickly thicket of being a woman in the 21st Century with more of a rubber chicken than a machete.
Shine spoke with Moran about her history, her heroines, and why the phrase "girl power" just doesn't cut it.
Shine: One tool you give women for determining out whether something (a relationship, bra shopping, stilettos) is worth worrying about is the question: "Are the men doing it?" It's a brilliantly simple concept. What inspired you?
Caitlin Moran: An absolute lack of education. I've not read any of the big feminist books, so I didn't know any arguments I could use to back up my theories on sexism. All I could do was apply common sense to it--just try and work out stuff on my own--and when you're trying to work out what's sexist and what's not, it just makes sense to see if it's a problem boys have to worry about. As I say in the book, I'm neither anti-men, nor pro-women--just "thumbs up for the 7 billion." And I generally think the problems that men and women face are essentially the same. If the boys have found a way around it, the girls should copy it.
S: Why do you think women have rejected the word "feminism?"
'How to be a Woman'CM: They just don't know what it means. Without exception, when I have explained what feminism means--essentially, wanting to be in charge of your vagina, wanting to be equal to boys, wanting an education, and the vote, and autonomy--just like the boys. AND THAT'S ALL--they ALL say "Oh yes! I'm a feminist! TOTALLY! I had no idea!" And then I throw a little feminism party, and we all hold each other and cry whilst listening to 'Vogue' by Madonna.
S: Why do you think it needs to be reclaimed?
CM: It's the only word that means: "We will make sure that you are legally equal to men, that if you are raped, it's a crime, and that your money belongs to you, and you can never be the possession of someone else." By way of contrast, "feminism's" nearest rival--"girl power"--just means "being friends with your friends, and buying Spice Girls singles." Thanks, but that's not going to get me equal pay or stop me from being killed in a alleyway by a murderer, Scary Spice. I'd like some big-ass laws, thank you.
S: You write that Germaine Greer, who was an icon of the Women's Liberation Movement of the late 1960s and 1970s, has been a big influence. Who are some women who inspire you today?
CM: Lena Dunham. She represents for the round-faced lady of thighage with ambiguous feelings and a great record collection. Gaga's a mensch. Tina Fey is a goddess. Hillary's out there wearing no make-up and kicking ass. Everywhere I look there are awesome women. The Olympics! Oh man, women running fast with their strong bodies and their massive determination. You know, a hundred years ago they thought that if a woman ran, her womb would migrate into her head and she'd die. Now we are owning that track. BOOM watch our world-records! We are your EQUALS! Your sexy, witty, friendly EQUALS! Men, don't you enjoy a world where women are your great pals, helping you out? It must have been lonely running the world on your own for so long. Put your feet up for a bit! We're really helpful! We've got IDEAS!
S: Your book was huge in the UK. Why do you think it struck a nerve?
CM: I think having someone reasonably high-profile--ME! I MEAN ME!--admitting to all the bizarre stuff about being a woman in a relaxed and lol-zy way gave a whole bunch of women permission to start conversations about their bazoombas, underwear, fantasies, and "meh"-based feelings about having children. Someone with no embarrassment levels went out there and started the conversation. I over-shared. I took one for the team. I admitted I had my first orgasm thinking about Chevy Chase in 'The Three Amigos.' You're welcome, ladies.
To learn more about Caitlin Moran, visit her website http://www.how-tobeawoman.com/.