Things I have Learnt from How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

The year is 2011. I'm 21 years old, Wills & Kate had just got married, Amy Winehouse had met a very tragic end and the London Riots were about to kick off. However, something else life-altering was about to occur (at least for me...I'm not sure David Cameron would have been too bothered about me reading How to be a Woman). I picked up a book with a lady on the cover who had a grey streak in her hair and the best applied winged eye-liner I had ever seen. I didn't really know much about Caitlin Moran, other than that she had brought a book out which talked about lots of risque things, or at least things that shy-and-retiring me deemed risque (pfffft!)
Highly recommended, this book sounded like the book I had been searching for. An intelligently written, no-holds-barred guide on how to navigate this scary thing known as 'womanhood'. Perfect!
As a naive 21 year old, I can't express how much I took away from How to be a Woman. Like any young person, I had questions, I had worries, I had insecurities and I knew very little about feminism. Why would I? I was more interested in crash dieting at the time (If I could JUST get into those size 8 Miss Selfridge jeans my life would be perfect.)
I learnt A LOT from reading Caitlin's memoir/rant/observations, but I was only young. It wasn't until last Monday (and now at the grand-old-age of 28) when I picked up How to be a Woman once again and decided, in celebration of International Women's Day, I would re-read it.
AND OHMIGOD. This time the book resonated with me on so many levels, it was untrue. How can so much have changed in 7 years? For me, it would appear that it has, yet Caitlin's musings are still every bit as valid as they were all those years ago.
Maybe I'm more of an adult now? Maybe I have discovered things that don't seem quite right with the world on a larger scale now? I don't know. But one thing I do know is that this book deserves every bit of praise that is has lavishly received since it's publication in 2011.

My re-read of How to be a Woman has taught me many things, some of which I thought I would share with you today, International Women's Day. So, after the longest introduction ever; here are a few things that Caitlin has reassured/educated/enlightened me on the rather tricky process that being a woman entails...

You are a feminist. You. Yes you, reading this. I don't care if you're a man (and if you are, hello, I didn't think I had any male readers...) You can still be a feminist. Feminism is not a dirty word, it doesn't mean you need to be shouty, anti-man, all-round-scary person with hideous shoes. No. In Caitlin's own words it is simply "the belief that women should be as free as men, however nuts, dim, deluded, badly dressed, fat, receding, lazy and smug they might be." And the good news is you can still be a feminist if you drive a pink mini metro that's adorned with a a 'powered by fairydust' sticker.

Books are amazing. Ok, so Caitlin may not have touched upon this directly in How to be a Woman, but I'm going on the sub-text here. Growing up in a tiny house in Wolverhampton with five younger siblings, sleeping on a mattress that still boasts the indentation of her dead-Gran, a fondness for ginger nuts and being made to wear her mothers old pants, Caitlin couldn't really pass as a 'popular' teenager. She didn't really have any friends, other than her family and a German Shepard who is a bit of a whore. But how did Caitlin survive those tricky teenage years? She read. Often recounting her visits to the library, it shines through how teenager-Caitlin found joy among the pages of books. Books were her friends and the beauty of them was that they taught her so many things (I'm talking about her love of feminism here but they also taught her naughty things too.) I love the prologue where she discusses turning thirteen and being able to upgrade to a green, teenage, library card which enabled to her borrow adult books. Jilly Cooper, look out...

We need to give ourselves a break. Caitlin talks about how, as soon as you hit thirteen and are on the road to womanhood you are bombarded with all the stresses and pressures that didn't exist when you were a hapless twelve year old. This then only gets worse the older you get. Have you got the latest designer handbag? Have you got a signature scent? When are you going to settle down? Do you have a 'career'? When are you getting your eyebrows waxed? When are you going to have children? Shouldn't you be having botox? Why aren't you wearing those high-heels that cut your feet up like a cheese grater? Why haven't you lost those 8lbs you put on over Christmas? Are those DISNEY pants you're wearing!? All questions that women will face at some point in their lives and the reminder that perhaps we need to put less pressure on ourselves before our heads explode. Chill out, wear the Frozen pants and eat the donut.

Being a woman is great. After re-reading How to be a Woman, not only did I feel empowered and slightly-better about life, but I was also reminded that being a women is great. So, to finish off my very long and ramble-y ode to this wonderful book, here are a few of my favourite things about being a woman...

Our outfit choices. Ok, so this can sometimes be a tricky one when I over-sleep and need to get dressed in 000000.2 seconds, but generally I love taking the time to mix-and-match my outfits. And there are so many options available to us...I truly believe that any wardrobe that does not resemble Narnia with clothes over-spilling everywhere is a waste of a wardrobe.
Lipstick. Your lipstick has the power to change your life. True fact.
Female Friendships. Because what better feeling is there than putting the world to rights over a tub of Ben & Jerry's with your best friend?
Chick-Lit. Anyone can read chick-lit OF COURSE, but to me it is not a guilty pleasure but a right of passage, as a women, to read and enjoy a bit of girlish romance.
Winged Eye-Liner. I don't even need to explain this one.
Female Heroines. There are so many kick-ass females out there who I look up to. A selection of women who make me proud to be a woman (Caitlin Moran might just be one of them...Along with my Mum.)

Psssst, - if you haven't read Caitlin's wonderful book then treat yourself this International Women's Day. Click here & thank me later.

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