Book Review: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

How to be a Woman by Caitlin MoranRating: 3 (out of 5)

Number of pages: 308

First published: 2011 (UK, this USA edition 2012).

I got this book: from Harper Perennial (HarperCollins) for review

Genre: non-fiction, memoir

How to Be a Woman: What it is about

From the publisher’s website: “Though they have the vote and the Pill and haven’t been burned as witches since 1727, life isn’t exactly a stroll down the catwalk for modern women. They are beset by choices, uncertainties, and questions: Why are they supposed to get Brazilians? Why do bras hurt? Why the incessant noise about having babies? And do men secretly hate them?

At a time when more than 70 percent of American women don’t consider themselves to be feminists, award-winning writer Caitlin Moran offers a provocative, funny, and much-needed polemic on feminism and the state of women today.

Moran interweaves her funny, common-sense observations with scenes from her own life, from her terrible thirteenth birthday (“I am overweight, have no friends, and boys throw gravel at me when they see me”) through the riot of adolescence to her life as a writer, wife, and a mother. With rapier wit, Moran slices right to the truth—whether it’s the workplace, strip-clubs, love, fat, abortion, popular entertainment, or children.”

How to Be a Woman: What I thought

OK, I am a feminist. I haven’t really consciously thought about it much recently, but reading Moran’s book, it turns out most of us are, so I am, too!

That’s good to know. Now, the book doesn’t start well for me. I was really looking forward to reading it, but starting off with menstruation, bodily hair, breasts and bras? I wasn’t interested. I know I’ve got it all, I don’t need to be reminded.

Really only when the book started to mention fashion (followed by babies), I started to get interested, because Moran had some sensible things to say about this, of the kind where you want to write in the comment section: “Me too! Me too”. (But the book didn’t have a comment section, as it’s made of paper, so no one will see what I write in it, least of all Caitlin Moran.) Anyway, then it finally became interesting for me.

It’s amazing I even lasted until the Fashion chapter, as it’s about 2/3rds down the book and I really wanted to give up much earlier. Why I lasted this long? Maybe because it had some funny bits. Laugh out loud funny bits. It wasn’t funny at all time, but it had some great moments.

What I also liked is how Moran argues that feminism isn’t about burning bras and being allowed to work (etc.), but about wearing underwear that fits (rather than being too small and sexy, for the unlikely occasion that today is the day that you’ll meet that guy and you end up undressing – as if he cares about your underwear anyway! He’s just happy to have got you into bed!) and about the right not to work if that’s what you and your family prefer.

What I didn’t like? Maybe the personal accounts were too long for me. I didn’t know Moran before this book so I didn’t have this “nice woman, let’s read her book and find out more about her” kind of attitude when I started the book. I knew it was funny, and that is was about women, but not much more than that.

It didn’t make a lasting impression on me, but some women may find this an inspiring book.

Have you read this book?

Did you enjoy it?


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

20 Responses to Book Review: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

  1. heavenali says:

    I had the misfortune to read it for a book group ( their dire choices have stopped nme going since) and I loathed it. I thought it utter drivel, not particuarly faminist and suspected a lot of the anecdotes were massively exaggerated.

    • Leeswammes says:

      It could have worked for a book group if the book suited you, ali. A pity it didn’t. I guess you were the only one not liking it? Otherwise, you could have discussed what was “wrong” with the book, rather than the topics in it.

  2. Probably all women are in some way or other feminists, so this means I am too. Yet I am not interested in reading about it. Thanks for your review, Judith.

  3. A Little Blog of Books and Other Stuff says:

    I didn’t really think about this at the time but I can see now that if you have already read a lot of Caitlin Moran’s articles in The Times then it is easier to appreciate this book when you are more familiar with her humour and also her family background which is pretty unconventional to say the least. I thought it was refreshing to see someone put a new spin on feminism that felt a lot more relevant to modern women than what the intellectual French theorists came up with in the 1960s for example.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Little Blog, I think it helps knowing more about Moran’s background before starting the book, but it shouldn’t be necessary, of course. I did like her different way of looking at feminism too.

  4. booketta says:

    I too read it (rather attempted to read it) for book group. You have stamina Judith to have finished it, well done! I gave up as I just did not like her writing style at all. I wasn’t well at the time with a cold but even so, I’m not sure I would have continued much more anyway.

    • Leeswammes says:

      Booketta, I didn’t mind the writing style, but I didn’t love it either. I did appreciate the funny bits that were meant to be funny. They were over the top, but it was meant that way, so that was fine.

  5. bibliosue says:

    It doesn’t really interest me, but maybe it’s the kind of book I can get from the library and just read the entertaining bits?

  6. Well, I may be the only one who really enjoyed it, but that’s fine 🙂 She was extremely straight forward and coming from a society when it is actually a sin not to conform to the norm, this book should be read by all women here! 🙂

    • Leeswammes says:

      Ally, I think there were many people that enjoyed the book! It is good to see a different point of view, especially if your society dictates a lot of behaviour for you.

  7. Lucybird says:

    I fell in love with Caitlin Moran when reading this book. I do agree it gets better with the fashion bits (she says pretty much everything I’ve ever thought about heels). In a way it’s feminist but I’m not sure if I would really call it a feminist book, at least when initially describing it.

  8. Rikki says:

    Well, I do agree with her about the underwear and the non working if you don’t want to, but as I already think that way, I suppose I don’t need to read about it anymore, :). The rest sounds negligible.

  9. Athira says:

    I sort of want to read this book. I haven’t been able to come across this book around me here.

  10. Pingback: How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran | Iris on Books

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