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Does Moran think she's being radical when she says women are driving themselves nuts keeping themselves hair-free and dolled up and when she depicts working-class women's sexuality as something peculiar, possibly even dangerous? If so, she couldn't be more wrong. Because both of those ideas are carbon copies of the sort of waffle promoted by respectable lady writers in the Victorian era.
Those long-dead snobs also fretted over women's obsession with prettification. The 1857 book Etiquette for Ladies said: "It is not too much to say that women in general, from a dread of falling into coarseness, neglect a good deal the care of their health." Today it is rad feminists like Moran who fight the "dread of falling into coarseness".
Also, just like Moran, decent Victorian ladies looked upon working-class women's sexuality as more animalistic than their own. As Elizabeth Langland put it in her book Nobody's Angels: Middle-Class Women and Domestic Ideology in Victorian Culture, in the Victorian era "women of the working class became vested with a dangerous sexuality, and middle-class women... became the guardians of spirituality". Moran, with her practiced rock-chick style and her constant railing against saucy mass culture, very clearly sees herself as a modern-day "guardian of spirituality".
Now we can see where the title How To Be A Woman comes from: Moran's book is, at root, a new etiquette manual for ladies, an instruction from on high, from far outside the Sea of Bullshit, about how women should speak, live, shave and fuck. Moran's treatise confirms the unstoppable backward march of feminism into the snobbery, sexlessness and censoriousness of the Victorian era.
Brendan O'Neill is editor of spiked in London.