United Kingdom

Caitlin Moran Knows How To Be a Woman and You Don't

Popular feminist yuk-fest is really a class-based etiquette book.

|

Caitlin Moran: How To Be a Woman

Remember when feminism was about The Sisterhood? About women clubbing together to stick it to The Man, patriarchy or whatever they were calling the system that kept them in a state of social subjugation?

Those days are gone. Today, if Caitlin Moran's wildly successful feminist tract How To Be A Woman is anything to go by, feminism is less a universal club and more a bitchy sorority, made up of well-connected women like Moran who consider themselves better, more spiritual and more "real", than other women, than lesser women, than what the Victorians might have called "fallen women". Feminism is now about asserting the moral superiority of enlightened women over unthinking, uncouth broads.

Moran is a columnist for The Times, Britain's newspaper of record, where she is paid a fortune to titillate that paper's largely Tory readership with tales of her countercultural antics. She reports from Glastonbury (rock festival for fortysomethings), interviews pop stars, and writes about what it is like to be "rock'n'roll" in the "Sea of Bullshit" that is mainstream modern Britain. (Yes, she really uses phrases like that.)

How To Be A Woman, her first book, was published in the UK last year and is now about to hit bookstores across the U.S. Described as "Germaine Greer's The Female Eunuch as written from a bar stool", it is part memoir, part commentary on the habits and hopes of 21st-century women. It has been lapped up by British female writers, with Moran hailed as "the new face of feminism." Judging by a fawning piece in Slate, it looks set to win the approval of American feminists too.

What is striking about this treatment of Moran's book as a manifesto for the modern woman is that much of the book is… well, anti-women. It expresses supreme disappointment with the behavior, mores and grooming habits of vast swathes of womankind, especially those of a (whisper it) working-class persuasion.

Moran's book kicks off with a telling anecdote about her childhood in Wolverhampton, England. She recounts being 13 years old and 13 stone and running away from "yobs" (a British word for gruff, uneducated people) who were teasing her.

In the process of legging it from the brutes, it suddenly dawned on Moran that by dint of her youthful flirtation with radical culture she was better than these yobs, who "do not look as if they have dabbled much in either the iconography of the counterculture or the inspirational imagery of radical gender-benders". Moran says she felt like turning to her tormentors and yelling: "I have read The Well of Loneliness by famous trouser-wearing lesbian Radclyffe Hall."

This is a fitting story to start the book with, because, in essence, How To Be A Woman is one long countercultural boast, one big fat advert for the author's superior tuned-in outlook on life and culture in contrast with the outlook of "yobs". So where, for example, most men and women are obsessed with keeping themselves fit, plucked and preened, Moran says she prefers to be chilled out, to live "like it's 1969 all over again and my entire life is made of cheesecloth, sitars and hash". The book is full of such contradictorily ostentatious claims to coolness.

Moran is most keen to distance herself from those women who have, in her view, been brainwashed by mainstream culture, particularly by porno culture, and who therefore don't live "like it's 1969 all over again".

She devotes much of the book to the vagina and the question of why some women — Them — insist on shaving off their pubic hair. Apparently it is because pornography has programmed these women to turn themselves into hairless overgrown cherubs for the delectation of weird men. "Why do 21st-century women feel they have to remove their pubic hair? Because everyone does in porno", she says.

So Moran's refusal to shave — her possession of what she calls a "retro vagina" — becomes yet further proof of her immunity to the lure of porno culture and, by extension, her intellectual superiority to the drones of womankind who dutifully queue up for a Brazilian. This is why she goes on and on about her "big, hairy minge", her "lovely furry moof", the fact that it looks like there is "a marmoset sitting in my lap"—because this all speaks to her ability to do what millions of women are apparently incapable of doing: prevent the "the mores of pornography [from] getting into my pants".

Real women get pedicures and expensive gowns.

Moran's chief contribution to feminist thinking is to argue that porn brainwashes women as well as men. Where 1980s feminists fretted like latter-day Victorian chaperones over the power of porn to turn men into rapacious beasts, Moran panics over its transformation of women into slavishly hair-free freaks. I guess this is progress of sorts, a more equal-opportunity form of sneering, in which both men and women are seen as automatons shaped by filthy films.

There is a powerful if unspoken class component to Moran's fear for modern womankind. She's particularly agitated by the kind of sexual language used by women from the lower orders. She hates their use of the word "pussy", which is a product of the fact that they "get all their sex education from pornography". In contrast, "I personally have a cunt", she says.

She doesn't like the word "boobs" either, because "boobs are, by and large, white and working class". She prefers to call her breasts "Simon and Garfunkel", because one is bigger than the other. She is bemused by "vajazzling", whereby a woman's pubic hair is removed and replaced with stick-on jewels, which is a popular practice in… guess where? In working-class parts of Britain, of course.

She hates lapdancing, in which largely working-class women strip for cash, but predictably she loves burlesque, in which largely middle-class women strip for cash. Burlesque is "lapdancing's older, darker, cleverer sister", she says, which is another way of saying what is implied throughout the book — that the sexual practices of Moran's social set are so much better and healthier than the sexual practices of that other social set. Moran praises Iceland for being the first country in the world to outlaw lapdancing clubs for feminist rather than religious reasons. Yeah! State authoritarianism! That's so 1960s!

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.

NEXT: That Slam Against Pot Smokers Came Out of Nowhere, Man

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. No way I’m first.

    1. Yes you are. Deal with it.

    2. Yes you are, and, apparently, the sort of idiot who makes “First!” post, albeit self-depreciatingly in this case.

      Congratulations on your acheivement.

  2. Feminism is now about asserting the moral superiority of enlightened women over unthinking, uncouth broads.

    I don’t think that’s a recent development.

  3. How do I press 1 for English?

    1. That depends. Are you a girl?

    2. Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked in London.

      Perhaps I should have said “American”. This review is incoherent.

      1. Ah. You are a girl.
        NTTAWWT, IIRC, LOL.

      2. It is about English class and manners.

        Incoherent is the least of its problems.

  4. It’s always embarrassing seeing the US press uncritically champion a low-brow, frivolous UK columnist.

    1. She’s English so therefore she is automatically like you know cultured and superior to us colonial inferiors.

      1. Not hailing from Wolverhampton she ain’t.

    2. It’s always embarrassing

      To whom? You? Why?
      Are you really personally embarrassed by what somebody else writes?

      1. Feeling lonely lately, Mary?

  5. OT: this is why concealed carry is a good thing:

    http://www.theblaze.com/storie…..e-robbers/

    1. pulls out a .380-caliber semi-automatic handgun

      Both of the crooks suffered non-life threatening gunshot wounds

      I don’t know if it applies in this case but always use FMJ ball ammo in a .380. Those fancy hollow points don’t penetrate enough.

      1. yes SIV, 2.8 gr of Red dot will push a 115gr. FMJ at about 950 fps.
        That will penetrate about 3-5 inches into hard oak, enough penetration for a through and through of the human body, and easily enough energy to break any bone. It just doesnt have very much knock-down.

        That guy deserves a medal, and a bigger pistol.

    2. Sweet. Watched the video, wondered how Williams didn’t hit that one guy from 3′ away. At the end of the story it’s reported he hit both of them. Guess the adrenaline was pumping because those guys ran out of there fast.

      1. Watching those idiots falling over each other threw that whole statist argument that CCW isn’t a deterrent right under the bus. They didn’t even care about each other in their delirium.

    3. I hope he did not damage any of the stock.

    4. Florida? He’s lucky he isn’t in Angela Corey’s circuit, might be looking at 20 years.

    5. Motherfuckingest awesome.

    6. That video ruined my day for productivity. I had the school girl gigglies for a good hour.

  6. What a Moran.

  7. She is right. Today’s porn is awful with its shaved snatch and tatted up whores with their ludicrous fake tits.

    I am a “conservative” on porn! Take me back to 1986.

    1. She is right. Today’s porn is awful with its shaved snatch and tatted up whores with their ludicrous fake tits.

      You’re watching the wrong porn.

      I am a “conservative” on porn! Take me back to 1986.

      Uhm, minus the tats, that was the fakest porn on the planet. All the tits were fake, unlike in today’s porn, and hair was big.

      You obviously forget much of porn’s heritage.

      Perhaps you meant “take me back to 1976”?

      1. mid 80s = Christy Canyon, Ginger Lynn, Ali Moore.

        My three favorites anyway.

        1. Christy was the rare natural. Don’t remember if Ginger had fake boobs. I thought she did. She now does mature skank porn and she has not aged well… at all. (note to porn stars: know when to retire)

          Don’t remember Ali Moore.

          1. Vintage Ginger Lynn was perfect. Today she is sad looking.

            Ali Moore was nearly 100% perfect then.

            Christy was a force of nature.

            1. Porn is the only subject you make sense about, shrike.

    2. I prefer my erotica tat free too.

      1. Depends where and how extensive.

        By that I mean it doesn’t detract. It never really adds, but it absolutely can detract.

        Also ladies, remember when you’re getting those full upper-torso tats: You won’t always be 22. One day, you’ll be 50 with those same tats. And then, you’ll look 50… with tats.

        1. As much as it disgusts me to agree with anything shriek writes, he’s right in one thing and one thing only: the tats have gone too far. Sleeve tats, chest tats, three inch tall tramp stamps, full back wings.

          Picture your grandma with a pistol tattooed over each of her tits.

          You’re welcome.

          1. Gee, looks like the dreaded Skankosaurus.

        2. One day, you’ll be 50 with those same tats. And then, you’ll look 50… with tats.

          Fortunately, my generation didn’t descend into such massive stupidity. I can’t wait to point and laugh.

          Unfortunately, 50 year-old women still look 50.

          1. Unfortunately, 50 year-old women still look 50.

            I beg to differ.

            http://www.netznet.net/lynn.jpg

            … Hobbit

            1. As it’s past midnite I’d like to say, “Happy Birthday Lynn!”

              …BH

    3. It’s always seemed obvious to me that the pube-shaving in modern porn is chiefly motivated mainly not by aesthetics, but by performers’ dislike of getting hair stuck in the back of their throat.

    4. I’m hardly surprised that a guy who idolizes Tom Waits — an overrated ripoff of Captain Beefheart and Harry Partch — has rotten taste in women as well.

  8. Another tract where a liberal unzips [her] fly and shows her disdain for poor, working class people.

    “Give the unwashed money, give them welfare and healthcare, but by all means, keep them away from me!”

  9. This is why threaded comments suck.

    1. I thought this is why we couldn’t have nice things.

  10. She hates their use of the word “pussy”, which is a product of the fact that they “get all their sex education from pornography”. In contrast, “I personally have a cunt”, she says.

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that the C-word can easily be found in porn as well.

    Ah, here we go. Nick Manning (real name: Nick Gillespie!) uses the classy, sophisticated word for vagina in this clip around 1:25.

    Not Safe for Work

    1. At least we know that Ken Shultz didn’t ghost write this book.

    2. Ken Schultz should be around about any time now……

      1. damn, how about that, Robin Hood, your arrow split right through mine!

      2. BOOM! First with that shit man! By seconds, mere SECONDS!

  11. I’d probably be more inclined to take you seriously if I thought you gave a damn about any kind of feminism, Brendan.

    1. Nobody gives a damn about any kind of feminism.

      At least nobody of any consequence.

  12. The “best” thing about Moran is her love for her facile tee-shirt “My Marxist feminist dialectic brings all the boys to the yard.”

    She started as a rock journalist, and talks about her love for Riot Grrl and pop culture in general and seems to enjoy her high-paying job and well-selling book. Just the sort of things not produced or possible in the dreary communist utopias advocated by Marx.

    Rich communists are the dumbest sort.

    1. As a music journalist back in Ye Olde Alternative Rocke Era, I was acquainted with a colleague of Ms. Moran when she wrote for the late, lamented Melody Maker. Moran’s shtick has not altered one iota from her teenage years, when this fake rebel stance on music and art was remotely excusable on grounds of callowness.

    2. “Rich communists are the dumbest sort.”

      I wasn’t aware they came in any other variety.

  13. Cranky old bitch yelling “GET OFF MY BUSH LAWN!”

    Seriously, everyone trying to blow pubic hair nostalgia up into some big cultural issue are just dopes. It’s the logical progression of about a century of western hygiene development. Its popularization may have been speeded up by the ubiquity of porn, but that’s it. Porn doesn’t drive hygiene; it’s the other way around.

    She may as well be some old hag talking about how nobody used deoderant when she was growing up, or how one shower a week is plenty, or how men who use conditioner are dandies, or whatever.

    Your pubic hair is gross, lady. It was always gross. It used to be acceptable because people used to be more accepting of gross stuff. People in the Middle Ages lived next to open sewage pits; people in the 70’s were cool with excessive pubic hair. No difference.

    1. Yeah. And I mean, who wants a 24/7 lap-marmoset? Does that sound appealing to someone?

    2. De gustibus non est disputandum

    3. It’s the laziest political stance ever.

      “I’m fighting the patriarchy by not doing something that no one was forcing me to do!”

      At least being fat to make a political statement requires you to expend the effort to feed yourself.

    4. There is just a hint of irony that “fluffy” should be deriding pubic hair.

      I will hand it to you, I couldn’t get nearly that worked up about Moran – she is entirely too boring to elicit that.

      1. “Fluffy” is in reference to his long, flowing, blond, beautiful head of hippie hair. Think Fabio meets Thor.

    5. She’s about as uninteresting talking as she is writing. Like Andy Rooney. With boobs. And an English accent.

      1. This woman isn’t getting laid. You can’t even get to the bush with the face doing all that yakking.

      2. Made it about 12 seconds.

        God, that woman is insipid!

      3. All I saw was an arrogant twit smelling her own farts for 4 minutes.

      4. “….feminism…that much neglected topic.”

        That was all I could take.

    6. Oh, it all depends. If you have kinky black pubic hair you should probably get the mower out. But if you’re a ginger, a thatch of red hair is very attractive. A little blonde down is pretty nice as well. I like my Asian girls hairy too, makes a nice contrast.

    7. Close, but not quite. That is certainly part of it, ladies get brazilians because tufts poking out from bikini bottoms is gross, no matter how nicely it’s groomed. But the reason it’s so prevalent in porn is simply because porn is visual and the hair gets in the way of the visuals.

  14. My experience is women who love cunnilingus are very willing to keep their beaver cut. And what about Bobbi Starr? I think I’ve seen most of her videos and she isn’t completely shaved. Ms. Starr considers herself a feminist, too. work safe URL

    http://feminism4fun.tumblr.com…..times-when

    1. “…women who love cunnilingus…”

      You mean women.

  15. Why do people slam the Victorians all the time?

    Drugs (and alcohol) were legal. Prostitution was legal. Guns were legal. They were far, far freer than we are today.

    Read some of their pornography – they were not nearly as uptight as people think about it – they just weren’t open about things. (The upper classes at least)

  16. Sounds pretty solid to me dude. Wow.

    http://www.Privacy-Back.tk

  17. Kinda crazy dude, seriously.

    http://www.Privacy-Back.tk

    1. Squirrels attack Anonbot. Stupid squirrels.

  18. “She” is an agent of the Fiat Feminism Matrix. Doesn’t matter if it’s the troll who wrote the book or the girl across from you at the bar, you have to assume she’s working for the Fed.

    She was sent by the Fed to liquidate men in their system of kangaroo divorce courts, thus converting his physical assets into fiat dollarz so the next man can pay for it in devalued toilet paper dollarz at 0% interest rates ad infinitum lolzlzolllzlzoz

    The Fiat Feminist Matrix brainwashes men into the bootlicking lapdogs enshrined in all feminist media outlets. Even the neocons tell men to “Man up!” and marry a 38 year old hag after she rode the cock carousel for 20 years, OR to marry your college sweetheart so she can lie in wait until you have assets to liquidate–either way, men are expendable cannon fodder for the fiat dollar/feminist wealth-transfer state.

    She’s working for the Fed! lolzozlzozlz

  19. Could somebody arrange a debate between this Moran and Lucy Stag? Watching a stuffed shirt British socialist outclassed by a libertarian gal would be most edifying.

    1. Only if Moran agrees to trim the hedges, first.

  20. I’d like to crush that ass, and steal her soul though my pointed life-bringer. Almost as effective as the golden ax.

  21. Is it just me, or does the new face of feminism look an awful lot like Kirstie Alley’s old face (between STII:TWOK and Cheers)?

  22. “Moran praises Iceland for being the first country in the world to outlaw lapdancing clubs for feminist rather than religious reasons.

    What’s the difference?

    1. Intentions…c’mon KPres get your priorities straight.

    2. One is controlling your life for your own good. The other is controlling your life for your own good. See? Simple.

  23. Good for this woman for attacking yobs. England needs more snobbery, not less, as less summer’s little hijinks showed.

    She’s also right to attack the sexual mores of British working class women. They are breeding like rabbits, creating an ever greater, ever growing welfare state. If the upper classes can’t be bothered to speak against the decline and destruction and Britain I suppose an aging feminist with a hairy twat is all we’ve got.

    1. What a horrible mess of typos I’ve managed to crap onto this forum. Oh well, maybe I’ll lay off the brandy next time.

      On second thought, fuck it.

      1. Pour one for me please. All I have here is Vodka dammit.

    2. Let ’em breed perhaps the remaining1-2 % who are literate will reconstruct an England based on equality of opportunity, instead of a Socialist Hellhole- where they seem to be going now.

  24. The most pathetic thing about gender feminism is that they fought so hard to be exactly like the worst kind of man (more appropriately boy-man), and they call that progress.

    1. Yeah, and most still don’t swallow.

  25. What is striking about this treatment of Moran’s book as a manifesto for the modern woman is that much of the book is… well, anti-women. It expresses supreme disappointment with the behavior, mores and grooming habits of vast swathes of womankind, especially those of a (whisper it) working-class persuasion.

  26. Something about shaving the pussy brings out the illogical beast in a surprising number of people, particularly the self-described high-minded type. And they, typically, turn to blaming porn or pedo-desires for the ‘unnatural’ existence of the hairless vag. Are you THAT insecure with your raging bush? No one CARES if you have a prairie on your lip village. It’s one thing to express a positive desire to farm hair on your nether regions- it’s an entirely different matter to do so while castigating those who don’t, simple fuck.

  27. Why the fuck would anybody read that book? I’d have to be really broke in order to read that and write a review.

  28. My favorite part was when the building fell down!

  29. She is expert in her field and that is why she is getting advantages in this field.

  30. I actually can’t disagree with this woman too much. I too detest the vulgar/trash culture people all over the West have taken up. Piercing and painting themselves like a child; children are supposed to like face paint, not adults. There’s no class any more. True fashion and beauty, or anything of good taste for that matter, is simple, not flashy. The tattoos and piercings and what have you are just simplistic, and deliberately flashy.

    I had a hang-out with this one girl who said she liked her tattoo because it said she was fun. Bitch, if you were really that fun you wouldn’t need a tattoo to tell everyone. Wanna look fun? Get that feathered bangs hairstyle, that exudes an air of fun. Simple stuff like that is more effective without being stupid, ugly and flashy.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.